Thursday, July 29, 2010

Rooting for the Overdog

At the Cleveland Indians vs. New York Yankees game a few nights ago (in Cleveland’s stunningly comfortable and picturesque Progressive Field), something weird was happening. A critical mass of ticket-holders was pro-Yankees (and not shy about it). In and around our section, at the concession stands, in the bathrooms – it was a sea of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez shirts and jerseys. I thought I had successfully fled New York for a few days, yet here I was, in a cleaner, cheaper, and more civilized version of the Bronx.

What was all that about? When did supporting the home team become passĂ©? This is the first regular-season sporting event I’ve been to where the away-team fans managed to almost really stick it to the home crowd. The delightful couple sitting next to us had trekked to Cleveland from Paterson, New Jersey for this game (and hopefully for something else, too), so they had a good excuse for their Yankee fanaticism. And there had to have been other New York-area natives or visitors in the mix. But what about all of the others who sided with the boys from out of town? Those “Here We Go, Yankees” and “De-rek Je-ter” crowd cheers were largely intoned with distinctly Midwestern twangs.

From what I’ve heard, the Cleveland Indians aren’t considered to be all that this year. Is that what drives this many locals to vociferously betray their own for another team that already has so much? The Indians seriously can’t be that bad if they only lost to the Yankees (last year’s World Series champs, featuring powerhouses like Rodriguez who’s just one big swing away from a history-making 600th homerun) by one run, and then beat the Yankees by three runs the following night; but they don’t currently have a Jeter or an A-Rod to boast of. In the coming seasons, if the Indians eventually become the hot team with a couple of major star players added to their starting lineup, will these Yankees-yodeling Clevelanders change chants? My money’s majorly on it.

Fair-weather fans can’t be trusted. What happens inside the gates of the ballpark doesn’t necessarily stay there – disloyalty is transferable as hell and could be coming to an arena near you.

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