Sunday, August 25, 2013

Characterizing the Fanbases #8: New York Yankees

Welcome to the latest installment of Characterizing the Fanbases! In this series I’m attempting to present the psychology of every MLB fanbase. This series, as you would expect, comes with a disclaimer: These characterizations are based on my own perceptions and opinions, and no offense is intended by them. I freely admit that I’m only one man, and my view is therefore limited. I’m fully aware that many fans will not fit the profile I depict, and that’s to be expected, because it’s impossible to make blanket statements about large groups of people. If you want to contest anything I write here, feel free to leave a thoughtful, civil comment. Otherwise, sit back and have fun reading. Perhaps I might even say something insightful!

Are they the most famous (or infamous) fans in sports? Ask any baseball fan what Yankee fans are like and they’ll tell you: arrogant, loud-mouthed, entitled bullies. And really, why wouldn’t they be? After all, their team is the richest in the game, and they have the resources to buy any elite player they want. They have more than twice as many World Series titles as the next team on the list, and they haven’t been out of contention in the last 20 years. If you’re a bigger-is-better bandwagoner type who wants to follow the rings or a cocky New Yorker, the Yankees are the perfect team for you. 

To say these fans lack perspective is an understatement. They literally believe the World Series should be theirs to lose every year, and they don’t seem to understand what a luxury it is for such expectations to be within the realm of possibility. When they don’t win the Series they feel cheated, as though a rightful victory were stolen from them. 

“Yankee fan behavior” has become a widely-understood description of boorish, classless antics coupled with a sense of superiority. They can throw bottles, harass opposing fans, talk smack and boo as much as they want, but that doesn’t stop them from believing they belong on a higher plane than the rest of baseball fandom. They feel justified in criticizing all-time greats who join their team for not being “true Yankees” if they fail to live up to expectations, all the while elevating lesser players merely for being Yankee lifers. They’ll openly declare that it’s in the best interests of baseball for the Yankees always to be good, because the media enjoys covering their team and constantly perpetuates that idea. Hey, if the writers say it and it validates their wishes, who are they to argue? There’s no doubt in their minds that the Yankees represent everything good and right about baseball, and screw you if you don’t like it, you jealous hater.

While I’ve witnessed enough Yankee fan arrogance in my lifetime to make my blood boil, there’s a part of me that wonders if the Yankee fan isn’t somehow a pitiable creature. Sure, the average Yankee fan has witnessed more World Series titles than some franchises have in their century-plus history, but they still manage to find reasons to be unhappy. The fact is, human nature is never satisfied. If we didn’t constantly have the desire for more, the human race would stagnate. This trait can be the key to a man’s success, or it can be his downfall. Other fanbases realize they’ll never catch up to the Yankees and can therefore be appreciative of what they have, but Yankee fans have experienced higher heights than those other fans, so anything less seems a letdown. Undoubtedly it indicates that they’re spoiled, but once you’ve lived the life of a rich man you never want to walk in the shoes of a pauper.

While the Yankee trophy case is the envy of every other ballclub, it also carries with it the pressure to maintain a stratospheric standard. Because winning the World Series every year would be impossible, the Yankees and their fans are doomed to feel like underachievers in spite of their unmatched success. If the price of having an annually-contending team is the ability to enjoy the ride, perhaps those of us who aren’t Yankee fans should be thankful.

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