This probably disqualifies me for a job on NPR, but like Juan Williams, I’m sometimes guilty of making snap judgments about people based on their clothing. Take Yankees fans. Please.
Sometimes it’s hard not to jump to conclusions about a franchise’s supporters. Of course, not all pinstripe-wearing Yankees fans are obnoxious. Probably.
But fans of extremely successful sports teams – like the Yankees – seem to have this in common: If their team beats your team they rub it in; if your team beats their team they say it doesn’t matter because they have 1,500 championship rings.
When I first became interested in baseball, back in the early 1960s, the Senators had just moved to Minnesota and become the Twins. Like most of the kids in my hometown, I was immediately hooked on baseball and the new franchise. Root, root, rooting for the home team wasn’t just a matter of loyalty, in my opinion, it was a sacrament.
Then I met Bud Sterling. Bud was a Yankees fan. A traitor to the hometown boys and those nice Cuban players Calvin Griffith signed. Bud wasn’t a transplant from the East Coast or anything like that, he just liked the Yankees because they had a lineup of powerhouse stars and a whole bunch of pennants and World Series rings.
I liked some of the Yankees’ players well enough. I went to grade school with Roger Maris’ niece, which was a pretty close brush with fame for that time and place. I admired Mickey Mantle’s skills and well-remember the time I saw him hit two towering home runs during a July 4 doubleheader at the old Metropolitan Stadium. I remember it so well, in fact, that I wonder if it actually happened.
I like some of the Yankees players today, too. It’s hard not to like Derek Jeter and I respect the skills of Mariano Rivera, Robinson Cano and several of the other guys on the team. I’d like them better if they played for the Twins or Diamondbacks, of course. After all, as Jerry Seinfeld observed, being an American sports fan actually means you’re rooting for that team’s clothes.
I sometimes make exceptions for the Yankees, the Lakers and a couple of the Vikings’ football rivals, but in general I prefer to root for my teams rather than against someone else’s. Sometimes, though, the distinction isn’t that clear. At a Diamondbacks-Yankees game a couple of years ago my son and I sat a few rows in front of woman who obviously had consumed a few frosty beverages. Every time the Yankees captain came to the plate, made a play or had the audacity to appear on the field she loudly yelled, “Jeter sucks ass!” at the top of her lungs. This went on for a number of innings before she finally yelled out, “Hey … why am I the only one cheering for the Diamondbacks?”
Yup … sometimes it’s a pretty fine line.