As a passionate New York Mets fan, I hate the New York Yankees. I root
for any team that plays them. Only when the Yankees played Atlanta in the
World Series did I stay on the sidelines. Every diehard Mets fan I’ve ever
encountered feels the way I do.
I don’t hate individual Yankees. I’ve enjoyed and respected players like
Yogi Berra, Ron Guidry, and Bernie Williams. I admired the beautifully
balanced and mainly homegrown team of the late 1990’s. I feel a kinship
with Yankee fans who stuck with their team from the mid ‘60s to the mid ‘70’
s, and the early ‘80’s to the mid ‘90s. I think Joe Torre is terrific. The
Yankees are part of the glory of the great American game. But I hate them
Of course, my Yankee hatred is a play hatred. I don’t think differently
about people depending on whether they root for the Yankees or the Mets.
I realize that I would be a Yankees fan if my immigrant grandparents had
settled in the Bronx and not Brooklyn. But even if it is just for fun, play
hatred can be meaningful. Yankee hatred is an essential part of the
emotional makeup of Mets fans. It intensifies the pleasure of Mets love.
In order to love the Mets, you have to want something that the Yankees
cannot give you. The Yankees will give you, more reliably than the Mets, a
team that will win. But to root for the Mets, you have to want to win in a
certain way. Met fans enjoy seeing themselves as fans of the underdog,
impossible dreamers, as sentimental in retrospect about the lousy years as
they are about the miracles of the good years. The miracles would not be
miracles if the lousy years hadn’t happened. And because of their history,
and their eternal personality, the Mets always think of themselves as
underdogs, even when they’re good.
Yankee fans are sentimental too - about their dynasties. They weep with
pride in the little graveyard out behind their left field fence. But because
they define themselves by the dynasties, they resent the stretches of
mediocrity that blemish their record of greatness. They don’t have the
amused, perverse love for the bad years that we have.
Yankee fans don’t hate the Mets, because the Mets are not part of their
story. To those who would be kings, the little people all blend together. The
Yankees, on the other hand, are always part of the story of the Mets. They
are the top dog that allows us to see the Mets as underdogs. The Yankees
are not defined by the fact that they are not the Mets. But the Mets are
defined by the fact that they are the New York baseball team that is not the
Yankees. And Mets fans may be defined as the apparently irrational
millions who could root for the Yankees, but have chosen not to.
You can’t root for both the Mets and the Yankees because each team offers
a different portal into the pleasure of baseball. If you want what the
Yankees will give you, it doesn’t make sense to root for the Mets. They’re
failures, no fun. In order to love the Mets, you have to renounce any desire
you have for the monotony of dominance. You have to think it’s absurd to
get excited about, or have your heart broken by a team that has won so
many times. You have to cherish triumph because it is unexpected and
rare. When John Sterling screams “The Yankees Win! The
YAAANNNNNKKEEEESS WIN!!!!!!” you have to enjoy the contempt you
feel for the idiocy of his exuberance.
Of course, Mets fans don’t hate the Yankees all the time. We didn’t hate
the Horace Clarke Yankees or the Don Mattingly Yankees. We hate what
we feel is the eternal essence of Yankee-ness, the triumphalism that
blossoms during the dynasties, particularly the current one, which has lasted
far too long.
In the last ten years, the Yankees have turned themselves into the kind of
team any fan from any other team will naturally resent. Every time the ship
springs a leak, it is plugged by a hall-of-famer. If someone plays badly, or
someone is injured, Steinbrenner reaches for the wallet. The Yankees feel
entitled. If they start a year off badly but make it to the playoffs, they aren’
t overjoyed. They are relieved.
It may not be fair for Met fans to hate the Yankees for their wealth and
dominance, since the Mets are a rich team too. Often the Mets have only
been underdogs because of the incompetence of the front office. But since
we share this city with the Yankees, and since we don’t spend quite as much
as they do, we feel a local version of what fans everywhere feel about the
We wonder if Yankee fans can still be enjoying themselves. Can they
experience the hungry hope that is baseball fandom for the rest of us? If
they do still hope, aren’t they gluttons? If they can still be disappointed,
shouldn’t they be embarrassed? I know the Yankees haven’t broken any
rules, but aren’t they in danger of boring themselves to death? Haven’t
they reduced the payout for a jackpot to just a few coins?
The pleasure of being a Mets fan is that hitting the jackpot still feels the
way it should. You hope. You lose. You lose some more. And someday you
win. And you remember the pleasure of winning all your life. This is what
baseball in a thirty-team professional league should be.
I hope the Mets never become like the Yankees. I want my baseball to be
like real life, seasoned with failure and disappointment, ennobled by hope,
and studded with just a few spectacular moments of pure joy.
©Dana Brand 2006