I am, and have always been, a prisoner stuck behind New York Yankees pinstripes. Back when I was a teenager, I owned my baseball obsession, my “Yankee Pride.” I embraced it, boasted about it, flaunted it in the face of fans of any other team — particularly the rival Red Sox.
I believed Don Mattingly was The Messiah.
Today, however, as an alleged emotionally mature adult — one who would much rather be known for more intellectual and literary pursuits — I work hard to rid myself of my allegiance to the Bronx Bombers. I am ashamed of my chronic affliction, this Yankee addiction, this personal curse.
It is a daunting task, a magnanimous undertaking rivaled perhaps only by my attempt in 8th grade to quit masturbating after reading in a Kung Fu book that excessive ejaculating caused permanent loss of chi and made a man weak. I never even earned my white belt.
What I face now is the baseball equivalent of Brokeback Mountain; try as I might, I just can’t seem to quit you, Yankees. I wish I knew how to quit you.
I could hardly be referred to as a Yankee fanatic. I never paint my face or any other body part in team colors. I sport no temporary or permanent tattoos of the internationally known interlocking “NY.” I have never knocked back a beer per inning in Yankee Stadium then picked a fight during the 7th inning stretch with an inter- or intra-league intruder who had become too vocal in support of his sluggers. Yes, I occasionally sport an official Yankee cap, but I typically do so while wearing my “writer’s” glasses and a well-worn blazer, hoping to pass myself off as a hip New York novelist à la Paul Auster rather than as a supporter of a team that represents all that is disdainful and deplorable about “America’s game” and professional sports as a whole.
Sometimes, while wearing my Yankee cap (which I do only when I postpone bathing or want to enter a hip hop club without being laughed at too hard), I carry a copy of Sartre’s Being and Nothingness or Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent in a sad attempt to show that my inner leftist pseudo-intellectual easily eclipses anything concerning ERAs, RBIs or win-loss ratios. I will quote Kafka or Camus to avoid being lumped in with the fantasy league freaks who waste years of their life focusing on the batting averages of artificially bulked up multi-millionaires.
I am not like those fans. I am worse. Much, much worse.
This because I no longer own my obsession; rather I over-think and apologize for it and allow it to gnaw at my neurons, making me more pathetic than any fan who you may see regularly altering their wardrobe or body or license plate or shrubbery to prove their Yankee allegiance.
The traditional Yankee fan is real. He is who he is, and he sees no reason to hide or camouflage his idolization. He certainly would never apologize for it. He purchases team paraphernalia, pounds beers and punches his television with nary a care of who may be witnessing his exultation or self-destruction in the name of his beloved ballplayers. They, like myself — before I went away to college and discovered literature, art and philosophy — wear their team’s logo on their sleeve or actual forearm for all to see. They are brothers, united in their almost admirable idiocy, with no pretenses. You know exactly what they stand for, what they believe in, how they will react to a thrilling victory or a devastating defeat. They are reliable. They can be trusted.
I, on the other hand, lack the courage to reveal my true convictions. Where a true bold supporter of the Yankees would, without hesitation, resort to fisticuffs at a gathering after somebody cast aspersions at the team’s coach, players, play-by-play man or grounds crew, I would ignore such insults and even go so far as to act incredulous over the fact that the topic of baseball had even come up and caused such commotion in the first place — just to show my friends and acquaintances how above it all I was. Of course, later on, during my drive home from the gathering, I would sit alone in my car and verbally thrash the absent Yankee critic — using triple- and quadruple-syllabic epithets backed up by an assortment of current team and individual player statistics to render the blasphemer speechless (if he were present).
Yes, I am worse. I am worse because I think that I am better.
I am the most tortured type of fan. I possess the intelligence and logic to recognize that blind support of professional sports is utter foolishness, complete folly, but at the same time I am unable to overcome the decades of nostalgia and habit that have kept me pinned beneath pinstripes, and that will continue to do so until I die or am stricken by Alzheimer’s.
My condition is debilitating. My private Yankee obsession supersedes my pretentiousness, thus score-checking and standings-scanning will always find ways to poke holes in my more lofty ambitions. On countless occasions I have interrupted productive bouts of writing, reading, research, cooking, conversing, cocktailing, child playing, travel planning, weight training, movie viewing and even love making to click on a television, radio or web browser for an inning-by-inning update on how the Yankees were doing on the diamond that day.
But the worst and most shameful aspect of my Yankee affliction is the displaced aggression. If I had a dime for every time I’ve punched a wall, slapped my laptop, thrown a trash bucket, head-butted a door, and bitten my arm whenever things didn’t go my team’s way, I would have enough money to open up a clinic to treat assholes who do such ridiculous things while watching sports.
Of course, I usually only exhibit such inane aggression when I am home alone. In those rare instances that I am unable to contain my rage when my wife is within earshot, I am always quick with a lie to justify my outburst: “Sorry to scream and throw my stapler like that, baby — I just found out that Jonathan Franzen didn’t win the Booker Prize for his latest book. Man, that tears me up!” Or sometimes I flat out deny that the noise she heard was anger related or even emitted by me: “Oh, I accidentally stepped on the cat and he knocked over my desk while frantically running off in pain. My bad.”
The 2012 Major League Baseball season just started up two weeks ago. 162 regular season games, with a month of playoffs to follow. If you need me, I’ll be at home by my computer watching the live simulcast of every Yankee game on MLB.com — cheering on a bunch of grossly overpaid imbeciles and futilely praying for my freedom.