With the holidays right around the corner and final exams killing me, I decided to take a timeout and do some thinking. After all, the holidays are always a time of reflection.
So yesterday I was doing some contemplating…what would happen if I tried to convert to being a fan of another team? I mean, is it even possible?
I tried to imagine what would happen if I came out and told everyone I was a Red Sox fan and have denounced the Yankees; that everything about the Yankees is evil, they are a horrible bunch of cheaters, and I have left the Empire for the Nation.
Then I thought how that would go over. Yeah, not very well.
There could be severe consequences if I told people I have become a Red Sox fan. Instead of ranting on forever about them, I’ll list them.
1) If I were to become a Red Sox fan, I might lose all my friends.
It might be the truth. Nearly all of my best friends are Yankee fans. I cannot imagine going over to a friend’s house to watch a Yankees/Red Sox game and trying to cheer Boston. That would be the end of me. I would probably get thrown out before anything even happens, since basically all my friends bleed pinstripes.
But would some of my best, diehard Yankee friends remain friends with me, even if I changed my favorite team?…
Not exactly sure, but just in case I should stick to the Yanks.
2) If I were to become a Red Sox fan, my family would most likely disown me.
I was born a Yankee fan. My family will not let me die a Red Sox fan. My family brought me up with Don Mattingly, Derek Jeter, Tino Martinez, and Mariano Rivera. Not players like Nomar Garciaparra, Manny Ramirez, and David Ortiz. If I turned around and became a Red Sox fan, my family would exile me.
Unless I want to find a new family, I must remain a Yankee fan.
3) Location and Ability to Watch My Favorite
I live in New York. I was born in New York. I know that there are plenty of BoSox fans here in the Empire State, but the Yankee fans, by far, outnumber the Red Sox fans (just as I’m sure in New England, the Red Sox fans outnumber the Yankee fans) Life would not be easy as a sports fan if I made the conversion.
Not only that, but I would have to drive 207 miles just to see my team play at home. I mean, I suppose I could always risk my life and go to Yankee Stadium wearing a David Ortiz jersey, but I value my well-being. I want to live for as long as I can, not have my existence on this planet end in the parking lot at Yankee Stadium.
Unless I want to make a long trip to see my team play a home game or risk my life at Yankee Stadium, I must stay in Yankee colors.
I have spent a good chunk of my life collecting Yankee paraphernalia. I have souvenirs like you would not believe; I’m talking jerseys, hats, shirts, sweatshirts, bed sheets, pennants, framed pictures, paintings, even a Yankee hamper where I keep my dirty cloths (no lie) and one of my favorites, a retro, holographic lunchbox.
It has taken me basically my whole life to amass all this Yankee stuff. I would have to put this entire memorabilia collection up on EBAY or something, and then exchange it for Red Sox stuff.
Unless I want to go through that, I must remain in pinstripes.
After wondering for so long what everyone around me would say and think about me converting to Red Sox Nation, I found out. I conducted my own little sociological experiment to find out what people would think of me if I swapped allegiances from the Yanks to the Sox.
Here’s how I went about it:
I updated my Facebook status to: A.J. Martelli is denouncing the Yankees and becoming a Red Sox fan. Josh Beckett > CC Sabathia and Kevin Youkilis > Derek Jeter. Boston, For The Win!
In literally seconds, my status was flooded with comments.
“What are you smoking? Are you high, because I know you don’t drink? Should I break out the ice skates? Is hell about to freeze over? Did you lose a bet? Oh my God, it’s Armageddon, or it least it will be when A.J. sees what someone did to his status! This is not really A.J., somebody hacked into his Facebook account. Poor kid. He lost his mind.”
These were all comments left by my friends as a result of my “conversion” to the Red Sox. The reactions were basically what I expected; shock, confusion, and in most cases disbelief.
Maybe the best line was left by my good friend Keith, who said, “I lost control of my bowels. I hope you have the money to pay for my medical bills. I am so sad.”
It seems I shocked the world.
