On Saturday, June 16, 2012, I went to see the New York Yankees play the Washington Nationals at a sold-out Nationals Park in the District of Columbia. I have a package of tickets for the season and I see games there all the time, but this experience was different. The Nationals have been playing well this year and are leading the National League East at this point in the season. I don’t have any illusions that they will be a dominant team in October—although I can always dream—but I would like for them to be relevant in the pennant race late in the season and it is looking more and more like they will be. I do believe the Nats are on their way to success in future years and I and my friends who have rooted for them since they moved to Washington from Montreal in 2005 are excited by what we are seeing at present.
On this particular day, and it was a beautiful day for a baseball game, the Yankees beat the Nationals 5-3 in 14 innings. The game was a heartbreaker in so many ways, especially since I thought the Nats had it won in the 8th when a runner was declared out at the plate in what I thought was a bad call by the umpire. Those things happen, of course, and I can’t get too concerned about this in the overall scheme of things.
I have seen lots of baseball games over the years in lots of different ballparks but Yankees fans on this particular day, and whenever I have seen them at other times, are a breed apart. And not necessarily in a good way. I have nothing against cheering for the team you support, I do have a problem with booing, heckling, and otherwise trying to intimidate others. I saw one fight in the stands, and I understand there were others, and there was a bunch of Yankees fans around me at the game constantly shouting obscenities and spouting nonsense. It seems to be a particular type of rowdy behavior; not only did their side have to triumph but everything related to the other team had to be belittled. They put down the Nationals players, owners, ballpark, fans, concessions, everything one could think of. What does it say about the psychology of people who think and act this way? Or is there a loss of civility in society overall that this exemplifies? Or were they just mean, nasty drunks?
I had always thought of the standard Yankees fan as a fearless champion of the overdog, and I saw a lot of that at this game as well. There were plenty of t-shirts with the number of Yankee world championships vs. the Red Sox World Series victories as a means of feeling better about themselves. As we all know the Yanks have outstripped everyone else in that department. No complaints, the team has earned those victories over the years.
I’m not talking about that; what I saw here one more time was a level of obnoxiousness not present among other fan groups I have encountered. I know that nothing matches the level of hooliganism among some European soccer fans, but in the U.S. this is unusual. I’ll stop my rant here, except to say that cheering for your team does not require the denigration of those who are not cheering for your team. Regardless of whether or not you are a Yankees fan, respect for an honorable opponent is always appropriate behavior.