I am often asked why I am a Yankees' fan because I am a middle class guy from Milwaukee, WI with no apparent ties to the richest team in baseball from the big city of New York. Why would a person who has been raised a die hard Brewers' fan even consider rooting for a team like the Yankees? I mean, can the two teams be any different? The Brewers are a small market team that has never won a World Series, hadn't been to the playoffs in 26 years until 2008, and has a dismal reputation for losing. The Yankees, on the other hand, have won 27 world titles and make winning another title their goal every season. Why, then, do I root for both?
The answer as to why I root for the Brewers is simple: I am from Milwaukee, I love this city, and I love its teams. I bleed Packer green and gold (yes, I know they are not from Milwaukee) and I grew up attending Brewers' games. I was a fan through the bad years, which made making the playoffs in '08 that much more rewarding. I have attended Brewers' Spring Training, met the players and coaches, and have experienced more in baseball through following the team than I ever imagined I would have been able to in my lifetime.
Why the Yankees, then? Why, you may ask, do I shamelessly follow, cheer for, defend, and admire a team I have seen play live so rarely that I can count them on one hand? To answer that, I have to take you back to September 11, 2001. When the planes hijacked by terrorists hit the World Trade Center, I was in 8th grade English class. I remember watching television live when the second plane hit, and just being dumbfounded by what I was seeing. My heart went out to the people in the planes, in New York, their families, and to the whole country. I remember when baseball canceled its games for a few days so that the nation could get itself in order, so that we could figure out what we needed. And when play resumed, the Yankees were in the thick of playoff race.
The New York Mets were out of the playoff race and the Yankees were receiving most of the attention from the national media as the New York team who was in the thick of a baseball season and a national catastrophe. I did not watch a lot of the playoffs that year since I was still in school and working on homework or in bed as the games were being played; but each morning I checked the paper or SportsCenter to see how the Yankees did. As the weeks dragged on (as MLB playoffs usually do), I started to get more and more excited until they reached their fourth World Series in a row (they had won 1998-2000).
This is when I really fell in love with the Yankees. Led by Derek Jeter, whose late game heroics had earned him the nickname Mr. November (because of the 9/11 attacks, the playoffs spilled into the month of November) and great role players like Tino Martinez and Paul O'Neill. I stayed up and watched every game I could until I got too tired to watch or my parents made me go to bed. My dad started watching more with me and it became a great bonding time for us, cheering for this team that we both had felt indifferent about before like it was our own beloved Brewers.
That leads me to Game 4, October 31, 2001. The Yankees were down by 2 with 2 outs and a runner on. The Diamondbacks closer was Byung-Hyun Kim, who at the time was one of the best closers in baseball. Tino Martinez, the veteran First Baseman came to the plate. I remember my mom had gone to bed, my siblings were asleep, and it was just my dad and me sitting in the dimly lit basement watching the Yankees (down 2 games to 1 in the series) trying to make a miraculous comeback to tie the series. Kim through his nasty submarine pitch and Martinez swung, smashing the ball over the right-center outfield wall. My dad and I sprang to our feet cheering and jumping up and down. He picked me up as I fist pumped the air as if I was the one who had kept New York alive for another inning. The Yankees would go on to win the game 4-3, but lose the series in 7 games.
Now I ask you, how could you even attempt to pretend memories like that do not have a factor in whom you root for? To be able to share that moment, that game, that series with my dad is something I would never trade for the entire Yankees' payroll. Ever since then, I was hooked. I couldn't pretend that I was indifferent to the Yankees like I was before; I was a fan, a die-hard fan. When the Yankees came to Miller Park in 2005 to play the Brewers, I couldn't decice which team to root for, so I wore a Brewers' T-shirt and a Yankees' baseball cap to the game I attended (the Crew won 3-2 on a Junior Spivey 2-run home run off of Randy Johnson).
"The Yankees buy all their talent" and "You are so cliche for liking the Yankees" are examples of criticism I get all the time. I enjoy the banter, the friendly arguments, and the satisfaction of when my Yankees win against my friends' teams. However, no feeling I have now can match the connection I had to the Yankees, baseball, or my dad that October night. Say what you want about the Yankees and my admiration for them, but nothing can take that memory away from me, nor make me disown the Yankees. So for that moment, I thank baseball, the Yankees, and my dad, and say a big IN YOUR FACE to all opponents who fall to the best team in baseball.