Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Face of Yankee Fandom

Because it's become a habit in the last few days, I kept up a running post of last night's game, the Rangers at the Yankees for ALCS Game 4. It was an interesting game. The shaky AJ Burnett turned in a competent performance before a stupid intentional walk and homer gave the Rangers the go-ahead run. From there, Josh Hamilton engaged in his own one-man home run derby, and the Rangers put the game well out of reach.

However, today many people will surely be talking about the disputed fan interference in the bottom of the second inning, which made the rest of the game seem merely conventional, despite the 10-3 score. The Rangers' going up 3-1 on the Yankees makes for good times in Texas and dire forebodings in New York, but the terrible officiating speaks to concerns held by all fans of baseball. And while that's worth exploring, it's important not to forget that the interference in right field not only threw baseball's replay problems into high relief, it did the same with the image of Yankee fandom.

With one out and no men on, Yankees second baseman and candidate for 2010 league MVP Robinson Cano lofted a ball to right field. It seemed to come down on the barrier between the seats and the playing field, atop the wall, and go into the stands, whereupon it was ruled a home run. But Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz argued that he was interfered with, preventing him from reaching an eminently catchable ball and making an out. Replays showed that a fan in a Derek Jeter jersey who caught the ball put his hands out directly above Cruz's glove, while a second fan immediately thereafter put his hands directly on Cruz's glove and pushed it.

Despite having instituted replay for disputed home run calls, the umpires did not review this play. Initial reactions saw the announcers and in-studio crew claiming that it was outright interference. But after consulting the rules, they noted that interference cannot occur when a player goes into the stands to catch a ball. Looking again at the video, they concluded that Cruz had extended his glove far enough into the stands to be in "fan space," in which case, the fans' reaching out didn't interfere with the play and couldn't technically have prevented an out.

But look at the photo above right. Cruz's glove clearly hasn't crossed over the plane of the fence and into fan territory, while the fans clearly are extending their hands across that plane into the playing field. Meanwhile, they are touching his glove. This picture unambiguously shows fan interference, and it unambiguously shows two other things as well:
1. That Cano's home run should not have counted.
2. That, despite instituting a replay policy, Major League Baseball continues to be run and officiated by either bloodless cowards or arrogant swine who render a tool for accurately reviewing their actions meaningless because of their refusal to actually use it.
By making the review process totally optional and at their officials' discretion, baseball maintains the same cavalier disinterest in an accountable review process that existed before review was instituted. The same people who before resisted the implementation of replay because they refused to entertain notions of their own gross incompetence or accidental fallibility have been given control of the process for evaluating their conduct, which effectively means that they now merely have a new tool to ignore when refusing to entertain their own incompetence. Like a Bush-era regulatory body or a homework honor system in a class where the teacher never demands to see finished assignments, MLB's instant replay has been structured in such a way that those who most need to be tested by it can idly wave it away with an imperial gesture of contempt.

Thankfully, the home run did not prove to be decisive for the outcome of the game, which allows it to live on as a far less dire but still perfect examplar of something else: the chronic, ugly and insufferable dickheadedness of New York Yankee fans.

I've already mentioned here how rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for cancer, and while that might have been a decent portrait of the sort of petulant entitled bullying mentality of people who root for the team, no amount of words would be as perfect as this picture:

The guy in the picture is the one who interfered with Cruz and caught the ball. Here's what he said, according to Sports Illustrated:
"It was coming right towards me. I touched it after it hit the cement," said 20-year-old fan Jared Macchirole. "He was yelling at me but I wasn't going to say anything. It was a home run."
It's hardly necessary to resort to analyzing every image like frames of the Zapruder film to realize that, in addition to being a cheating piece of shit, Jared Macchirole is a lying piece of shit.

Either his hands can time travel, or he's making things up. Further, the immediate aftermath of the "home run" saw him leaning down at Cruz and taunting him with the classic bridge-and-tunnel guido trash-talk attitude that fans around the league are used to seeing in their stadiums whenever the Yankees come to town and the game reaches the inning where these gentle visitors have to buy two beers at once right before the alcohol-sale cutoff. Then viewers at home were treated to repeated viewings of the all-around dickless display seen in the above animated gif.

In fact, it was so easy to see, here is another example of him not saying anything to Nelson Cruz:

And here's one more:

That guy really has a lot not to say to Nelson Cruz.

Now, I think it's a given that most people realize that not all Yankee fans are like this incredibly lame white person, but really that's academic. People like him have long been The Face of Yankeedom, from the Bronx Bleacher Creatures, to the sorts of assholes who follow the team on the road. And as much as tightassed suburban fans might try to distance themselves from him, the attitude of him and those like him just gives physical form to the general air of over-privileged abusive thuggery attendant to being a fan of such a grossly inequitable front-running team.

This isn't an invention of the media or resentful fans nationwide. It thrives in the stands, on the road and on message boards, and it's an attitude that came down on high, for decades, from George Steinbrenner, a piece of criminal scum who liked the moniker The Boss and relished engaging in public ritual acts of debasement and humiliation for his employees when he wasn't scheming to undermine them behind the scenes. This wasn't foisted on the Yankees but rather whole-born by the very organization and the slavish devotees who cleaved to it.

The Face of Yankee Fandom is a foul, feculent and ever-trumpeting human anus — whether blinged out with slick hair or not — and if you're a Yankee fan and don't like the characterization, maybe you should work harder to convince your fellow fans not to revel so much in it.