New York City is the greatest city in the universe. Have I traveled to every city in the universe? No, but as a New Yorker we are taught that the travel is not needed because you live in the city that others want to travel to. We do our best to avoid Times Square at all times because it is tourist heaven. We cower at the simple thought of anyone standing on a corner with their inestimable subway map high up in the air to determine how to get from Times Square to Union Square; it’s just simply not the New York way. In this city you’re built up to even if you do not know where you are going you at least make it seem like you most certainly do. Call it being arrogant, call it being stubborn, call it whatever you want but never underestimate that this is the New York way, and if you don’t like the way you know where you can go to solve that issue.
For as much as we cringe at the tourists, you can’t help but feel a little jealousy. The way you feel when you book a trip to Los Angeles or Miami they feel about New York. Imagine being a kid and your parents coming up to you saying “Guess what WE’RE GOING TO NEW YORK!” how excited would you be? You can’t help but understand that for the millions of us who see all the sights and hear all the sounds on an everyday basis, there are those who only see this maybe once a year, if ever.
Things like trips to New York or any other city with your family can turn into a tradition. It can become something that you are raised into supporting and doing for your entire life. The same happens when it comes to sports. It’s a tradition amongst families to pass down the support of favorite team from one generation to the next. If your parents and grandparents were raised as Mets fans chances are you will be raised to support the Metropolitans too. You learn about the teams’ past and the ups and downs. You’re taught how to be a true fan and how to forever bleed the colors. You gain the aspect of loyalty and learn to understand how to support something no matter what happens, good or bad. There is no jumping ship allowed. The family will always ride or die for this team. No matter the season, you go in thinking your team will be the best before and once and the season is over.
Things like that make me jealous.
I am the youngest of five children, two boys and three girls to be exact. With my father not being around there wasn’t much of a male influence in my household. My older brother played sports, but I learned about sports on my own. I decided to play little league baseball after watching Ken Griffey JR for the first time. My first true memory of ever watching basketball is Michael Jordan crying on the floor in the locker room after the 1996 Chicago Bulls won the first of their second three peats of NBA championships. As I grew older I watched more and more sports. It wasn’t just me watching Sportscenter on ESPN anymore; it was me watching entire games. It was more than just simply overhearing two people discuss what’s going on, it was me picking up the newspaper before getting on the train to school just too simply read the sports section and establish my own opinion. I felt as though I was committing a cardinal in the sports world, I was loving sports but without a team to truly root for. It was something I never had to do because no one in my family truly knew about sports and established any type of connection to a team. It is one thing to remember the same highlights that everyone else knew, but I knew that deep down I wanted a team to support. I had jerseys of all players from across the league, particularly baseball. My first jersey was a Mike Piazza Mets jersey, courtesy of me going to my first baseball game at Shea Stadium as a kid. After that I had a Sammy Sosa jersey, an Alex Rodriguez jersey, and a Ken Griffey JR jersey. I remember being in sixth grade and these jerseys were the only things I wore during summer school.
When I was 12 years old I was, at least in my mind, old enough to truly watch baseball and understand what was going on. I remember watching game seven of the 2003 ALCS between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. Of course, we all know how that ended: Aaron Boone blasting a solo home run to the top of the left field bleachers in the bottom of the 11th inning, sending the Yankees to the World Series.
The summer of 2004 it finally happened.
It was July 24th 2004. I was sitting at home watching the Yankees versus Red Sox at Fenway Park. It was the Fox Five game of week, so that meant Joe Buck was announcing. The game gave everything a sports fan could possibly want. A high scoring game between two rival teams that provided no shortage of drama. It was the top of the third inning and Alex Rodriguez was up to face Bronson Arroyo. The Yankees were already up 3-0 after RBIs by Hideki Matsui, Tony Clark and Garry Sheffield, with the Red Sox not even registering a hit. Arroyo hit A-Rod with a pitch on his elbow. As A-Rod started walking towards first base he started jawing at Arroyo, next thing you know Jason Varitek is jawing with A-Rod and then, FIGHT NIGHT. A-Rod and Varitek start going at it meanwhile, Gabe Kapler starts fighting Tanyon Sturtze who then decided to take on Trot Nixon and David Ortiz, heck even Kenny Lofton was involved in a fight! It was madness before during and even after the fight. The game went back and forth and with the Yankees being up 9-4, you would think it’s time to change the channel and watch something else.
But I couldn’t help but watch.
It was 9-4 Yankees in the bottom of the sixth inning. Bill Mueller hits a sacrifice fly to center field with Nomar Garciaparra on third base and Trot Nixon on second, 9-5. Mark Bellhorn comes up and hits a double scoring Nixon and bringing over Kevin Milar to third base, 9-6. Johnny Damon singles to left bringing Milar home while Bellhorn moves to third and a walked David Ortiz heads over to second, 9-7. Manny Ramirez is then walked while the bases are loaded to make it 9-8 Yankees. After a solo home run in the 7th inning by Ruben Sierra, the Yankees go into the bottom of the 9th up 10-8 with Mariano Rivera on the mound to get the save.
