I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that the fan base of the New York Yankees is pretty distinctive. They'd tell you the same, even before you asked. Even lots of people who should know better will (grudgingly) agree that the Yankees certainly do have an, um, passionate, fan base. Oh, they're something else all right. You don't see too many groups of baseball fans quite like them.
Yankees fans are ignorant, yet demanding. They are dogmatic, but incapable of cognitive dissonance. They are loud, intolerant boors who refuse to listen to reason, because you just don't understand. They're different, you see. Special. Unique.
This is a post about hate, but it is a specific, focused kind of hate. I do not hate the Yankees' players, who are merely professionals attempting to make it in a cutthroat, yet highly rewarding, industry. I do not hate the Yankees' employees, for most of whom the same holds true. And I do not hate the Yankees' notorious owner, who, whatever his faults, is a native son of Cleveland, and appears in ill health. I wish him and his loved ones well -- especially if he does have the ailment he appears to have, which should be wished on no one.
The Yankees' fans, however, do not get off so lightly here. Taken individually, some of them are nice, well-adjusted human beings. However, they tend to get lost in the crowd, which is for some reason given a pass by most of the sports media. Almost without fail, media types find the fans' behavior charming.
Let's take one of the more celebrated manifestations of that supposed enthusiasm. When the Yankees take the field at the top of the first (to the 1994-esque, Eurodance strains of "Are You Ready for This?") the fans in the bleachers proceed to chant each players name, in the universal four-syllables, three-claps format, until said player turns around and acknowledges them. At which point they move on to the next player.
Aww, that's so cute! In most of the rest of the world, this behavior would be called "needy." It says "Look at us! We're loud! And chanting! While you're trying to focus on the game!" I have no idea how this got started, or why people find that more endearing and somehow more attentive than fans who do the wave or bat beachballs around, but I am not a sports taste-maker.
Another thing that Yankees fans are celebrated for is the booing. Oh, yes, they'll boo anyone (except Santa Claus! I heard that Philadelphia fans did that once, OMG!). Yankees fans will turn on any player at any time for committing the simple crime of being fallible human beings. They seriously expect to win 162 games every year; I had a fan once explain this to me with a straight face. He acknowledged this was unreasonably, but still, he really expected them to do that, and his crest always fell just a little when they got that first loss every season.
Mariano Rivera, one of the most dominant closers ever, a key reason the Yankees won all those World Series? Fuck him, he let the Mariners win one in the ninth. Boo his ass. How about another future Hall of Famer in Roger Clemens? Fuck him, he gave up eight runs in an inning once. This ain't Boo-urns, I'm saying over here. Andy Pettitte, Clemens' beloved Scrappy Doo? Yep, booed him too.
Booing is just shorthand for "we deserve better than this garbage!" and oh, how Yankees fans love to turn up their noses at the product on the field.
Take Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. One is a talented player who is basically this generation of Yankees fans' infanta -- they won their first Series in 15 years when he showed up in 1996, and then three more. They haven't missed the postseason since he and his abnormally large forehead have been holding down the shortstop position. But when he wasn't producing, they let him hear it. Thanks for the loaves and fishes, but, m-fer, I want some tartar sauce.
Rodriguez is, by any objective measure, a better player than Jeter. But Derek is the fair-haired one among the Yankees fans (except when he's letting the Devil Rays win in April). He got there first, so when he selflessly did not yield the shortstop's job to Rodriguez, he proved two things: That his wang was bigger and that those who cover the Yankees in an objective manner are incapable of rational thought around him. (It's true; look at any of the Jeter valentines in the New York papers from the last couple days. I didn't write things this embarrassing to any of the loves of my life from third through 10th grade; Nora Ephron probably read these over breakfast and made a wanking motion.)
Back when A-Rod came to town, Pretty much every journalist without fail decided that the Yankees playing their best shortstop -- the best shortstop in the game -- at the less-demanding position of third base was fine, because Dreamford McClutchlesworth in the No. 2 jersey could do no wrong.
On the other hand, Alex Rodriguez, the kind of player who comes along maybe once or twice a century, could do no right in the eyes of these people. I cannot count the number of Yankees fans who have tried to explain to me that Alex Rodriguez isn't "a winner" doesn't have a "winning mentality" and, most damning of all, isn't "clutch." For these reasons -- which are all fictional, you'll note -- they do not want him on their team. It's no less insane than if they decided this by placing Jeter and Rodriguez into washtubs, and A-Rod floated while Jeter sank like an anvil.
Actually, no. It's more insane -- not to mention petulant and spoiled. There is ample evidence that Alex Rodriguez is the better player. In fact, he's pretty much inarguably one of the best two or three players in the game right now. And yet, Yankees fans pine for banjo-hitting, league-average types who have had one or two nice moments in the past for them and thus have been allowed to become what Yankees fans refer to as a "True Yankee."
Of course, admission to such a club is no prophylaxis against getting booed off the field (see above). Which should give you an idea of how bloody-minded the whole operation is.
So you have a fanbase that demands perfection in a sport where 1-for-3 gets you to Valhalla. They are loud, intolerant and must be routinely sated with both attention and victory. They choose whom they love and hate based on caprice and a raging id. They'll turn up their noses at anyone they deem not worthy of their very discerning attention, even the kinds of players most mortals would feel privileged to see come to town as a visiting player.
Yes, Yankees fans are special and unique all right. When you look at all their behavior, put it all down in a list in one place, it's pretty easy to realize what Yankees fans, collectively, are: