[Ed. note: This continues our series on Hate Week after things were so rudely interrupted by big! important! trade stuff! yesterday. To read the kickoff post, in which Isabelle writes a strongly worded e-mail to Bud Selig, go here; Amanda followed with a plea for understanding Bobby Ayala; and Gotty delivered a stunning paean to baseball, that big jerk.]
This past week, FiveThirtyEight published a study of the most and least-hated baseball teams. It’s no surprise that the Yankees were both the most liked, and the most hated. (Our own sweet Mariners were the least-hated team in all of baseball, according to the 989 survey respondents, many of whom had almost assuredly never heard of the Seattle Mariners.) This feels true, right? It feels like the Yankees are simultaneously the most loved and the most reviled franchise is maybe all of pro sports, although I suppose the Dallas Cowboys would have something to say about that.
I hate that I hate the Yankees. Of all the sports cliches, it’s one of the most tired, and shallow-seeming: everyone hates the Yankees. I don’t hate the Yankees because they’re always good, and seem to never have a down or rebuilding year because they just pay for whatever they want. I don’t hate them for spending that money, either; they generate a Scrooge McDuck-like pile of cash in revenue, so what are they going to do with the money, tuck it under a mattress for safekeeping? And I don’t begrudge them their rich history. I used to have to teach a unit on a book called Lou Gehrig, the Luckiest Man and I cried at the end every time. The Yankees fans at Safeco are annoying, but rank below the influx of Red Sox fans for me, and well, well below the Blue Jays fans.
Really, what I hate about the Yankees isn’t so much the team itself, but the way they’re used as shorthand for all of baseball, that act of synecdoche that makes Yankees Baseball stand in for America’s Baseball. Over at The Hardball Times, John Paschal chronicled a year on MLB Network where he tallied references to the Yankees or New York, regardless of what was going on in the baseball world. Sure, the studios are in New York, and that’s who they have to draw from for guests: Yankees fans, or sometimes Mets fans, if they felt charitable. But it seems like with just a tiny bit of effort they could draw in perspectives from people who like other teams. Florida teams, even. The Yankees-as-default mindset is tiresome, and tired. And the more MLB endeavors to grasp to the coattails of the Aaron Judgernaut—as they did with Gary Sanchez last year—to secure a Face of MLB that doesn’t play for
a middling Angels team championshipless Washington Nationals team the Dodgers any team that isn’t the Yankees, the more I find myself feeling cranky and resistant about the team itself.
No, scratch that. I don’t necessarily hate the Yankees, the team (except the parts that are obviously hate-able). I hate the Yankees as an idea. I hate the Yankees because I’m told so often, from so many outlets, about how much they Matter, and conversely, by omission, how little my favorite team matters. I hate that this was the front page of MLB.com when I pulled it up:
Severino: 7.0 IP, 8 H, 1 BB, 6 SO, 0 runs. Felix: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R (HR), 2 BB, 9 SO. I don’t know if “outdueling” is the word here. I see one pitcher who struck out more than a batter an inning and gave up three hits, one of which was unlucky, and one who got really lucky that none of his eight hits crossed the plate.
But this is old news. You know this. You’ve read this kind of thing before.
At some point, anger ages. You lose the energy to be mad all the time, and so it settles into a dull roar, always there, like background noise at a crowded restaurant where what’s on the menu is scorpions. You can turn up the volume on it sometimes, the anger, when the situation calls for it; otherwise you just live with it, this rage tinnitus. As a woman who writes about sports on the internet, this is pretty much my daily life. Sometimes it’s empowering to get mad; most of the time, it’s a distraction from what I need to be focusing on, so I have to turn the dial down and move on. But constantly I do so with the worry that I’m caving to the first way of being in this, my favorite Calvino quote:
“The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.”
Once a year, the Yankees come to town, and I get to turn up the dial on my east coast bias inferno, and make sure I am not part of it, but am instead seeking what is not inferno, making those things endure and giving them space. In some ways it’s a gift, to be able to be angry once in a while, to give yourself permission to hate, to burn through all the bad feelings that have accumulated with a cleansing fire. Ultimately, I think I hate the Yankees because they are a behemoth on which to project my feelings of insecurity that my team doesn’t Matter, and my anger that even if they do, they never will, not in the way the Yankees matter. Because in a way, it’s nice that no one hates the Mariners, but in another way, it’s a reminder of how inconsequential the majority of baseball fans see our team. The Yankees are inescapable; the Mariners, invisible. Maybe that’s all this expression of anger is—clanging a little tin cup against the bars of obscurity, reminding people that we are here, and we matter.