True story: I boarded the train bound for Woodside on a Friday night this past August. My ultimate destination was clear by my regalia. As I was settling in for the half-hour until I needed to switch for Mets — Willets Point, I noticed a senior citizen in a Yankees cap. I immediately bristled. That's my reflex reaction where such interlocking NYs are concerned. Then I noticed it was one of those FD NY PD caps you saw a lot after 9/11. In addition, he was wearing a t-shirt from a firehouse, so I decided not to instinctually hate on this guy. Older man, probably lost comrades in that unspeakable tragedy…let's live and let live; let's celebrate our differences and how in a free society they bring us together.
The man — in his late sixties, at least — got up to get off at the first stop. To my surprise, he paused by my seat and addressed me. I couldn't make out what he was saying because I was listening to my iPod. So I took off my earbuds and asked, “Excuse me?”
He pointed to the NY on his cap and declared, “Yankees! Goin' to the World Series!”
I wasn't expecting that. I also wasn't expecting what came out of my mouth in response — not playfully, but angrily:
“GET OUT OF HERE!”
He started walking away but repeated his mantra: “Yankees! Goin' to the World Series!”
I muttered back, “Yeah, yeah, enjoy yourself.”
He left and I stewed. I immediately thought of one of my favorite episodes of South Park, the one in which the Goth kids are frustrated by the sudden transfusion into their midst of Vamp kids. The rest of the town doesn't know there's a difference between them, so the Goths get lumped in with the Vamps, which the Goths absolutely can't stand. Hence, the Goths decide to give up their adopted identities and wear Gap clothes like they used to. This doesn't work either, because instead of being inaccurately dismissed as Vamp wanna-bes, they're now insulted for being the dorks they were underneath their purposeful black wardrobes.
“So,” the head Goth fumes, “we're back to that, are we?”
When some open-minded Mets fans contend that we're all New Yorkers and the Yankees aren't the Phillies or the Braves and as long as we're not playing them, really, they'd like to see New York win, I'm going to remember the old man on the train. He wasn't the first Yankees fan to inflict himself into my Mets zone and he won't be the last. That's what they do. Not all of them, but enough of them. Forty years of Mets fandom and I haven't bothered another New Yorker for wearing a different cap from mine. The opposite has happened to me many, many times. (I have an entire chapter devoted to that very Fun Police phenomenon in my book, FYI.)
I'm glad, in a way, that that rude gentleman reminded me his ilk exists, because truth be told, I've loathed the Yankees less in 2009 than I ever have. It's mostly a function of paying little attention their way and part of it, frankly, is respect for the job they did in winning their division. They went out and bought some big-money players and those individuals generally performed magnificently. Their old-timers continued to produce, their new-timers seemed to be having a bit of uncharacteristic fun (even if their old-timers blanched at the shaving cream pies and whatnot) and I even admired, to a degree, their new stadium. Didn't love it by any means, but I liked that they didn't make any bones about their team history (unlike some local franchises I and others could name).
The Yankees' 2009 was peripheral window dressing as long as I was immersed in the Mets. Now that the Mets have exited the stage, I will be forced, as we all will to some degree if we plan to continue following baseball for a while, the Yankees and Yankees fans in our midst. They're still playing. I do respect that. Their players are talented. I respect that as well. Their ranks produce at least one outstanding blog, which I respect a ton.
But now is the time of the guy pointing to his NY and telling me how wonderful it is and he is and they are. And I don't need that.
None of us does.
Though it's often attributed to President Nixon, it was a 1965 cover story in Time magazine that concluded, when it came to the economy, “We Are All Keynesians Now.” I imagine that sense of default conversion is fairly prevalent today among Mets fans where our new favorite team the Minnesota Twins is concerned. Indeed, congratulations to the club that didn't get eliminated on either the final day in its longtime home or the bonus final day. And condolences to the club that blew a seven-game September lead but at least hung in there for a 163rd game and several extra innings beyond that. The 2009 Tigers showed some heart. The 2009 Twins showed some guts.
The 2007 and 2008 Mets…why bring them in to this?
Now we rely on the Twins to beat the Yankees, a team they never, ever beat. I'm already looking past this Division Series to the Angels or Red Sox not beating the Yankees before the Yankees don't lose to whoever the National League produces as our champion.
Excuse the pre-emptive dread. I'm not feeling confident about anybody takin' care of business to our satisfaction in the next few weeks. I could be wrong. It wouldn't surprise me, considering how little I really know about the American League these days. For a while during Tuesday's riveting one-game playoff, I thought I was watching a Disney-style movie about two baseball teams playing a sudden-death match (though if I was, they should have cast someone better than Chip Caray as the lead announcer). I recognized the uniforms of the Twins and the Tigers, and Jim Leyland's been around so long that Stephanie knows who he is without a hint. But almost everybody else? Subtract the All-Stars and Carlos Gomez, and I was like “who the hell is that?” I guess I don't pay much heed to the junior circuit from April until early October. Well, whoever they were, they played a whale of a game, both bunches.
But to what end where our narrow interests lie? Like I said, I have no faith in these generally unfamiliar Twins to slay Goliath. The Goliaths, from my infrequent glances in their direction, look unslayable in 2009. We'll see how it plays out. But the guy on the train, with the pointing and the “Yankees! World Series!”?
Don't ever let it be said the Goliaths are unloathable.
To whomever sent an e-mail that was titled or began, “Terrific article, Greg Prince,” your sentiment is greatly appreciated, but your note went unread as it mysteriously got trapped in our spam filter and was dopily deleted by me a nanosecond before I realized it likely wasn't spam. My apologies in advance in case you're wondering why I was so inconsiderate as not to reply.