(I wrote the following entry for Peter Abraham's Lohud Blog site, http://yankees.lhblogs.com. It appeared on January 6, 2009)
I’m a Jew, New-Jersey born.
To this day, however, the only religion I’ve ever believed in doesn’t enshrine a Wall in Jerusalem but a Park in the Bronx. The New York Yankees—my religion, my faith, my salvation… my folly and my cross.
Yes, suffering yet another October of dull heartache and desolating withdrawal, shorn of the day’s ritual and consolation, I can succumb to doubt. Isn’t there something pathetic, perverse, even ill, I fret, in an ostensibly grown man surrendering his emotions to the fate of 25 Olympian jocks on a ball field? Isn’t it just a game?
To the rational skeptic, my fervor, no doubt, conjures the stereotype of a David Puddy, Seinfeld’s raving shirtless buffoon decked in team-colored face paint or worse, I evoke a jackbooted, banner-waving, English soccer hooligan. Or maybe, with the glasses, I appear just another pencil-necked, athletically-frustrated, stat geek who worships a sport he can’t play.
More charitably, perhaps, like Fever Pitch’s neurotic, lovable, overgrown adolescent, Ben Wrightman, I simply await the respectable, forbearing girlfriend to save me-- to become a man and put away childish things.
“You’ve always loved the Yankees. But have they ever loved you back?” She’d inquire, and suddenly, epiphany would descend.
“My god, honey, you’re right. Heck, forget the Yankees. Let’s go pick china patterns.”
Of course mocking a Hollywood romantic comedy for its facile sentimentality is a bit like chiding John Henry his vain battle with his Steam Drill, 200 miles to the south.
That is, whether the Yankees requite my love-- or pace Sonny Lo Sprecchio’s related insinuation in A Bronx Tale, whether A-Rod’s concern for my career rivals mine for his-- isn’t, after all, the relevant question. Undoubtedly, they don’t. No more, for that matter, than does Chazz Palminteri reciprocate my admiration for A Bronx’s Tale.
Ah, but they repay it, as any Art worthy of the name rewards its disciple.
True, a fan’s allegiance may not win him love and nurture, still less honor, glory, or riches, save vicariously. Still, beyond the casual spectator’s entertainment or the professional’s expertise and remuneration, the devoted fan receives what Aristotle once recognized as classical drama’s great satisfaction—emotional catharsis. Or, as the Yankee fan who has been delivered from prolonged agony, resigned despair, or nervous apoplexy by the shocking, momentous, eleventh-hour miracle of a Chris Chambliss or Aaron Boone home run to touch near celestial ecstasy—as he might call it, in other words, a more acutely felt, profoundly rewarded engagement with life.
Whether this emotional investment in an agency beyond my control qualifies as godly, I can’t say. One thing I can swear to however. The Yankees have brought me as close to Divinity as I’ve ever reached.
Indeed, first love comes and goes. Passion and desire flag and fade. Youth and adulthood yield to middle age and dotage, and birth hurtles toward death.
But the Yankees—the tribe of Ruth, Gehrig, and DiMaggio, like the descendants of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob—the Yankees are forever.