I texted one of my best friends, Brian, and told him “Screw the Yankees, I’m a Red Sox fan now.” He really didn’t believe me at first, but after I attempted to sell it, he said “alright, have fun with the Sox.” I eventually came clean and explained myself. He responded with, “I knew you’d NEVER hate the Bombers!”
He is right, I never would. He knows me all to well and never really believed me in the first place. That’s the sign of a best friend.
Neither did one of my other best friends, Dave. I also texted him and told him of my “hatred for the Yankees and new allegiance to the Red Sox.”
His first response was, “did your phone get hijacked?” Again, I tried to sell it and explained of my “newfound affinity for the Red Sox.” He thought I changed teams because of John Lackey, who just yesterday was acquired by the Red Sox. He told me if I was serious about changing teams, to call him and explain.
I once again told the truth and told him of my experiment. He laughed, but admitted I legitimately scared him. I asked him if he would still be my friend if I really became a Boston fan. He was the first one to say he would stay friends with me despite becoming a fan of the Red Sox.
He only said it would take some getting used to, but always be my friend. I’ve known Dave since kindergarten and apparently baseball will never change our brotherhood.
So after texting for some answers for awhile I decided to come clean on Facebook.
I once again changed my status. “To update everyone, I am NOT becoming a Red Sox fan. I was conducting an experiment for a blog. I wanted to gauge people’s reactions if I came out & said I was a Boston fan. But here’s a question, Yankee fans: if I did become a Red Sox fan, would you still be my friend?”
Once again, comments began to fill up my page.
An old friend of mine, Rick, from my Little League team (we played on the Little League Yankees, by the way!) told me he almost puked at the first status. Two of my cousins, Krystina and Kevin, both said they would disown me. That cleared up any doubt as to whether or not my family would still accept me.
Then I read some reaction from some of my college friends. My good friend Kevin Lewis, whom I have had the pleasure of meeting just this semester, told me he would not remain my friend. “Come on, A.J., we can’t stand Sox fans!”
Kevin proceeded to tell me if I really did convert to Red Soxism, he would “Chris Brown” me. If you are unaware, Chris Brown viciously beat the snot out of his girlfriend Rihanna, landing himself in jail for his cowardly actions.
I guess that answers my question in terms of valuing my life; I really would get beat up for becoming a Red Sox fan!
Going back to texting, I texted one of my other best friends whom I have known since sixth grade. My great buddy Vito received a text from me that read, “I am sorry, Vito…I am officially a member of Red Sox Nation!!!”
He responded with, “I can’t let you do that!!!!! (Expletive) Lackey!” Like Dave, Vito thought I converted because of John Lackey. For the record, I think Lackey is overrated is not even worth changing teams for. I guess the Lackey reason became a pattern?
With the same routine, I tried to push the fallacy as far as I could before coming clean. Wise beyond his years, Vito said, “Liking the Red Sox is like watching porn for the acting–it doesn’t make sense.”
And after laughing for 10 minutes after that comment, I asked him if he would still be my friend. He said he would and I came out with the truth. Tallied up, that’s two people who said they would stay friends with me if I became a Red Sox fan.
Checking Facebook once more, another friend of mine from college, Katie, gave an interesting point of view. She said she couldn’t imagine me forsaking my bond with the Yankees, who I have such an alliance to in my life. She said the fact that I would renege on my bond with the Yankees would bother her more than which team I switched to.
I thought that her position was very insightful; she understands how much the Yankees mean to me and the fact that I would go against them all of a sudden would be more shocking than whatever team I decided to turn to. Her answer was probably the most logical answer I received from the whole experiment.
Then I reached out to Jessica, another friend who is a diehard Yankee lover. I asked her what she would do if I became a Red Sox fan. Her response: “I’d never speak to you again…deal?” So there’s at least one friend I’d lose if I made the conversion.
Next I heard from a devout Yankee fan, my friend Micheal from Atlanta. I told him that the Yankees ruin baseball and of my “conversion to the Nation.” Then I asked him if he would still be my friend. His answer: “No. Ha ha ha.” I’m pretty sure he didn’t believe me in the first place.
But after reading the next comment I’m not totally convinced I wouldn’t actually lose any friends, whatsoever.
My friend Jenn, who is Brian’s girlfriend, told me, “Anyone who says they wouldn’t be your friend is probably just kidding. I mean, it’s just a sports team for Heaven’s sake!” Her insight put my mind at ease a little bit; at least I know I wouldn’t be losing her.
I have to say, this was something I had a lot of fun doing. I suppose it was a way to find out what people would say and do if I turned my back on my favorite team. It made for some great insight and funny commentary from my friends, who only know me as a follower of Yankeeism. All the reaction among them was exactly what I had anticipated, some even went beyond it.
When they thought someone hacked into my Facebook account–I’ll admit, I didn’t expect that one. But most of the other responses were basically exactly what I knew they would be. I would say disbelief was the most common; there were some people I don’t think I fooled for one second, they knew I was full of it.
But for the record, I’m staying right here with the Yankees. Thanks to all who participated in this experiment. I wanted to draw colorful reactions and you all did not disappoint. You gave me precisely what I needed.
*This blog will remain Yankee Yapping. Not Red Sox Yapping. Oooh. I didn’t like the sound of that…
Red Sox Yapping…YANKEE YAPPING!!!
“I will not take my love from Him, nor will I betray my faithfulness.”–Psalm 89:33
“He was really my first…you know,’ warrior’ guy.”—George Steinbrenner on Paul O’Neill.
Right field is a sacred position in Yankee history. Reggie Jackson, Roger Maris, and even the immortal Babe Ruth have all played the glorious corner outfield position. It’s one of the most beloved positions ever.
Growing up a Yankee fan during the late 1990s, I was brought up with one right fielder. A man who hated to lose. A man who worked probably harder than 90 percent of the players in the league. A man who defined the word “game.”
I am of course speaking about Paul O’Neill.
There’s no doubt that in my lifetime, O’Neill was the absolute best right fielder the Yankees have had. His love of winning and powerful clubhouse presence helped propel the Yankees to four World Championships and five pennants in the nine years he played in pinstripes.
It’s almost as if O’Neill needed to win.
Buster Olney, beat writer for The New York Times in the ’90s and author of “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty,” basically described O’Neill as a “lifetime must-winner;” even when he was a child he hated to lose.
For example, he would play basketball games against his brother Robert as a young man, the first to 25 points wins the game. O’Neill would reach 23 points, victory in his sights. Then Robert would sink bucket after bucket until he reached 25, a tactic used to demoralize O’Neill.
Siblings can be so cruel, can’t they?
O’Neill would call his mother at work and claim that Robert cheated. And after a loss, he wanted more. He would goad his brother to give him a return match. “What’s the matter cheater,” he would antagonize. “You’re not getting lucky again!”
He hated to lose, but even when he won, the past defeats clung to him.
For instance, if he went 4-for-5 in a game, he would sit by his locker and think about the one hit he missed out on. He would not focus on the four hits, but the one he missed and he tried to think about what to do differently the next time up.
I would say O’Neill was a little hard on himself; it’s difficult to get a major league hit, let alone multiple hits in a single game. But really any poor at-bat he saw as a failure, and it affected his psyche.
Another interesting point Olney made in his book about O’Neill (that really struck me) was how his attitude rubbed off on his own children. His kids saw how he behaved while playing baseball and mimicked it in a way when they played organized sports.
His son Andy played in an eight-year old basketball league. During a game, he missed a shot and began to cry as he made his way back down the court. O’Neill and his wife Nevalee were in the bleachers watching the game. Nevalee tapped her husband on the shoulder.
She could only say one thing to her husband as she watched her son cry:”It’s all your fault.”
It’s obvious that although O’Neill had that warrior-like mentality and gamesmanship, it went the other way sometimes and had negative effects on those around him.
He also drew criticism from it; when he was extremely upset with a call from an umpire or a failed at-bat, he would toss his helmet, throw his bat, argue, smash the bat rack and Gatorade coolers, and/or throw his batting gloves.
He used to fume when things didn’t go his way and his teammates drew fascination and amusement from it. His opponents thought he was acting like a child. Basically his antics were amusing to his friends but not his enemies.
