"The ineffable talent for finding patterns in the chaos cannot do its thing unless he immerses himself in the chaos first."
-- Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
"Yankees suck! Yankees suck! Yankees suck!"
-- You at some point, probably
Goodbye to all that. After nearly 15 years in New York City, I have moved to the suburbs. I lived in Queens (all over the place), Brooklyn (downtown) and Manhattan (Morningside Heights), and in every one of these places, the Yankees were the dominant team. I got heckled by the staff at the Modell’s on Steinway Street in Astoria, Queens, for wearing a Red Sox cap, and not even my reminding them that it was Mets territory made any difference. Everywhere in New York City is Yankeeland when you get down to it. It’s just how it is.
It isn’t so bad for Red Sox fans, though. It’s actually pretty good! There are quite a few of them, as you might imagine, given Boston’s terminal inability to absorb all of New England’s young professionals and the appeal of the Red Sox to an otherwise agnostic population. Until last season, I regularly saw about three times as many Red Sox caps as Mets caps around, though this doesn’t mean there were more Sox than Mets fans, obviously. Virtually every New Yorker I knew was a Mets fan, because I’m a miserable bastard and hang out with miserable people and love it.
This misery cuts to the heart of being a Sox fan in New York: I had little use for other Sox fans in the city. I went there to get away from them, and the idea that the random Sox cap-wearing bro and I really had anything in common in a city as pluralistic as New York was as ridiculous as the fact I was happy Pablo Sandoval was coming to Boston. (In the interest of contrarianism, I would like to say I still believe, but I don’t.) The truth was after nearly OD’ing on Yankees/Sox games during my first three years in the city, I wanted little to do with Sox fans in real life. It was New York City! There was literally no shortage of things to talk about that weren’t about a place I chose to leave, so I talked about those things instead.
This might not have been true if I was brushing up against rabid Yankees fans everywhere I went, but that didn’t happen, not even inside (old) Yankee Stadium. I’ve never lived in Boston, so I can’t say the following with 100 percent accuracy, but I am as near to 100 percent certain one can be that anyone who wore Yankees gear in Boston as often as I sore Sox stuff in New York would have more than three potentially nasty random encounters over a decade and a half, if not merely the first 15 minutes. Call it a hunch.
Let’s put it this way: My actions on the night of October 27, 2004 probably would have not flown in Boston, if the positions were reversed. Call this a hunch, too, but follow along:
On October 27, 2004, as you know or may remember or have surmised, the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years. You may also remember that due to some really unfortunate happenings in Boston-area bars during the ALCS, the cameras-in-bars plan had been scrapped in the Olde Town, which meant that the fans FOX kept cutting to were actually at the Riviera in Greenwich Village, New York, then the most well-known Boston bar in the city. I wouldn’t have watched at the bar there if you paid me, but I was at a friend’s apartment 15 minutes away, and we walked down 14th Street as I yelled "WORLD CHAMPS!" to anyone who would listen, anticipating a party when we got there.
It was, indeed, a party.
Outside of the bar, which is near a rare diagonal street (which will come into play by the end of this paragraph), there were probably 200 drunk Red Sox fans singing ‘Dirty Water’ and generally acting like drunkies. Forget what I said about not liking other Sox fans in NYC: at this time, these were my people, and I got alongside them and da-da-da’ed. There were enough of them that a bunch of NYC cops had been called it to make sure they only shut down one street (the diagonal one) and didn’t spill onto 6th Avenue, which would have been bad for everyone. By far -- by far -- the best part of the evening was the look on the cops’ faces. Every NYC cop is a Yankees fan, full stop, and this was probably the worst crowd-control assignment of their lives, and it was fantastic.
Things changed after that, obviously. There were no more "1918" chants, no "Babe/Bucky/Buckner/Boone" shirts (they had a short run), and I had considerably less anxiety about the whole thing -- which is to say that I was still pretty anxious, as were most players and fans, as the high tide of 2003/2004 didn’t all ebb at once. By 2007, when the Sox won it all again, the punchy years were solidly in the rear-view mirror. In 2008, when the Yankees missed the playoffs entirely, they were over. It didn’t even matter that they won it all the next year, and it matters less and less as they flail away at a league that’s no longer mesmerized by the pinstripes.
Will the Yankees rebound to their historically unprecedented position? It’s tempting to say no given the current dynamics of the league (the Royals are defending champs, my God), but they always have, so who knows? It’s far more likely than me moving back to the city, at any rate. The smart money is on my staying in the NYC suburbs long enough for my one-year-old and maybe another poot to wend their way through high school, at which point the lady and I stay put or move back to Martha’s Vineyard to play out the string. It’s a known unknown.
What I know for sure is that if I do move back to Massachusetts, it will be a lateral move between fanbases. I’m out of the melting pot and into the fire; while NYC has its plurality/majority of people who could give a stale donut about the Yankees, that’s not true in the suburbs. This is where the quote-unquote true Yankee fans are. If I was unduly influenced by the people who didn’t give a crap when I lived in the city, I expect the locals to similarly rub off on me here. All of which is to say the writer’s block is over: this 38-year-old 8-year old is ready to drink beer and kick ass -- and I am, quite unfortunately, out of beer.