Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tragic Team Tries, Tries Again

Every day, second-grader Davey Shapiro walks a half mile home from school. That's a long way for a six-year old, but Davey can handle it. Every step--until the hill. His final two hundred yards slope upward, and can seem like Everest. With an autumn chill in the air and a sore leg from a kickball injury, today he might not make it--Mom's always ready for that call for a ride.

He's too young to see the metaphor. But tell his story to a baseball fan in his neighborhood, and watch their eyes drop to the floor.

"A struggle at the end. Sounds like a team I know," says Hal Shapiro, 38, with an embarrassed chuckle. "Except the Yankees can't call for a ride."

The New York Yankees, once the pride of all baseball, are having a tough time lately. You can get a shirt outside their (fittingly) soon-to-be dust stadium that says so. Anybody can have a bad millennium.

But it's not all bad. From April to September, there are highlights. The team still wins division championships. But nobody throws a parade for a division champion.

"It's almost our achilles heel now," says Frank Tortelli, a vendor outside the stadium. "We're a laughing stock--'Ooh, how many division championships do you have?' I can't even look these opposing fans in the eye anymore."

Davey Shapiro has a "circular file" full of division title pennants. "Every year, my dad gets me the 'Division Champs' banner. And every year I throw it away. I know he means well, but it would be like a wall full of bronze medals or second-place ribbons. I'm tired of getting laughed at."

At this point, Hal just hopes his son will get to see a world title in his lifetime. "Just once," he says, almost tearing up. He tries to console his son with tales of yesteryear. The relationship between father and son is as tragic as the team they follow. "Son, I can remember when the Yanks were great even in October," says dad. Davey is quick to retaliate. "Was that back when phones had cords?"

This winter, like the one before it, and the one before that, looks to be a cold one. The harsh Decembers and Januarys make one wonder: Is this what Yankee fans want? If it was suddenly 80 degrees in January, would they know what to do? It's almost like they look forward to the misery, the heartbreak, the tragedy. And it is tragic. A team with this much money should be able to seal the deal. Occasionally at least. The fans show up. The team makes the post-season, year after year, unlike their brethren, the lovable loser Chicago Cubs.

"We got a Cubs fan in our school. He gives me good advice on how to deal [with the losing]," says Davey's older brother, Scott, 9. "The first baseball game I can remember was Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. I cried. We cried. Poor Davey. At least I can say I was around in the good old days." He smiles. "Even if I can't remember them." And then the smile is gone.

"The thing is," adds dad, "we considered 2001 a victory. For the city, for the team. For America. We knew we'd get a real win the next year, and the next, anyway. But we're still waiting. I still blame the security at Logan [Airport]."

He's talking about 9-11. It's not lost on New Yorkers that planes from Boston knocked down the symbols of the city--and seemingly the Yankees' dynasty. It's almost as if a "curse" fell upon The Bronx that day, as the titanic buildings fell a few miles away. The "big dig" down at Ground Zero has led to a hole that to this day is unfilled, much like this century's trophy case at Yankee Stadium.

"Boston," Hal says derisively, "they did this to us."

Neighbor and fellow sufferer Anthony Brown tries to make light of the tragedy. "I hope they don't put a Yankee logo on the new Freedom Tower. It'll fall down at the last minute, right before the grand opening. In fact, I'll be surprised if they get the new Yankee Stadium ready for '09. If not, they'll just tell us what they always tell us: Next Year. What do you think that interlocking 'NY' stands for?"

After the 2001 disaster, in which the Yanks needed three outs to win it all, with the greatest closer in the game on the mound, and debacles in '02 and '03, 2004 would be another in a line of great tragedies for this burnt-out 'burg. Gotham's Yanks blew it again, this time blowing a lead--to Boston--no one had blown before. Not even the Cubs. The Yankees' failures since 9-11 have become symbolic of a city that can't seem to pull itself up by the bootstraps.

"Boston," Scott says, showing signs of the same inferiority complex as his father, "they have it all: a world championship, a nice ballpark, knowledge of when to cheer without the scoreboard telling them to.... I wish they'd let us share in the glory for once."

Dad is quick to add to the list. "They're gonna have a lot of my money, too, when we get you and Davey enrolled in college up there."

The past two seasons have seen the tragic pinstripers come close and fail, yet again. It's as common as the turning of the leaves, the changing of the seasons. The choking of the Yankees.

And guess what? They're toying with the proud people of Metropolis once again. The ones not wearing Red Sox and Mets hats, that is. A few days of this baseball season remain, and the Yanks look like a lock for the post-season. But even Davey, who should be filled with bright-eyed optimism at his young age, says he won't get fooled again.

"It's like a pretty girl you like. You give her everything. You make her a special card on Valentine's Day. You save a cupcake for her at your birthday party. You make an iTunes playlist just for her. But she just goes for the popular kid. She never loves you back. You set yourself up for a heartbreak."

This year, Davey's parents want to see him happy for a change. They bought him playoff tickets--for Shea Stadium.

Are you at all familiar with the concept of "hubris"?
You either don't get it, or you just supplied the perfect sarcastic answer to this sarcastic article. With a perfect name to boot!

I'm gonna guess you're young and missed out on the decades of articles like this Red Sox fans have to endure. The point is that you should have to deal with this bullshit now ("you must WANT to lose because of your heritage," "our city is superior to yours," "you'll always lose because of the city name on your jersey"--check the 'net, this stuff was literally, and I do mean literally, written right up until 2004), but you don't, so I've decided I'm gonna be the only one to do it, since the media refuses to correct itself, and since Yankee fans have kept their arrogance (hubris, if you will), instead of accepting their fate, that of fans whose team doesn't win when it really should be.
Ah, fake journalism, my favorite form of comedy.

Hal just hopes his son will get to see a world title in his lifetime.

Thanks. Using FJ sparingly makes it even better.
Loved it... it almost made me feel bad for the Yankee fans. Almost.
Thanks, New.
Ah, allegory. It's satirical form is always the best comedy.

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