Sunday, May 17, 2009

Redemption on other than a Sunday

It's been an early season of our discontent for fans of the New York Yankees. I've rooted for them for most of my fifty-seven years on this planet and that I do so in a region (southeastern Connecticut) where Yankees fans and Red Sox fans are about equal in number makes this a much more interesting place.

Not that, as a kid growing up in Jersey, you didn't know people who rooted for the Mets OR the Phillies but as intense as that rivalry was and is, it's not Yankees/Red Sox. I'm thinking maybe, because even I have no first-hand memories of it, early Fifties New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers were comparable. Yeah, I know both teams played in the shadow of the Yankees, whose presence was so big it drove the other two across the country, but I just don't think there's anything like Yankees-Red Sox in terms of intensity (and, let's face it, hatred).

In a way, it's silly that it gets so serious. We, the fans, don't play baseball-the players do, and as Jerry Seinfeld noted years ago, with free agency the way it is, we're really doing nothing more than rooting for clothes. Johnny Damon looking like either the Lord's Son or the Zig-Zag Rolling Papers guy, breaks Yankees' fans' hearts and a playoff game wide open in helping the Red Sox snap the Curse of the Bambino, and a season later, he's clean shaven and wearing pinstripes. Meanwhile, the rivalries mean nothing to the guys on the field, they just got here as hired guns.

In recent years, Yankees fans have fallen on hard times, rooting for the team to capture a wild card to get into the playoffs which extends their season, on average no more than four games and then the roster gets to go golfing until pitchers and catchers report the following February. The Red Sox have been great and in the American League East (also known as the best division in baseball, if you live in, or near, one of its host cities, admittedly) it's been wide open for the last few years and to start this season.

Yankees' fans had to be pleased that Manny Ramirez had topped himself with drug issues (and odd, even for Manny, drug issues), because it helped us forget our Third Baseman for the Next Decade, Alex Rodriguez, and his troubles. And there was some schadenfreude in the Bronx to watching Big Papi NOT get it done if nothing else, to take the edge off of the bust we all feared the signing of Mark Teixeira was proving to be.

Alex comes back from hip surgery as a new tell-all-or-only-the-juicy-parts book hits the stands and he responds by hitting a home run in his first at bat of the season on the first pitch he sees. He bats behind Mark Teixeira who has been struggling to find his batting gloves as he's hardly needed them because he's just terrible. And then yesterday afternoon, both guys who do a lot of that sign of the cross stuff before they step into the on-deck circle (like maybe God follows baseball or (where's Jason Kidd when I need him?) foul shots in the NBA. Perhaps one of these guys went to seminary school with Jim Morrison, but I don't think so), have days that may signal the start of a turnaround Yankees fans have been wanting to see for weeks (ever since Cleveland went for the two point conversion after the third touchdown in the 22-4 loss) and their teammates love them and we love them, too. We are so fickle and feckless.

The weather has started to get warmer in the last two days with blue skies and soft breezes. We're all starting to look forward to Memorial Day and the unofficial start of summer. And the big payroll muscle in The Bronx is starting to flex like it knows what it's doing. If Yankee Stadium is the Cathedral of Major League Baseball, maybe yesterday afternoon was early Mass.
-bill kenny

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