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Oct. 20, 2000

 

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Subway Series - by Brian Bassett

Remember all the security precautions that were taken around population centers for Y2K?  Those SWAT teams will look like Cub Scouts in comparison to the squads needed to quell the riots, fires, and general anarchy in New York stemming from the Subway Series.

I grew up in the shadow of the greatest city of this nation: New York City.  If you debate this point, we can talk, but know that you have no idea about what you speak.  Less than 300 years ago, the city was little more than a fur-trading outpost.  Today one-tenth of our nation lives within one hour of the original fur-trappers fort on lower Manhattan.  Since that time it became the greatest port for the new nation, a key strategic control point for the Revolutionary War, the original capital of the U.S., and birthplace of the U.S. stock market.  New York was home to self-made millionaires like John Jacob Astor and Cornelius Vanderbilt, inventors like Thomas Alva Edison and Robert Fulton, and great minds like Washington Irving and Walt Whitman.

To understand the New York psyche is to understand the past.  In the past, the city was founded and came to greatness by its’ quest for money.  The original settlers were Dutch trappers; this set the tone for the city.  New Amsterdam existed only to make a buck and that was it.  That ideal still permeates the city; people think New York is THE place that offers opportunity.  You might not succeed, but the city extends opportunity nevertheless.  Problem: when you rub elbows with 8 million people, there is competition.  There is competition for that job, competition to get the spot on the train and competition to get the last newspaper on the stand.  People are looking out for themselves and themselves only.  In New York, people will not voluntarily give anything.  Given a reason though, they will respect your assertiveness and back off a bit.  Part of this pushy, assertive, obnoxious attitude rubs off and is common even in friendships where people “bust” on each other about whatever topic is easiest to pummel the subject with.  As a child, a popular topic was questioning a friend’s  fanship of “the other team.”

Before we continue there are a few things that you must understand about New York.

1)   New Yorkers LOVE baseball.  In a city that is home to more than 1/4 of the total championships awarded in the 1900s, there is a reason to love baseball.  We aren’t talking about Milwaukee here.  For the most part, teams are good in New York.  When things are bad though, solace can be taken from at least being better than the other team in town.

2)   New York has at least two teams in every major sport.  Yes, I am counting the Nets and Devils.  That might seem like a statement of the obvious, but that means that there is a choice that needs to be made by a person if they are to devote time/money to a sport (Jets or Giants?)

3)   Team loyalties can be grouped into geographic/socio-economic groups.  Now this is not a hard-and-fast rule, but here are the sweeping generalizations. 

Yankees Fans:  Hail from north and west of NYC (Westchester County, NY, Connecticut), Manhattan and the Bronx. Upper Class and Working Class. Became interested in baseball in 1950s, 1970s, 1990s.  For the most part are more partial to the Jets than the Giants.

Metropolitans Fans:  Hail from south and east of NYC (New Jersey, Long Island), Manhattan, Brooklyn & Queens.  Middle Class.  Became interested in baseball in 1960s, 1980s, or late 1990s.  For the most part are more partial to the Giants than the Jets.

4)   If you are a fan, you can only be a fan of one team.  Even the Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani is an unabashed Yankees fan.  Mets fans would respect that, but don’t expect them to vote for him again if the Yanks win this Series.  Being a fan of one team doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t go to Shea if you are a Yankees fan, or to “The Stadium” if you were a Mets fan.  For the most part, New Yorkers would rather see the other guy’s team win rather than lose.  But if it is between the Mets and Yanks, you had better know for whom you are rooting or else you are not considered a fan.  Fans of the opposing teams are almost seen as “misguided” and an object of pity and ridicule.

5)   New York fans are obnoxious.  Witness John Rocker.  If you ever go to a game, expect to see a fight in the stands or grown men flicking off an eight year old kid with a BoSox hat at a game.

So, what does that all mean?  Why is the Subway series so important?  Is this just the invention of the media who is all clustered in NYC?  For people outside of the “Tri-State Metro area” this Series is something significant because it is entertaining to see a World Series of teams in the same city.  It is also entertaining for most Americans because they want to see these crazy New Yorkers kill each other over a little white ball and a stick.  For New Yorkers, the World Series is important because for the most part, when one team in New York is good, the other is mediocre or just plain bad.   That means that there is a lot of “in your face” talk between friends.  Those wounds grow and grow over time, and when your team is faced with ridicule, you await they day that your club is better than the cross-town rivals.  Basically, years of fan frustration are coming to a head in the most important games played in Major League Baseball.  This series can likely prove to be bragging rights for the next 44 years (the last Subway Series was in 1956).  A win at this level will shut up that obnoxious uncle who always claims his team’s superiority.  Not only will it shut him up, it is fuel for ridicule on why one would be so foolish as to be a fan of a team that can’t deliver. 

I will never defend the way a New Yorker comes across to an outsider, especially in regards to sports.  That is not what this article was about.  There is no better personification of the phrase “what have you done for me lately?”  New York fans are about performance, and performance today.  Choked a coach in another city?  You are the personification of evil.  Come to town and drop 18.6 PPG?  Even the Beastie Boys will praise you.  Is this logical?  No, but the fans expect the best from who they “invest” in.  This is the biggest series in baseball, but it gets better when you don’t have to drive to Seattle or St. Louis to gloat, you can put it in the face of your neighbor or the guy you see at the water cooler.  That is the reason that I wanted to write this article, to give people who haven’t lived in New York and cannot fully grasp what this series means to a fan who grew up in the shadow of the city. 

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