Yankees Fans, Losing With a Vengeance
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
FLUSHING MEADOW, N.Y. -- It takes a special kind of mook to turn up at Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets, wearing a Yankees cap when the Yankees aren't playing there. Michael Bredamus is that kind of mook.
After a recent Mets game, Bredamus could be found ambling out of Shea beneath his prize possession: a hat with the two-letter insignia of the Yanks. His team was in Baltimore, and the Mets were playing the St. Louis Cardinals. Bredamus showed up anyway, and stopped for a moment to give a brief master class in the art of annoying Mets fans.
"As long as you keep your mouth shut, you're fine," he said. But he couldn't help himself, or maybe he was being ironic. Surrounded by Mets fans, his voice started rising. "As long as you don't mention anything about how the Yankees are great, how they won the 26 championships. Twenty-six championships. As long as you don't talk about that, it's not a problem."
"They won't be playing in September," during the postseason, taunted a Mets booster.
"Two championships!" Bredamus fired back. "That's what the Mets have. Two!"
This is a wretched year to be a Yankees fan. The team with the fattest payroll in baseball is nine games out of first place and widely considered a long shot for even a wild-card berth in the playoffs. On the field and off, everyone has a diagnosis -- the team is old, the pitching stinks, the players don't care. There is consensus only about the misery.
If it were any other squad, the rest of baseball would simply snicker. But this is the Yankees, whose historical success and strutting have made them arguably the most reviled team in American sports, and these are Yankees fans, undoubtedly the most loathed in the country. A snicker won't do. This calls for belly laughs. This calls for tankards and fiddles and torch-lit dancing. This calls for bunting and floats. We must savor this experience. We must pile on now, while the piling is good, because if history is any guide, the Yankees will rise again -- and when they do, their fans will be insufferable.
We know this because despite the Yankees' woeful showing, the team's fans remain proudly obnoxious, as you learn by interviewing those who show up at Shea these days in Yankees caps. On Thursday night that included two amply tattooed gentlemen who left Shea pounding on anything with a hard surface, chanting "Here we go, Yankees! Here we go!" and some less elegant observations. Again, the Yankees were nowhere in sight.
The inter-borough rivalry is hardly the most vitriolic in baseball, but Yankees fans are constantly bumping up against Mets fans here, which keeps the ill will at a low boil. Or worse. There were plenty of Yankees-vs.-Mets brawls in the crowd at the ticker-tape parade for the last Yankees World Series win, in 2000. At Shea, fights are rare and the air of menace comes mostly from the Mets' bag checkers, who assume everyone is packing a shiv and confiscate anything that could be remotely construed as a weapon.
Except double-A batteries.
"That was the worst thing that happened to me at Shea, getting hit with batteries," says 29-year-old Yankees fan Michael Richards, smiling with a so-what? shrug. Headed to the subway station near Shea after taking in a Mets game, he recalled the game in 2004 when he was pelted by Mets fans. "But it was an honest battery throw."
An honest battery throw?