Me–I thought he was awesome. It was never something I incorporated into my own routine as a Little Leaguer; I always tried to be as respectful as possible (and still do). But watching O’Neill was great. He just never gave up and never wanted to lose.
My favorite memory of O’Neil came in 1997; I was in fourth grade and at Yankee Stadium on a class field trip and it was the first regular season Subway Series. In the bottom of the ninth with the score tied 2-2 and O’Neill standing on third base, Tino Martinez hit a long fly ball to center, a sac fly that allowed O’Neill to score the winning run.
Yankees beat the Mets, 3-2. It was one of my more special games attended and one of my favorite sports moments ever.
I was also happy to see O’Neill play in the Old Timer’s game in 2007; I went to the game with my family and it felt like the old days, watching O’Neill and all the former players put on their cleats for one more day. That was also a great memory I had of him and the Yankees in general.
After the 2001 season, O’Neill called it a career. It was heartwarming in Game Four of the World Series that year; the Yankee faithful serenaded the beloved Yankee, chanting, “Paul O-Ne-ill” for almost an entire half inning. You could just tell how emotional it was for him by his body language; I think it nearly brought him to tears.
Even though the Yanks lost the World Series in ’01 to the Arizona Diamondbacks, O’Neill finished his career on a high note; Five World Series titles (including the Championship he won in 1990 with the Cincinnati Reds) Five All-Star selections, 281 home runs, a .288 lifetime batting average, 1,269 RBIs.
He certainly left a lifetime of memories for us fans.
Since he retired, I don’t think there has been a right fielder who has made as much of an impact as O’Neill. Even after he retired (in 2002, to be exact) then-Yankee manager Joe Torre reached out to O’Neill asking him to come out of retirement because he was in dire need of a right fielder.
A year after he retired, they wanted him back because nobody was as good as him.
O’Neill maintained his retirement and turned Torre down, which prompted Torre and the Yankees’ front office to make a trade for Raul Mondesi, who played right field for about a year in pinstripes before he was traded away.
They say true heroes live on in those who continue their legacy. And there have been many players who have taken over right field, yet none of them staying as long as O’Neill.
Mondesi lasted until 2003 and after Karim Garcia ruined right field for me, it was Gary Sheffield, who could hit but also ran his mouth too much. Sheffield publicly stated that he should have been the team captain.
Yeah…sure, Sheff. You were in pinstripes for a cup of coffee; Derek Jeter played his whole career in pinstripes with an enormous amount of success. You, not Jeter, should be captain. Dream on, buddy.
Sheffield played 2004, 2005, and was injured for the majority of the 2006 season, which yet again forced the Yankees to make a trade for a right fielder.
In ’06 the Yankees acquired Bobby Abreu, who I think without a shadow of a doubt, was the best right fielder since O’Neill. His calm personality and humble demeanor was a stark contrast to O’Neill’s, but he could hit for average, power, and maintained control of right field the way O’Neill would have wanted.
Abreu was and still is a very special player and even though he is an Angel right now, I still like him, respect him, and wish he was still with the Yankees.
In 2009, the Yankees called on Nick Swisher to play right field, due to the season-ending elbow injury of Xavier Nady. Swisher was not too shabby, what with his goofy personality and funny antics.
But no matter who plays right field in the years to come, O’Neill will always hold a special place in Yankee lore and certainly in my heart.
Now the real question is, will they retire his number 21? I was so happy to see his giant banner in the Great Hall at the New Yankee Stadium this year and when you think about it, no one has really worn the number 21 since he retired. The Yanks have sort of taken it out of circulation.
LaTroy Hawkins tried out the number in 2008, only to get booed by the Yankee fans. Hawkins asked Jeter why the fans were booing him, and Jeter told him that his number was “close to the fans.”
Hawkins then changed his number from 21 to 22.
Whatever happens with his number, O’Neill will forever be immortal. No Yankee fan like me, who grew up with the Yankee Dynasty of the late ’90s, will forget him. He was just an everyday guy who everyday went out and played his guts out.
He was a warrior. And I don’t think we will ever see another Yankee quite like him.
“Paul O’Neill’s daily fight for success became our fight.“–David Cone