Friday, June 16, 2006

Divided Loyalties

As most of you know, in a previous life I was a fan of tonight's opponent. I grew up in NY, so my choices were Yankees, Mets or Red Sox. I chose wisely.

I didn't really get into baseball until the early '90s, so I saw a few years of mediocre, but improving baseball. I have vague memories of Jim Abbott's no-hitter (thanks, Carlos Baerga!), and lots more memories of losses. I can remember reading about, and being disappointed by, Andy Hawkins no-hitter in 1990, which he lost 4-0. But those, thanks to a combination of youth and seasonal disappointment, are vague recollections. The good memories start in 1994.

No one wants to hear a Yankees fan reminisce about winning, but there are moments that, even ten years later, make me smile: Pat Kelly's Saturday night homer against the Blue Jays, which put the Yankees in the Wild Card lead, Jim Leyritz' extra-inning homer in the drizzle of the ill-fated Division Series against the Mariners, even Edgar Martinez' batting display for the ages, and the final, crushing blow off Black Jack McDowell.

I went to my first game in 1996, almost 10 years ago to the day. It was a Saturday afternoon game, Baltimore against New York, Mussina v. Pettite. I made the three hour drive down from my home just to see the game. I had good seats. Got to see Pettite throw a gem. Bobby Bonilla hit the first homer I saw. Dale Polley (who?!) relieved, but John Wetteland got the save.

That fall I moved to Baltimore, and lo and behold, who'd the Yankees play? My timing was poor though. I never saw the Jeffrey Maier homer, thanks to an ill-timed physics lab, but I did see the Bernie Williams game-winning homer (which everyone forgets about). Then came Columbus Day weekend, and as I headed to NY, the Yankees went to Baltimore, where Todd Zeile dribbled the ball into the ground, and Darryl Strawberry and Cecil Fielder beat the pus out the ball. World Series bound!

There are so many plays from that first Series that stick out: 19-year-old Andruw Jones' two game-one homers, Jim Leyrtiz' swing on that Mark Wohlers slider, Andy Pettite's clutch fielding, getting a game-saving force play at third on a bunt, followed by (an inning later), Paul O'Neill's sprinting catch to save a 1-0 game. I'll spare you the boredom!

That team gave me a lot of good memories. The 2001 World Series, especially after everything that had happened, was magical. Those two games in NY still give me chills, and my girlfriend still laughs at my 'happy dance' -- the one I used when Kim gave up the lead on consecutive nights so as to not wake my neighbors with screams of happiness.

But, I have a new team now. Sure, I watched, and cheered for the Yankees in the post-season last year. But that loss didn't kick me in the nuts the way Sandy Alomar's homer did in 1997. Was I just used to winning? Did I not need it as badly? Or was it the new team in my life?

I wasn't sure.

But I think I know now. I've seen maybe one entire Yankees game this year. That's it. I still occasionally check the scores, and I still read the NY papers, but not so much for the Yankees coverage. The Yankees blogs that I read are down to one. And even that's irregular now. I just don't feel it like I did.

So when they're there tonight, my loyalties won't be divided. I'll be cheering along with the 10,000 Nats fans as they try to drown out the 35,000 Yankees fans. Maybe when the playoffs roll around old habits'll die hard. But it's not like it was.

I have a new team now.


  • Nice post, but you might want to try going to a game in Yankee Stadium to truly test this new loyalty. I was surprised at how easy it was to root for the Phils in my first game in Philly since my emigration to the Nats. Of course, they were playing the Red Sox, and I was surrounded by Red Sox fans, so that helped!

    By Blogger DM, at 6/16/2006 4:56 PM  

  • I understand completely. As kid growing up in Mississippi hundreds of miles from any major league city, I chose the Mets as my team for reasons that were probably clear to my 11 year old mind, but long since lost. This was no passing fancy. Not only was 1969 one of the greatest years of my life and Bill Buckner my hero, I also spent hundreds of hours watching the pitiful Dave Kingman/Elliot Maddox Mets on cable TV.

    But when I went to Opening Day 2005, I knew the marriage was over and the divorce became final on July 5, 2005 when I first attended a Mets-Nationals game. Now, the only interest I have in the Mets is how their games affect the Nationals.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/17/2006 12:33 AM  

  • Early 90's? What were you doing in elementary school? Playing Soccer?

    By Blogger Harper, at 6/18/2006 11:12 PM  

  • In Elementary School, I avoided sports. My parents hate them, and, hated it when I started watching, if only because it meant that I'd be fighting them for the remote.

    I actually started with basketball and hockey first, before I picked up baseball.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 6/18/2006 11:17 PM  

  • Wow... my atrocious spelling/grammar were even more atrociousser in that one....

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 6/18/2006 11:18 PM  

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