Tuesday, January 6, 2009


(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.


Tony Mollica said...

Matthew you don't get any sympathy from me, I'm an Indians fan (and Browns, and Cavs.) The Indians won the World Series last in 1948, and I was born in 1958. The Browns last NFL championship was in 1964, and I started watching football in 1965. This year they were a joke that wasn't funny. The Cavs have never won a NBA championship. They made the finals once, and got swept.
Enjoy what you have!

Matthew S Schweber said...

Thanks, Tony, I do indeed cherish the Yankees.

And however much the Steinbrenners have exasperated me over the years, I've always been grateful for the money they invest in, and the tenacity with which they pursue, free agents.

Too bad, the little boys club, otherwise known as MLB's ownership group, won't permit more owners like the Steinbrenners to join them.

The league would be a better place with fewer Pohlads and Lorias and more Steinbrenners.

Larry Jaffe said...

I fully understand. Wrote the following poem to show it...


I grew up wanting to wear a pinstripe suit
but not the kind that banker’s wear. No,
I wanted to wear the pinstripes that adorned
my baseball heroes, the New York Yankees
legends of the long ball, running the outfield
skirting my Bronx birthplace.

I was born in the shadow of Yankee stadium;
born so bad I slapped the doc and pinched the nurse
just down the street where Bronx hospital rocked
with muse in daily delivery— March 31 the day.

But all I wanted was to wear a Yankee uniform,
put spikes on my feet, run the infield, slide into home,
Grace the house that Ruth built, DiMaggio reigned
and Mantle owned.

—they dressed in sports regalia, as if it were religion
they pursued and not homeruns, They wore
Holy Roller pinstripes; holy trinity of Ruth, DiMaggio
and Mantle crossed their bats and hoped to hit.

I longed to dress in locker rooms and hear my name
called on public address systems, look into the sun
and catch fly balls and pound my bat at the plate
making ready to be the next Sultan of Swat,
Yankee Clipper or the Mick.

I was born in the Bronx, living above a dry cleaning
Store—played catch with myself.

I grew up wanting to dress in pinstripes and wear that
Yankee suit because I could never wear a tie without
feeling enslaved. I wanted to roam centerfield not a
factory or an office. And if I couldn’t play baseball,
then I had to be a poet.