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Sept 30 2000: No Fear

(This column originally appeared at www.yankeesxtreme.com, Yankees Xtreme. Reproduced here by permission of Ultrastar.)
I was driving through Connecticut on a business trip last week and I almost pulled over at the side of the road and wept, as the Yankees were suffering another crushing loss. But then someone hit a home run and I felt better.

After all, I told myself, a lot of good things have happened in the past two weeks. Jeter got his 1000th hit, Bernie and Justice both reached new career highs in home runs, Nelson, Stanton and Rivera really seem to have regained their stuff… and have Knobby and Jeet been on base a ton, or what?

Maybe, just maybe, I told myself as I drove down that dark highway, the losses don’t matter. This is just the fine-tuning of the engine that is carrying us the last leg of the race to the post-season.

But ANY loss matters to a Yankee fan. Each additional L increases our feeling that something is wrong with the universe. Losing disconcerts us and makes us downright cranky.

We all know what happened in 1997 (and 1995, and every year of Don Mattingly’s career). We know there are no guarantees–that Yankee destiny has only come 25 times in the team’s 97-year history, not 97 times. And yet, how can we, as spectators, accept the possibility of loss, especially postseason elimination?

I’ve been watching a lot of the Olympics lately (after the ballgame is over, of course) and one after another of the top athletes say they have to put fear of failure aside. You hear it from our guys, too: if I go out there and do my best, there’s nothing to be afraid of.

And that’s what our Yankees are going to do. Their best. And that is what we as fans need to do, as well. Because Yankee fans are the best fans in the world, and here’s seven reasons why (in no particular order):

1) Clever Signs & Banners
Nobody beats New York when it comes to great signs and banners at the Stadium. I hadn’t realized, in fact, how great they were until I went to Fenway Park this year (where signs are banned, but people bring them anyway…) and the woman next to us had a sign that read “Yankees Needs Some Education” (sic) — which had us scratching our heads. Am I missing something? Among my favorites of recent years, one cheering “Shane Home Run Di-Spencer,” the ice cream cones for Coney, and the nice lady in front of us at the May 28th Pedro Martinez/Roger Clemens face off, who had sewn K’s onto a whole pile of red socks, and every time the Rocket struck out one of the Sox, she’d hang one on a clothes line.

2) Roll Call
Is there another team in baseball whose fans chant out their names at the start of the game? The Bleacher Creatures have even been known to add others to the list, like radio announcers John Sterling and Michael Kay.

3) The Two Strike Clap
This tradition started in Yankee Stadium with ace pitcher of the late seventies Ron Guidry, when the fans wanted him to know they were behind him. Every time Guidry went to two-strikes on a batter, a slow, rhythmic clap would start, and get gradually faster. Nowadays, the two-strike clap has spread to many other ballparks.

4) Tossing Opponent’s Home Run Balls Back
Okay, they say this tradition started at Wrigley Field in Chicago. But Yankees fans will go to great lengths to do it. The other night, a home run went into the empty section of the upper deck, and an enterprising fan had to go a long way to track the ball down and heave it back onto the grass. Not in our house!

5) No Doing the Wave
At least not while the Yankees are at bat. A bunch of guys in our section during the last homestand this year tried and tried to get a wave going. It kept dying out and they gave up. If they had waited until the opposing team was up, they might have had a better chance.

6) No Beachballs
See #5.

7) We Never Give Up
As I write this, the Red Sox are on the verge of elimination, and probably will be gone by the time you read this–but their fans gave up weeks ago. A friend who is a Mets fans moaned and cried the day they clinched the Wild Card that, even so, they would never beat the Braves. They’ve given up. And you know what? That’s why their teams don’t win.

Go Yanks.

(Did you enjoy reading this blog entry? Please consider buying me a hot dog.)

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