Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Choices We Make

Disclaimer: If you are a die-hard Yankee fan (you live and die with every pitch, you don't own any pink Yankee clothing), please DO NOT be offended by the way I'm about to slam fairweather Yankee fans. This is directed at them, not you. I still despise your team, though, and everything they stand for. Now.....

Over the past few days, what has been a potential nightmare scenario for Mets fans has started to seem certain. After a season where the Mets were ravaged by injuries on the field and scandals off of it, it appears that the two teams Mets fans loathe the most (the Yankees and Phillies), are about to square off in the World Series. What to do, what to do...

I've surveyed lots of Mets fans to see who they would root for, and they seem torn. Some are planning on rooting for the Yankees because of City pride or because they have close friends who are annoying Phillies fans. Some are planning on rooting for the Phillies because of a lifelong hatred of the Yankees or because this feud with the Phillies is so recent.

I didn't have to put much thought into who I'd root for. Over the past couple of weeks, strange things started happening. During my commute to work, people were breaking out never worn Yankees caps and jackets. On Facebook, people who never uttered a word about the Yankees were claiming to be crazy fans, when all they were really doing was following the crowd. The New York media and the National media started riding the Yankees like a prostitute. All of these things cemented what I've always felt: Rooting for the Yankees (for me) is like rooting for U.S. Steel or the Cigarette Industry. And as a Mets fan, rooting for them is not an option.

I understand the Philadelphia Phillies and their fans are slimy douchebags. I really do. However, for Mets fans, rooting against the Yankees (no matter who they're playing) is not only a birthright, but a duty we must uphold for the sake of our departed Brooklyn Dodger and New York Giant rooting family members, who passed the love of the Mets and National League Baseball down to us.

What are most of our first memories of baseball, and what stuck with us that made us become fans? For me, it was going to Shea Stadium. It was being able to crane my neck as the Stadium first appeared in the distance off the Grand Central Parkway, the smell of the grass after the usher brought me to my seat, the enormity of a Major League ballpark to a little kid. It was my Grandfather who passed down his love of the Mets to me, and it was being at the ballpark that made it that much more special.

Being at the ballpark...something the Yankees have made impossible for tons of their fans. I won't dispute the fact that Citi Field has its lavish features, but it's not the corporate playpen the New Yankee Stadium is. If you check out that link, you'll see how the Yankees forced out fans who had held season tickets for over 80 years. People who they should've cherished...all because of greed.

The 2009 Yankees are a tremendous baseball team - there's no disputing that. What enables them to be great, though, is what ruined baseball in cities like Montreal and it's what has made proud franchises like the Pittsburgh Pirates irrelevant. No one can spend with the Yankees. Their payroll of 208 million dollars is 90 million dollars more than the teams closest to them (the Cubs, Mets and Red Sox). Even with all of their lavish spending, the Yankees had moved further and further away from the dynasty teams of 1996-2000, until 2009. Eventually, throwing money around at every attractive free agent year after year was bound to work.

Not only are the Yankees a bloated financial behemoth, their team is loaded with mercenaries and steroid cheats. Alex Rodriguez, who was a pariah before the Playoffs started, is a steroid cheat. Andy Pettitte, the man with all of that down-home charm and Postseason moxie used hGH (human growth hormone). The last Yankees team to win a World Series (in 2000 against the Mets) had EIGHT players who would later be exposed as steroid cheats. Those players were Chuck Knoblauch, David Justice, Jose Canseco, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, Jason Grimsley, Mike Stanton and Denny Neagle. The pitchers responsible for wins in 3 of the 4 games against the Mets were Clemens, Pettitte and Neagle. And the Title clinching 4th win was celebrated at Shea Stadium. Disgusting.

Now, we have Mets fans who sat through that disgrace, who are considering rooting for the Yankees against the Phillies. The way the team operates is terrible enough, but the vast majority of their fans are what cause the hatred. They get excited for Opening Day, then don't utter a word about the Yankees until late September. They wear pink hats with the interlocking N Y, and #2 jerseys with Derek Jeter's name on the back (even though the Yankees never wear their names on the back of their jerseys). When you try to engage them in an intelligent discussion about baseball, their only retort is "26 Championships"....even though 20 of those Championships came before the Mets were in existence. They post messages on your Facebook wall stating that "David Wright has a headache," just hours after the kid is knocked unconscious by a fastball to the helmet.

Phillies fans are more like gum that gets stuck on the bottom of your shoe. Most of them are developmentally disabled, so it's hard to discern what they're saying when they try to engage in trash talk. They're basically harmless. And even though Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino and Chase Utley and Cole Hamels make me want to throw up, they're all homegrown talents (unlike A-Rod and Tex and CC and Burnett). They play old school National League ball, and although their ballpark is a bit of a bandbox, it's not a place where broken bats and pop-ups end up going over the fence (like the New Yankee Stadium).

If the Yankees win the World Series, Mets fans will have to deal with constant gloating from all of their friends - most who live in the NY metro area. We'll have to sit through hours of endless talk of how great the Yankees are on every news channel, in every paper, on every blog. We'll be commuting to work one day in early November, and end up riding the train with hundreds of drunk Yankee fans on their way to a parade.

If the Phillies win the World Series, it'll mean that the Yankees have not. It'll suck to hear the Phillies fans gloating, but they won the World Series last year so that really won't be anything new. We won't have to turn off the TV for fear of endless replays of the last out or out of fear of flipping on Letterman to see the Phillies doing a Top Ten List. We certainly will not end up commuting to work in the middle of a Phillies parade. And those who passed the love of the Mets and National League ball down to us, the old timers who rooted for the Dodgers and Giants before the Mets, and loathed the Yankees...they'll be proud of us for continuing to follow their lead.

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