I’m the rare person I know who can sit and watch a baseball game in complete silence. I can never quite bring myself to get involved with the scoreboard-prompted cheers; I prefer to observe, contemplate, predict, and with the team we’ve got, seethe. That’s what I was doing earlier tonight, as, from the upper deck, we faced off against the Yankees. Aside from shouting “yup!” a few times when Yankees struck out looking, and calling out “It’s Lance Johnson…c’maaan” during the Mets Trivia Drive, I watched without talking.
Among other things, this meant that I was attuned to my surroundings in a way you usually aren’t at a baseball game. I heard nine innings worth of conversation from the father-son duo sitting next to me — strangely enough, the son seemed to root for both the Mets and the Yankees, and the father for neither — and more than my share of disjointed ravings from some sort of Yankee fan/conspiracy theorist somewhere in my section. I don’t remember much of what he said: I know that when Brett Gardner made a routine catch, he shouted out “Brett Gardner! Now there’s a player with a purpose!” He also made the claim that Michael Conforto batted .330 last year when he was on steroids, which had so many holes that I didn’t bother to make a correction.
But most of what I heard was the cheering. It was the Subway Series, so the stands were louder than usual, and it seemed that most of the noise was coming from the occupying Yankee fans. You could hear it as early as the first inning, starting from the fringe but then getting picked up by the mainstream: “Let’s go Yankees…let’s go Yankees…” It got louder and louder and for a while the scattered Mets fans in attendance couldn’t even muster a halfhearted boo to counter it.
If I’d been in a more combative mind, I would have mentioned to whoever was directing the cheering — it’s amazing this ability some people have, to just show up and somehow take command of the cheering capacities of an entire section of a ballpark — that they were doing it wrong. Pretty quickly, the competing factions of Mets and Yankees fans turned their animosities into a sort of masochistic call-and-response: “Let’s go Yan-kees…Let’s go Mets!” An ostensible sign of competition that seemed more representative of a strange kind of involuntary cooperation — set, to add insult to injury, in some ungodly time signature, 7/4 or something like that.
I wanted to say to the cheerers: that’s not how you do it. This isn’t a child’s birthday party, it’s the subway series. You chant, “Let’s go Mets!” They chant, “Let’s go Yan-kees…” and they clap. When you put it all together, it sounds like we’re waiting until they finish, then giving our own cheer…but when we actually do that, it sounds a whole lot worse.
I don’t know why I got caught up in the cheering. Maybe it was because of how dominant the Yankees fans were, and how much I can’t stand seeing Yankee fans in our own building. Hell, I once nearly blew my top listening to two Giants fans for eleven innings, until Michael Cuddyer ended it with a walk-off single; Yankee fans, who I hate instinctively and whose team is a whole lot better and more frustrating to play against, are far worse.
It’s hard to fault Mets fans, however many showed up, for not mustering any noise worth mentioning: we were in the middle of an eight-loss skid, after all, in the middle of a season on the decline, in the midst of what may be a long stretch of famine with no end in sight. Throw in the fact that it was raining ever so slightly, and you’ve got a recipe for Mets fans to stay home. Some of them made it out, which made the Yankees fans that much more bearable. But they still got loud.
Todd Frazier’s home run in the fifth quieted the Yankees crowd down for a while, but they were back in full force by the eighth. Aaron Judge was in the on-deck circle representing the tying run, which meant, of course, that every Yankee fan in the building was standing, screaming, pounding their chests…anything to express just how great they were, and how much better Aaron Judge was than anyone else we Queens peasants had ever had the privilege of watching. Judge, of course, owner of a .270 batting average, sent a tailor-made double play ball to Amed, who flipped it to Reyes at second, who promptly suffered a stroke.
Well, not really. But in baseball terms, that’s just about how you’d have to define it. A throw ten feet to Adrian Gonzalez’s left — this was back when Gonzalez was a Met — and then, as we stared around, shaking our heads and wondering why there was still a runner on second, it dawned on us that Reyes hadn’t even stepped on second base, in all his rush to get the ball to the dugout behind Gonzalez. So now there were two men on, the tying runs, only one out.
The game took a brief pause at this point for a replay break, which took about three times as long as it should have, but gave the Yankees fans in the crowd some time to reflect on how incredible their team was. “This is the game right here!” said the fan of indeterminate rooting interest next to me. I think he was rooting for the Yankees at this point, because he was quite clearly wrong, this wasn’t the game right here; the Yankees were still down two runs with a lineup that had barely hit all day. But Yankees fans are remarkably confident in their team, and aren’t shy about sharing that confidence with the rest of us.
And with the Yankee rally growing, it started up again. “Let’s go Yankees…Let’s go Mets!” Except the Mets fans were quieter and the Yankees fans were louder, and I started shivering in my seat even though the night was warm.
Thank Goodness Robert Gsellman got the next two outs, and the Yankees fans in attendance were once again temporarily silenced. We went to the ninth and Anthony Swarzak, the closer-by-default when all your other closers-by-default are hurt or no good at closing. Struck out Stanton — “yup!” from me, and maybe a few claps — then walked Greg Bird, and Yankees fans got loud again. Two balls to Gary Sanchez, more than capable of tying the game, and my face was in my hands. Then, in the blink of an eye: Line drive. Caught. Frazier fires to first.
Back in the New York Groove!
I didn’t leave right away. I just stood up in my seat and couldn’t stop smiling. I looked around at the angry Yankee fans, and the Mets shaking hands on the field, and thought to myself that Mets wins over the Yankees, and observation of the associated frustration taking hold among Yankee fans, should really be classified as medicines, because I sure felt better than I’d felt a few minutes before. Chants of “Let’s Go Mets!” and “Yankees Suck!” broke out on the stairs down to the subway. As I descended, the chants followed me loud and clear, and this time, I couldn’t hear a single Yankee fan disrupting the cheers for the victorious home team.