Yankee-Hate Therapy: One Early Loather Goes on the Couch

101005 article classics Yankee Hate Therapy: One Early Loather Goes on the CouchOctober is the ruthless month, October is when I go to Dan for comfort. He’s from Chicago, I’m from Baltimore. He’s a little older than I am and much more learned. “Did you watch?”

“Are you suffering today?” I said on Friday morning.

“I’m in a worse mood, yes. I’m sad.”

“Did you watch?”

“Not really. I flicked back and forth. It’s just too painful. And I didn’t watch the end. I thought if the Twins lost and I knew it I might have trouble getting to sleep; I could wait till morning to find out.”

“And the Yankees pulled off another miraculous comeback win, 7 to 6.”

“It wasn’t miraculous.”

“O.K., amazing.”

“I wouldn’t call it amazing—the Twins nearly pulled it off. But with the Yankees you cannot be sure it’s over until you’ve pounded the last nail into the coffin and piled the last shovel full of dirt over the grave. If we’re winning 8 to 0—I mean by we, if the Yankee enemy is winning, 8 to 0, I believe that whether I watch or not has some impact on the outcome. I am aware of the Greek concept of hubris. I wouldn’t want to be too smug. I would have the fear that if I kept watching consistently, the Yankees would score nine runs. So I wouldn’t do it. Though ominously, from the Yankees standpoint, the Twins caught them going against their great closer, Mariano Rivera, a great and dignified man, too, by the way.”

“You praise Rivera—yet you hate the Yankees.”

“My hatred is for the platonic idea of the Yankees and for the Yankee fan base. It’s not necessarily for specific team members. It’s certainly not for the current manager. I just wish they weren’t playing for the Yankees.”

“Who do you like?”

“I like Derek Jeter. He’s a good sportsman, fierce competitor, nice guy. I like Bernie Williams. But we better just leave it at that. I think I like Jorge Posada, too. I do. There are some Yankees I don’t like. But I don’t need to get into them.”

“Do you have these feelings for any other team?”

“Oh yes. Not as bad as the Yankees. But I would have a real moral dilemma if the Yankees were to play the Los Angeles Dodgers. I would be for the Dodgers reluctantly. Just as Churchill had to make an alliance with Stalin against Hitler, I would be for the Dodgers. But with the greatest reluctance.”

“Why do you hate Los Angeles?”

“All right. Two words. Steve Garvey. Not only two words, but Steve Garvey is a symbol of everything you hate about the Dodgers. Southern California, the fans don’t stay for the whole game, celebrityism and Hollywoodism. He was a big born-again Christian, he gives thanks to God and then of course it comes out that he has three women pregnant at the same time.”

“Who symbolizes your hatred for the Yankees?”

“No one. Just the whole smugness of that Mantle-Maris–Yogi Berra–Whitey Ford era. They were all great players—I’m not putting them down. But when I was a kid, my White Sox were always a second-place team. We won the pennant in ‘59, but we finished second all the time, and the Yankees nearly always won.”

“So that is the root of your hatred?”

“Yes. They were huge, rich and powerful. Whoever said that cheering for the Yankees was like cheering for General Motors was right. Also, they were one of the last teams to integrate. Elston Howard was the first black Yankee, I think eight years after Jackie Robinson. They were this big white elite team, and they had this cunning manager, Casey Stengel, a Svengali-like creature, and they always found a way to win. At that time too, they had an imperialistic relationship with the Kansas City Athletics. Basically they made no trades with any other teams but Kansas City. The Athletics functioned as a farm team for the Yankees. They would trade their aging or crumby players to Kansas City and Kansas City would send up rising stars like Roger Maris.”

“What did the Athletics get out of it?”

“What does the Third World sugar producer get out of producing sugar? Nothing. The Athletics were a last-place team. They would make the most lopsided deals in baseball. You’d pick up the paper and they’d say blockbuster deal, Athletics and Yankees, and you’d see all these over-the-hill players going down and future superstars coming up from Kansas City. Kansas City was treated like a Third World country.”

“Is it about money?”

“That and the imperialistic relationship. It was a combination of their overwhelming power and they found a way to win almost every year. So you have this long historic record of resentment, injustice and losing. They talk about a dynasty now—well, between ‘46 when the Red Sox won the pennant and 1965, the Yankees won nearly every pennant. This is where the film Damn Yankees came from. There were only two teams that beat them in a 19-year stretch.”

“You also hate the Chicago Cubs—”

“Yes, but I hate them in different ways. I hate the Yankees in ways that a colonized place hates the imperial power and wants to overthrow it. I hate the Cubs in the way that kids contemptuously feel about the class nerd.”

“Who are the Yankees in the high-school class?”

“They’re the slick guy that gets all the dames that everyone has respect and fear of. They’re Mickey Mantle, the good-looking fellow that gets all the dames. Partly because of his money, of course.”

“And the Red Sox?”

“The popular guy who can never quite edge out the most popular guy. They’re not nerds.”

