"In this country's love affair with professional sports, the athlete has more and more come to resemble the inamorata - an object of unceasing scrutiny, rapturous adoration, and expensive adornment - while the suitor, or fan, remains forever loyal, shabby, and unknown. Sports fans are thought of as a mass - statistics that are noticed only when they do not fall within their predicted norms - but the individual fan ... is a loner, a transient cipher, whose streaks and slumps go unrecorded in the annals of his game. Every sport, however, has its great fans as well as its great athletes - classic performers whose exceptional powers set them apart from the journeyman spectator. They are veterans who deserve notice if only for the fact that their record of attachment and service to their game and their club often exceeds that of any player down on the field. The home team, in their belief, belongs to them more than to this passing manager or to that arriviste owner, and they are often cranky possessors, trembling with memory and pride and frustration, as ridiculous and touching as any lovers." From "Three for the Tigers" by Roger Angell, 1973.
I was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1975. We moved to New Hampshire when I was 3. Notwithstanding the relocation, my parents raised my brother and I to be anything but Sox fans. We approached our allegiances like the Cosa Nostra. I went with the Bronx. T-bone took Queens.
Before ESPN, the Internet, and satellite radio, our access to daily baseball news consisted of a 5 minute segment at the tail end of the nightly TV news and Associated Press summaries. West Coast road trips were agonizing. Annoyed that other subjects obstructed our destination, we'd impatiently discard pages until the Sports Section was finally accessible. We scoured box scores like archaeologists scrutinizing the Dead Sea scrolls. "Did the Yanks win?" "How many bases did Rickey steal?" "How did Donny Baseball finish?" "Did the Sox lose?"
Almost every summer that I can remember as a kid, my brother and I schlepped to the homes of various relatives in Long Island and Brooklyn. During those weeks, I was in a pseudo-nirvana. I got to watch WPIX and listen to the Scooter say "Holy Cow!" when Nettles, Winfield, or Pags went yard.
Despite the sacred love I had for the Yankees and the seemingly life-or-death effect of a win or loss, my allegiance was constantly challenged by obnoxious Sox fans - basically, all of my buddies. Before you get in my grille, keep in mind that I have no memory of the Yankees' World Series titles in 1977 or 1978. When I came of age to truly appreciate the game, I suffered through some abysmal seasons. Andy Hawkins once pitched a no-hitter - and lost! Steinbrenner hired and fired Billy Martin every other season. They finished fourth in the AL East in 87' and fifth in 88'. In 1994, the Yankees would have destroyed any opponent en route to a championship - but alas, the strike screwed us. Then, A-Rod, Griffey, and The Unit knocked the Yankees out of the playoffs in Donny's last season the following year. Finally, the Joe Torre Era (and his nose picking) brought the taste of victory for me in 96', 98', 99', and 00'.
As for Baby T, I'm leaving it up to her/him. Of course, I'd love it if he/she got on board with me. The Bombers aren't so bandwagon now having just missed the playoffs last season and with the Sox owning 04' and 07'. But anticipating that we'll be living in Massachusetts together for the next 30 years at least, I can understand why he/she might go with the Sox. It's a lot more fun watching and going to games with friends and family rooting for the same team, praying at the exact same moment for that clutch hit or grounder finding its way up the middle.
Yet, we could still love baseball together equally, engage in pointless debate like the sports talk show hosts and other know-it-all tools who telephone with their opinions, and appreciate the truly wonderful Fenway experience, while rooting for each other's nemesis. But at the same time, choosing a side is almost akin to selecting a religion.
Think about it: we all universally love the sport (God) regardless of the team and practice the rituals by attending/watching games (church/temple/kneeling towards Mecca). There are the old school powerhouses like the Yanks, Sox, and Dodgers (Jews, Muslims, and Christians), and the new age contenders like the D-backs and Rays (Unitarians and vegetarians.) About 98% follow a similar code of living life in appreciation of beauty (drag bunts, complete game shutouts, inside-the-park HRs, and the last major sport with open tobacco use). But of course, there are always the fringe, extremist zealots that ruin it for the rest of the fan base, i.e. suicide bombers and anyone at The Baseball Tavern after the Yankees have swept the Sox at Fenway.
Well, we shall have to wait and see. Baby T's still cooking on the defrost setting until Feb. 1. After then, don't let me catch any of you Sox fans proselytizing. (There's a little ham and eggs vocab coming at ya.) I will let free will decide...