Magazine article Newsweek

Play Ball! Subway Series: Put Aside Your Anti-New York Bias for a Minute. These Are Two Heroic Teams with Historic Legacies. and Remember, No One Loves to Hate New York More Than Mets and Yankees Fans Hate Each Other

Magazine article Newsweek

Play Ball! Subway Series: Put Aside Your Anti-New York Bias for a Minute. These Are Two Heroic Teams with Historic Legacies. and Remember, No One Loves to Hate New York More Than Mets and Yankees Fans Hate Each Other

Article excerpt

Okay, America, let's get one thing straight. We're New Yorkers and we know you hate us. We know you think we're arrogant and noisy and smug. We know you'd prefer a "Heartland Series" between the Cardinals and the White Sox, or a "Silicon Series" between Seattle and San Francisco. A Subway Series? The Mets and Yankees? A couple of the richest teams in baseball squaring off in the nation's capital of ostentatious wealth. To you, this has all the drama of a proxy fight at General Motors and the immediacy of a street brawl in Kyrgyzstan. Well, we're here--with all the arrogance and smugness at our command--to tell you that you're wrong.

You're wrong because anyone who knows his baseball lore (and you don't know baseball if you're not big on lore--it's our most historical sport) has to admit that there's something extra about the civil wars periodically fought on the diamonds of New York. An extra zap of electricity in the stands, an extra surge of emotion on the field, an extra dose of civic humiliation awaiting the loser--whatever the reason, these games have produced some of baseball's most indelible moments. In 1941 Dodger Mickey Owens fails to catch strike three, starting a game-winning Yankee rally. In 1947 Dodger pinch-hitter Cookie Lavagetto's double breaks up a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth, winning a game the Yankees had apparently wrapped up. Bobby Thomson of the Giants (they were New Yorkers then) smashes the Dodgers with a last-chance homer in the deciding game of the '51 National League playoffs, and Don Larsen, nursing a hangover, pitches a perfect game against Brooklyn in 1956.

The first game last week in the Bronx showed the early promise of a great Series, with the Yankees winning 4-3 after 12 nail-biting innings marked by bloodthirsty competition between the two hometown teams. Even before the first pitch, the throngs beneath the El near Yankee Stadium were packed with howling, partisan New York fans; one carried a sign reading Yankees rule, Mets drool, while another repeatedly screamed, "Start spreading the news, the Yanks are going to lose." Indeed, for days New Yorkers had been picking sides. Schoolchildren defied dress codes by sporting the T shirts of their favorites. Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a lifelong Yankees fan, clamped on a Yankees cap for what was likely to be the series' duration (in a rare gesture of evenhandedness, he pressed Mets caps on municipal leaders who were known to be of the other persuasion). Rick Lazio, the Long Island congressman who is running against Hillary Clinton for the Senate, gleefully declared his devotion to the Mets, while Mrs. Clinton, who last spring had startled New Yorkers with the news that she's a Yankees fan, said she was trying to clear her campaign schedule to attend at least one game. Good tickets soared to more than $1,000 at the hands of scalpers and on eBay. Giuliani laid on a joint Mets-Yankees rally in a city park, with a large contingent of cops to separate the two camps.

The mayor, ever a scrapper, seemed to relish the prospect of civic strife. "It's going to be crazy," he declared with a happy grin, "electrified and crazy. Families are going to be divided against each other. Brother against brother. Sister against sister. Father against cousin." The permutations of living-room tension suddenly seemed boundless--grandparent against mother-in-law?--and New York's already thriving industry of family therapists undoubtedly braced for a boom.

Giuliani is right, of course. Mets fans and Yankees fans are very different breeds, and the layers of antipathy and scorn between them--no, let's just call it hatred--run very deep. This is a difficult subject, if only because it is nearly impossible to approach with the degree of scrupulous objectivity for which this magazine is justly famous. The main thing about the Yankees, and by extension their fans, is that they are winners. They have an extraordinary record of 25 World Series victories, 16 more than any other club, and if they win this year they will have taken three in a row. …

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