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Yankees fans, we need to talk

On an ugly year for the fanbase.

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MLB: Houston Astros at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

I know, it’s short for “fanatic”. I know, I wasn’t around for the Bronx Zoo days, when the Bleacher Creatures really had teeth. I know all of the things that people will say to defend the things that happened this Yankees season, and I don’t really care about them.

This was an embarrassing year to be a Yankee fan.

It feels like the fanbase has gotten worse over the years I’ve been writing here. The Yankee Extended Universe has exploded, with everyone and their dog having a blog, or a podcast, or a TikTok account. For the most part, this is a really good thing — it’s never been easier to find good or interesting analysis, good memes that got us all through a bad August, and I get it, everyone needs an opportunity to vent.

But there’s always a line, and we spent a summer crossing it. Sometimes it was stupid, if harmless, like booing the AL MVP who nearly single-handedly dragged his team to the playoffs. You have the right to boo as a fan, but your choices of when and where, I think, say a lot about the way you consume the game, what purpose sports fill in you. I don’t really think booing players necessarily influences their decisions about where to play, although Andy Martino, as connected as anyone, seems to think so.

We veer from the stupid to the offensive, like how Yankee fans so thoroughly hounded Joey Gallo that he refused to leave his apartment:

Not to mention the Steven Kwan/Myles Straw incident, capped off by a walk-off hit that, instead of celebrating, Yankee fans felt compelled to throw beers at a trio of Guardians’ outfielders, and an umpire to boot.

And then we went from the offensive to the objectively harmful, where the parents of players were harassed online. If you’ve read a single post or comment I’ve made in the last seven months, you know that I don’t care for Isiah Kiner-Falefa as a baseball player. To take things from that level to DM’ing someone that their son has been shot is a leap in “fandom” that I can’t make. I don’t get how you can take men in pajamas chasing after a ball that seriously.

Now, I know the easy response is “not all fans” or “those aren’t real fans” and frankly I don’t care. Sure, not all Yankee fans DM’d a player’s dad that his son had been shot, and maybe “real” Yankee fans don’t throw their beers at opposing players. They’re wearing Yankee gear, sport Yankee profile pics, celebrate when the team wins and are upset when they lose. Whether that meets your definition of a “real” fan isn’t really relevant.

And yeah, not all fans behave this way, but enough of them do that it’s a problem. That we can trace this through-line of behavior, from bad or plain stupid judgement straight to downright harmful and threatening, shows that the fanbase is comfortable taking things to the most extreme end. Too many of us feel comfortable being one person in a crowd of 50,000, or an online troll, and it’s having real consequences on the enjoyment of the game.

Cheer who you want, and boo who you want. Criticize on-field play — believe me, there was plenty of stuff that happened on the field this season that merits reaction. Stop embarrassing the fanbase, and stop embarrassing the team. Your right to post on Twitter ends right about the point that you DM a stranger about the safety of their son, or harass an outfielder to the point that he cuts himself off from the city of New York.

We excuse so much under the guise of “fan is short for fanatic”, and that’s allowed things to get worse and worse. I don’t want to be embarrassed by the behavior of fans, and I was too many times this season. Will it affect how many players sign with the Yankees? Not if the Yankees outbid the rest of the field. Having said that, if you were a player getting equal offers from three teams, and you saw multiple players on one of those teams harassed until it made the front page, why the hell would you want to be here?