“I remember seeing you in Chicago 10 years ago and you didn’t feel so strongly.”

“In the early 90’s, the Yankees were no good. So it wasn’t a problem. And now I’m surrounded by Yankees fans. I’m surrounded by these horrible people who boo Mariano Rivera—this wonderful man who got them where they are. That happened during the regular season. That is why I hate the fan base.”

“Yet you’ve chosen to live in the very nest of Yankee love. How do you deal with it?”

“By snarling.”

“Do you actually snarl?”

“Well, if they do anything wrong, I try and rub it in a little bit. But I’m very careful not to get too arrogant. Because there again they’ve risen from the dead before. And then I suffer even more.”

“What about going to Yankee Stadium?”

“I keep a low profile.”

“Do you wear a hat?”

“No hat. I got my White Sox hat burned in the bleachers one time. They ripped it off my head and burned it. The White Sox won that game, in case you’re interested. But these morons got out a lighter and burned it.”

“That was naïve of you.”

“The lesson was, security is poor at Yankee Stadium. Also there are a lot of morons among the fan base. Morons with an entitlement that they just have a right to win because they’re with the Yankees. That night there was a moron seated a couple of rows from us who insisted that Joe Torre was a bad manager. But his comments about the game during the nine innings gave no indication that he knew anything about baseball much less that he was in a position to comment knowledgeably about Joe Torre’s management skills. Joe Torre is a great manager. He’s won championships with teams that on paper probably weren’t the best teams in the league. And he’s a terrific guy.”

“You hate the Yankees but you love Torre.”

“Listen—an added reason you left out so far in your questioning, I hate the Yankees owner. The owner! Are you aware that the owner last year, he so disliked Torre’s right-hand man, Popeye, he refused to allow his TV service to show him sitting in the dugout? He ordered them. This is true. Zimmer’s a terrific guy too, by the way.”

“Who do you want to win this year?”

“Anyone but the Yankees.”

“But what do you want to see?”

“There are many scenarios I would like to see but I fear I won’t see. I would like to see the Yankees humiliated and knocked out in the first round.” Of course, this did not come to pass. “Or I would like to see them crushed by Boston. Or I would like to see them get into a long World Series where they lose in the last inning as in 2001. All these scenarios are acceptable to me.”

“What about last year, losing in six games.”

“Absolutely. I would like that. And I loved the Fish. The leadoff batter hits 300 and a third of his hits are bunts.”

“What about 2001, did that give you pleasure?”

“I was ecstatic. But again—it’s the same principle. I only watched in fits and starts. If I watch the whole thing through it helps the Yankees. I tried to hide from it, but there was all kinds of noise from the apartment building so I couldn’t hide. Any time the Yankees did something there was huge noise. It was painful. So I didn’t see the Arizona win until five minutes afterward.”

“How long did those good feelings last?”

“The calendar year.”

“Everyone tells you not to hate. Richard Nixon said that hate just destroys you in the end. How can you justify having these feelings?”

“I’m a work in progress.”

“Are you making any progress on your hatred?”

“No. The Yankees keep winning in the 12th inning.”

“So why not join them? You live in New York. Why not say: My White Sox are losers, I’m going to embrace success?”

“That question is so far beneath contempt I’m not going to dignify it with an answer.”

“But—”

“Look, I’ve stuck with my guys for 45 years, why would I change? The thought has never crossed my mind.”

“Well I have the same feelings about the Orioles, and I believe these feelings are glandular, they’re related to war-making. They’re primordial male battle feelings.”

“Maybe. I don’t care.”

“But is there anything you can do not to hate?”

“My hatred will diminish if the following occurs. Humiliation of Steinbrenner and his ejection from baseball, followed by 10 mediocre or losing seasons by the Yankees, which will drain away all the fair-weather yuppie fans and leave them with genuine fans. Latinos, Italians, native New Yorkers who will stick with them through thick or thin. After 10 years of that, a little part of me will hope that the Yankees become competitive. The test case is ‘65 to ‘75. The Yankees were dismal. By ‘75 I’d begun to accumulate some sympathy for them. It would take another 10 years—which can’t happen under the current setup of baseball, where they have the biggest payroll in baseball.”

“I’m asking if there’s anything that you can do—”

“I’ll tell you what I did in 1998. They were playing the Padres in the Series. It was clear they were going to win. I was planning to make a trip to Ireland, so I made my plans to coincide with the World Series. I would lift off from Newark Airport the night the World Series opened. I was going to miss the Series. For once I would have a happy October. Well, as the plane took off, the pilot’s first announcement was that he was going to keep us posted on the Yankees game. And he was not doing it as a balanced public service, this guy was pro-Yankee!”

“Did you speak out against this?”

“No. And you probably don’t remember. But the Padres had a big lead, and the Yankees came back and killed them. He kept giving us the score all the way to Newfoundland.”

“So what did you do?”

“I cringed, I ground my teeth.”

(My thanks to Dan Swanson.)