If you go to Keith Olbermann’s Baseball Nerd (linked on the right sidebar, or click here), you’ll find some pictures he took last night at Yankee Stadium.  One he took was of Sean Hannity taking a photograph of him.

There is an object lesson here.

Anyone who watches Olbermann or Hannity (or both, if you can somehow manage to do so without your brain exploding from the convergence of matter and anti-matter) knows that they’re not much for each other’s company.

At the ball park, however, they are civil.  Civil enough to take photographs of each other, in a way that by no means seems to signal a truce, but rather an understanding of rivalry and where its place is, and how it’s to be conducted.

Rivalry in baseball takes place in the ball park.  It takes place on the field.  For fans, the players we cheer are our weapons with which we attempt to achieve superiority.  That’s why we go. That’s why we do our best to show our colors and fill to capacity the place we know as our second home.

Fans can get caught up in thinking that cheering is not enough, and that energy turns into something harsher, and unwelcome.  While cheering and jeering is perfectly acceptable, fistfights aren’t.  Battery isn’t.  THROWING batteries isn’t.

Again, I’d like to point out this photo, of a Phillies 2008 championship flag being set on fire at Citi Field this past season.

burn.jpgSmeared and blurry as it may be, this is the image that sticks in my head as fandom gone horribly wrong.  It’s fandom pushed to this place by rowdy idiots, but not to be condoned no matter who’s responsible.

I’m pleased the Yankees won the World Series in part because I do believe it’s perfectly acceptable to root for a team based in New York if you live in New York.  That debate’s been had, and it seems that over the past week that rather than eat our young, Mets fans on any side of the issue have agreed to disagree.

I’m pleased the Yankees won the World Series because they beat the Phillies.  I think Jimmy Rollins has some thinking to do about his freelance gig as a prognosticator.  I think Cole Hamels needs some time to burnish his image with the team’s fans.  I’m pleased as all get-out that Shane Victorino grounded out to end the game.  That guy’s a jerk.  Empirical study has proven it to be so.

I’m pleased the Yankees won the World Series because it means Philadelphia today doesn’t look like a smoking hulk out of some Roland Emmerich movie.

But mostly I’m pleased because it provides me with the opportunity to make this extended announcement, to any fan of the Phillies who may have engaged in the kind of near-criminal abuse of other people who happen to come from elsewhere, and who may be reading:

“Fan”: there’s a time and a place to be a degenerate. 

New York has been home to MILLIONS of degenerates over the years.  They’ve burned parts of this city down over the course of decades.  They’ve been part of a culture of violence and decay that threatened to ruin it.

Yet while some today moan and complain about how no one in Times Square knows how to mug them right anymore, most of us are glad to have the pleasure of being concerned with how many Starbucks franchises constitutes the correct number for a five-block radius.  These are concerns of adjustment.  They’re not concerns of crisis.

The Yankees conducted themselves in a straightforward, business-like manner, and believe me, that’s infuriating to a lot of New Yorkers as much as it’s pleasing to others.  They did their talking on the field. 

They did their talking with their wallets ($201M in 2009), as the Mets tried to ($149M in 2009), and as the Phillies tried to ($113M in 2009), and as the Twins barely could ($65M in 2009).

When the Yankees won, their fans went as crazy as t.p.ing a tree a few blocks from my house, and dropping half-full beer bottles on the street.  I’ve not one report of a torched car, nor one report of some clown standing on top of a car that then takes off, leaving him prone and concussed on the asphalt.

Just because there’s no destruction of physical property doesn’t mean people didn’t drink so much they puked, or blared their horns as they drove down the street heading home, or conceived a child.  Or–sweet Jesus–all three.

(Section Five Twenty-Eight does not condone drinking and driving, or drinking, then driving.  Driving, then drinking, is the appropriate order.)

There’s a time and a place to be a degenerate, I say to those who’ve ever thrown a punch or urinated on a cap or verbally assaulted a minor while wearing the red and white. 

New York is not that place.

This is not a plea for you to change your way of life at home, though I’d certainly appreciate any further destruction attempted be kept away from our country’s national treasures.  This is a strong damn warning to refrain from acting like an animal when you come to the home of the Mets. 

Come in as many numbers as you want, or you feel you need.  Spend your money. Do your worst in jeering the players on the field if you think they’re overrated showoffs.  The Mets have a laundry list of problems to fix for 2010, but that doesn’t make them any less capable of stomping the Phillies at Citi Field, or Citizen’s Bank Park.  THAT is the fight that I and Mets fans like me–and there are thousands like me–are looking forward to. 

We’re NOT looking forward to telling you to shut your mouth when you start berating US and not the players on the field, and having to do so to the point where only a fist to the face will shut you up or keep our children from crying.  Our past is not so far from our minds that we’ve forgotten how to defend ourselves, and we will.  But fights are not why we go to the ball park.  If that’s why YOU go to the ball park, then DON’T come to our ball park.

My overarching hope with a Yankees victory was that people like you, the degenerate, will have gotten out of bed today, stared into the mirror, and found some humility.  There’s no one–not even Yankees fans–who can’t find their humility. 

As one who’s been humbled many, many times, I can say with certainty that THIS lesson in humility is one you deserve.  Not the Phillies fan down the street who goes to New York and cheers the Phillies and boos the Mets, but talks baseball, not pure obscenity.  Not the Phillies fans who celebrated 2008 by cheering Ryan Howard’s power or Jimmy Rollins’s skill.  Not those guys.

You, the guy who in 2008 thought it was great fun climbing up a lamppost and chucking beer cans at the world.  You, the guy who was looking forward to doing it again this year.  You, the guy that clapped as Jose Reyes took Chase Utley’s knee in his head, then cheered as he lay there.

You, guy.  There’s a time and a place to be a degenerate.  That you can’t even be one in the privacy of your own home is what I’d hoped would be taken from you, at the unfortunate expense of fans who deserved a championship a hell of a lot more than you or your ilk.  Look in that mirror, and think about what you’ve done in the past. 

Understand that, karmically, YOU caused this.  The team you proclaimed homegrown and gritty lost to superior numbers and superior dollars.  That, in my book, reads as success spoiled.

I don’t state this case cheerfully.&
nbsp; There is no tone of gloat, here.  I have no real problem with the Yankees or the fans I’ve met and are friends with.  But they’re not my team, so I can’t really share in the celebration.  Your loss this year is only the means to what I hope will be a more civil end.

Next year, Phillies fan, for both our teams.  Come correct, or don’t come at all.

**Someone please pass this along to the genius who wanted one put in Jose Reyes’s neck.

**Editor’s note: Updated November 9th, because I can’t tell the difference between Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity.

Advertisements