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What defines the relationship between Yankees and Mets fans?

Rivals or brothers from another borough? Exploring the way New York’s two baseball fanbases relate.

New York Yankees’ manager Joe Torre jokes with New York Mets Photo by Howard Earl Simmons/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Governor Andrew Cuomo has rapidly lost credibility among New Yorkers and the politician’s popularity took another dip during a COVID-19 briefing in the city on Thursday. After delivering the news that Yankee Stadium and Citi Field will admit fans at 20 percent capacity for the 2021 MLB season, Cuomo debuted a reversible mask adorned with a Yankees insignia on one side, and Mets logos on the other. New York baseball fans rolled their eyes at the governor’s ploy to appeal to all of his constituents—Yankees and Mets fans alike. Alas, Cuomo’s reversible mask was, in baseball parlance, eyewash. No true baseball fan roots for both teams.

The Yankees and Mets are frequently pitted against each other, but it’s contrived. The Yankees and the Mets are not enemies, and the same holds true for respective fanbases of the two teams. Sure, there are probably times when Mets fans grow weary of their front office dysfunction and begin to envy the relative orderliness that takes place in the Bronx, just as there are times when Yankee fans find they are puzzled by the way Mets fans seem to fetishize losing.

Fans of each New York franchise might struggle to understand each other, but enemies they are not.

If not enemies, then what is the nature of the relationship? How do the Yankees, Mets and their respective fanbases feel about one another? Let’s take a closer look at the dynamic from a few different angles.

The Yankees and Mets’ relationship is often referred to as a rivalry, but this is a misnomer. Perhaps the word is used out of convenience. At the end of the day, calling it a rivalry is still an inaccurate description. The Yankees and Red Sox are rivals. The Yankees and Rays are rivals. The Yankees and the Mets are not rivals. Rivalry requires cutthroat competition and a level of animosity that the Yankees and Mets lack. The relationship between the two New York ballclubs isn’t defined by hatred and drama. The connection between the Yankees and Mets is more subtle and aloof than that.

The Mets are more akin to the Yankees’ younger sibling. There might be some trash talk, but when the two teams aren’t facing each other, some Yankee fans genuinely want the Mets to do well. Personally, as a fan, I like the Mets. I respect the Mets. I’m glad they exist, but, much of the time, they aren’t at the forefront of my mind. The Mets are like the Yankees’ little brother: you love and want the best for him, but he’s kind of a doofus.

Another sign the two teams aren’t rivals: it doesn’t feel that weird to see a Met in pinstripes, or a former Yankee in a Mets uniform. Many guys have played for both teams over the course of their careers, and fans associate players like David Cone and Darryl Strawberry with both teams. The one exception might be Yogi Berra, but even Yogi pulled off the blue and orange after his playing days were done.

Mets Photo by Focus On Sport/Getty Images

Do fans ever change rooting interests, and withdraw their support from one New York team to defect to the other? I wonder, in the rare instances of defection, which scenario is more common: Mets to Yankees, or Yankees to Mets? I know of one rare exception. My grandfather was a Y2M fan.

My grandfather played semi-pro baseball in Queens for a number of years and always rooted for the Yankees; growing up in the Kew Gardens Hills neighborhood of Queens, my mom inherited his enthusiasm for the Yankees. For true sports fans, switching allegiances is just...unnatural. It feels wrong, and that’s why it only happens under rare circumstances.

A new MLB expansion team materializing in his literal backyard was the only thing that could have motivated my grandfather to stop rooting for the Yankees and start rooting for the Mets. And that’s exactly what happened. The Mets were founded the year my grandfather turned 50. He thought of Shea Stadium as a Field of Dreams, built personally for him. While he remained fond of the Yankees, the Mets became his team through the power of proximity.