Milar singles to right, Garciaparra scores 10-9.
With a man on base and down by a run, Bill Mueller steps up to face the greatest closer of all time. With one swing to center field I showed emotion I didn’t know I had. Mueller hit a game winning walk off home run to give the Red Sox an 11-10 dramatic win. It is personally the greatest baseball game I have ever watched because it gave me everything I could ask for, heck let’s call it a classic. It supplied the drama that sports fans crave when arch rivals get together, and for future tense it helped set up another playoff classic between these two teams in the 2004 ALCS. Most importantly it gave me the feeling of what it’s like to root for someone. It made me a fan, for the first time I was able to say I had a favorite team in a professional sport and I told myself I would support this team through the good and the bad.
I became a fan during the right season as I witnessed the greatest comeback in playoff history and witness the curse being broken. I remember my first Red Sox hat being a pinstriped cap with the Boston logo on the front. I truly thought it was the greatest hat ever. I was able to enjoy another championship season in 2007; but at the same time I felt as though tough times were coming along, and my true loyalty would be tested. My favorite players began to leave the team whether through trades, free agency, or simply being old and deciding to retire. Some players left and I supported wherever they went. I remember supporting the Dodgers simply because Manny Ramirez was on the team, even when he went on to the Chicago White Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays, but I still stayed loyal to the boys at Fenway.
For four years I endured the harsh reality of living on your own and being away for college. Four years of me coming home to New York only when I had school breaks or for the summer. During these years the fact that I couldn’t come home made me miss everything about my city. The sights, the sounds, the people, the food, I even missed those silly tourist families with their subway maps. I missed them because whenever I had to chance to come home I felt like them. I would land at the airport or get off the bus or train and just feel excited that I was finally in the city that’s great, it’s named twice. There was nothing about it that wasn’t missed; whether it’s the food trucks, the dollar pizzas, even the lovely homeless across the city, I missed everything about home.
I even missed those damn Yankees.
I watched them win the 2009 World Series and felt happy. I even went to the parade because it gave me an excuse for going home. I missed New York so much that I even promised my girlfriend I would become a Yankee fan once Jorge Posada was retired. Was it a promise I could fulfill? Absolutely not, but I was missing home so much that I thought I could change.
I’m glad I never did.
For the past three years I have been fortunate enough to attend at least on Yankee game per season, and if I attend one it is for sure to be a Yankee vs Red Sox game. Every time I go I get chills. The thrill of the stadium, the thought of getting such delicious food and drinks.
I also get the feeling of excitement knowing my team has arrived.
I take in the joy when the crowd is silent or booing because their precious Yankees are losing. I accept when I have to endure the mockery of my friends and girlfriend when the Yankees are winning and the Red Sox are not. It’s fun this way, and if I can’t have fun I don’t want to be involved. Over the weekend my girlfriend and I attended the Red Sox – Yankee game at Yankee stadium. We arrived early in order to take in the entire stadium experience; for her it was nothing new but to me it was everything. I toured the famous monument park where all the greats are enshrined forever. I visited a club suite where their ceiling lights are trading cards of Yankee greats. Our seats were the first row behind right field right where the W.B Mason sign is. All of this was great. A beautiful night out with great people, atmosphere and beautiful weather.
The only thing that could’ve made it perfect would be a Red Sox win.
I was giddy over the matchup with it being Jon Lester vs CC Sabathia. I was nervous when Alfonso Soriano hit a home run quickly out of the park. I endured a roaring Yankee crowd and girlfriend who couldn’t help but laugh at me and thought of her team losing; then Jonny saved me. In the 6th inning Jonny Gomes blasted a home run left field that tied the game and brought me out of my seat. Later in the inning as I went to get another round of awesome chicken fingers I watched on the screen as Grady Sizemore blasted a three run home run to right field exactly where our seats were, but it was great because they were winning. In the end the Red Sox were victorious and it turns out it would be the only win they got in this four game series. In this complicated story of being a fan I found myself more dedicated. I want to know not just the stars, but the entire roster. I want to know who could be coming up in the minor leagues and who might be getting shipped out. I want to pay attention to the contract talks and at the end of the day I want to be supportive of my team.
So cheers to you boys in Fenway, in the city that hates everything about you (until you join their team right Jacoby?!) I’ve finally managed to accept that this forever complicated relationship will remain that way; complicated. I promise to never stop supporting thee and forever hold you up like the subway map that Ben and Jane Foster from Wichita Kansas do on 42nd and Broadway.
Now let’s get back-to-back championships.