Here's what I can't stand: part of me is actually afraid of posting a link to this article, for fear every Yankees fan on the Web will come running to flame me in the comments section.
Because if there's one thing I've noticed about Yankees fans in this postseason (in general--not all, of course, there are always exceptions) is that in their pain, they seem to lack insight. Few of them seem able to understand that, most often, teams lose for a reason, and that most often, when fans are bitching about the subtleties of umpiring (with the exception of last night's atrocity in ALCS Game 2) or, as I heard so memorably quoted, suggesting that "first base...be moved a foot to the right," it may be time to take some deep breaths and take stock.
Now, the typical Yankees fan reaction to the statements I just made is to go on the offensive--It's not like Red Sox fans are any more insightful! What the fuck, you don't know anything so shut up! The Red Sox have blamed the Yankees for everything! Forever! How can you... and so on.
Point out that they may be correct, but what we were discussing was not the shortcomings of Red Sox fans, which certainly are considerable, but another subject--that we were having a conversation (theoretically) about possible shortcomings on the pinstriped side of things, and, if all else fails, that two wrongs don't make a right, and the offensive will only escalate. You will be lectured until you eventually tire of it or wind up in the kind of splitting-hairs argument that makes you wonder how did I get here? Much of it centering on how Red Sox fans are worse.
I have yet to convince a Yankees fan, at least in an online argument, that criticism of the Yankees may be valid, regardless of what's wrong with the Red Sox and / or their fans.
Look, as Red Sox fans go, I actually am more at peace with Yankees fans on the 'Net than most, at this point. I've said stuff I regret, I've flown off the handle, and I've been irrational, yes, but after a couple of years, it's gotten easier to have a good, dignified conversation...about what's wrong with the Red Sox. Or about general subjects that would be completely uncontroversial if they were not being discussed by people fundamentally unable to agree on anything, unless it's that Tim McCarver sucks.
As Red Sox fans go, I have more sympathy for Yankees fans in general, am quicker to defend them to other Boston fans in certain instances, am quicker to try to put myself in their shoes because it's what I wish they'd do for me.
I can say right now I can't possibly fathom the cognitive dissonance a Yankees fan must be experiencing. I have had my share of baseball pain, but their circumstances are completely unique. Being thrown off a pedestal is much different than never seeing the view from it. I'm not saying either is worse or better, but they are, like most things Red Sox and Yankees, so mentally far apart they can't even really converse with one another.
The general reaction to pain among Red Sox fans is to hit back mostly at the Red Sox themselves. Sure, there's our share of bitching and projection onto various Yankees figures; there's our share of unfair accusations and excuse making, but Red Sox fans would have been happy to show up at Grady Little's house in the middle of the night with torches. If anything, Red Sox fans are too critical of their own players and organization; their love / hate relationship with the Sox is no secret.
The Yankees fans, on the other hand...it's different. I was afraid to link to that article because I know that it would infuriate most of them. That most of them would then want to argue with me about whether or not Randy Johnson or A-Rod have the stuff of champions, even if I just put that link up because I think it brings up some interesting--but not necessarily unquestionably correct--points.
The instinctual reaction to pain among Yankees fans, from my experience, has been the utter, hostile rejection of criticism--of their team, of their ownership, of their management, of themselves. Gone are the days of the Yankees fan, high atop his horse, telling me condescendingly to "worry about my own team." He has been replaced by someone for whom it appears to be too difficult to look objectively at what has happened to the franchise, and what steps could be taken to address the problem. Someone whose energy is more comfortingly spent in defending the team's missteps and difficulties to everyone in the outside audience than in confronting them for what they are. Someone psychologically incapable of uttering the phrase, "I can see your point, but..."
It hasn't always been this way. It really hasn't. Yankees fans have been rational to the point of coldness in the past. Often, the speculations and observations they've made about their own players and teams have been almost clinically accurate, as if long study of championship squads had allowed them to spot the minutest flaw in the anatomy of any others. This aversion to objectivity has only come about recently, and from my vantage point, appears to be their reaction to the loss--of their stature atop the pedestal as well as the ALDS and last year's ALCS. If there's one thing I try not to do, it's fault someone for their reaction to pain, or kick them while they're down--and as much as many Yankees fans may take this post as such, that's really not what I'm trying to do.
This article by Skip Bayless was brought to my attention. I thought it made very interesting points, the most interesting one of which was this:
If you could pour whatever is inside Derek Jeter into A-Rod, you would have the greatest baseball player ever.
But something has always been missing in A-Rod's makeup: mental toughness, guts, whatever it is that allows Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols and Manny Ramirez to make entire teams better. A-Rod doesn't seize the biggest moments. They seize him, often by the throat.
If you could pour whatever is inside Curt Schilling into Randy Johnson, even at 42, you would have the most dominating left-handed pitcher ever.
But something has always been missing in Johnson's makeup -- big-game confidence, emotional control, whatever it was that Schilling provided Johnson when he pitched the tone-setting games ahead of Johnson as the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees in the 2001 World Series. In the biggest moments, Johnson too often has been a psychological powder keg with a short fuse.
And then I found myself hesitant to post it. And I started thinking about why.
Look, Yanks fans, there are many of you I genuinely like and admire. There are some of your players and team officials I like and admire. Far be it from me to tell you how to handle yourselves, but the more you refuse to admit your team's very real vulnerabilities, failings and shortcomings, even for the sake of argument, the uglier our conversations are going to be.
On less controversial subjects, Bill Simmons is the best. Yes, still.
Speaking of Fox, it's not that I'm against Lou Piniella in the three-man booth or anything -- but what's the point? Doesn't the playoffs seem like a strange time to introduce a completely random person into your No. 1 baseball play-by-play booth as the third wheel? What's the thought process behind this? During the NFL playoffs, would Fox ever say, "All right, we have Aikman and Buck for the NFC Championship Game ... hey, let's shove Joe Gibbs in there just to mix it up!" Would that ever happen? So why do they take these dramatic gambles with baseball broadcasts? Just seems odd to me. If you think McCarver and Buck need some extra help for a big game, maybe you should have hired someone else in the first place.
(One exciting subplot for Piniella: Does anyone keep praying for McCarver to disagree with him on something, followed by Piniella's voice raising, and the discussion continuing to escalate ... and finally Lou just starts dropping f-bombs and screaming things like, "Yeah, I'm sure you bleeping know more than me, Timmy, I've been managing for the last 20 bleeping years, you're been sitting in a bleeping broadcast booth twiddling your bleeping thumbs, let's go with your opinion on this one, you BLEEPING BLEEP BLEEPER!!!!!" I think this is my sports wish for 2005, actually.)
Between those two parentheses is a small verbal miracle.
Thanks to Kristen for sending me links to both.