I believe sports bring people together, but they can also cause deep-rooted divides. There are many cities and towns across the sports landscape that are forever united by a single team. Unless you’re a transplant to these areas, there is no question about who you cheer for. Growing up a sports fan in New York suburbs is wholesomely unique in that there is a good chance that someone you love also hates your sports team.
In 1958, the Brooklyn Dodgers were one of two local MLB teams to pack up like a neighborhood retiree and head for warmer weather. It worked out just fine for the Dodgers, but at the time it left my maternal grandparents without a baseball team. Clearly, Walter O’Malley did not care about my beloved grandparents (how disrespectful of him). Luckily for the Flushing, Queens natives, the Mets came to town, cementing the team they would forever support. This meant that while my mom grew up a Mets fan, there was a big problem: my dad was a Yankees fan.
My mom went out of state for college and says that she started paying less attention to the Mets. With her return from school, and my dad consistently watching Yankees games, he slowly got her to convert.* Thus, my immediate family members are all Yankee fans, but those in my extended family are not. We are fairly cordial about it, but it can make for some interesting family gatherings.
*Pretty fair-weathered if you ask me! But I’ll let this one pass since she’s my mom.
These types of stories seemed to be common where I grew up: divided fan families, generational allegiances, and a lot of love for baseball. It was an interesting dynamic having multiple local baseball teams, but it’s all you knew, and it became a part of who you were: “Are you a Yankees fan or a Mets fan?”
I attribute some of my diehard fandom to growing up in this environment because if your team lost, you knew the next day would be brutal. Whether it was at the local deli, school, or even a call from your own grandfather, you couldn’t escape that ribbing. You wanted your team to win so badly just so you didn’t have to deal with the wrath of another fan. I personally dislike the Red Sox with a passion, as anyone does with their rival, but at least I didn’t typically have to come face-to-face with them after a loss. But those darn Mets fans were waiting for me.
There were times when I wished that everyone in my town would root for the Yankees. I was jealous of the Phillies fans, or the Cardinals fans. The sense of community and togetherness surrounding those teams and their fans felt special. As I get older though and think back about growing up with baseball, I wouldn’t trade my experience.
I enjoy having Mets fans in my life. They taught me what it meant to lose year after year (I’m kidding, but it’s just too easy sometimes). In all seriousness, the only way you grow as a fan is by having people around you that have different opinions and thoughts on the game. It certainly broadened my knowledge and my understanding of baseball. It was an instant outsider’s perspective, even though you were living in the same place.
Who am I kidding though? The best part was when your team won, and thankfully the Yankees did that a lot.