The Failure of Yankees Fans (and Mets Fans Too)
I took the family to last night’s Yankees-Mets game at the new Citi Field. We had a great time despite the very late hour. (More on that later.) This was the final game of the season between the crosstown rivals. Interleague play means that lots of away-team fans are present in home-team stadiums, and that was very much the case last night — a scenario that produced at least one interesting result that would disappoint anyone who thinks that game theory always prevails.
First, a few background observations:
1. Having now taken the family to the new Yankee Stadium and the Mets’ new ballpark, I find it hard to believe that any neutral observer wouldn’t agree that Citi Field is a far, far more pleasant place to spend a few hours. It is well-designed and handsome, and fan-friendly in many ways that Yankee Stadium is not. Yankee Stadium is full of pride and tradition and all that, but it is essentially a vast concrete bowl with chairs. Fill in your own blanks: Citi is to Yankee as ______ is to ______. (What comes to my mind is Google is to Microsoft.)
2. We bought our tickets on StubHub and paid a monstrous premium because of the premium lure: the last Yankees-Mets game of the season, on a Sunday, at a family-friendly 1:00 p.m. Within 24 hours of having bought the tickets, the game was changed to 8:00 p.m. for an ESPN broadcast. Not much to do but ply the kids with coffee all day long in hopes they’d make it to the end — which, being a Yankees-Mets game, would surely be late. And it was … but they made it.
Now, here’s what I really wanted to write about. Because interleague play puts fans from two teams in close proximity, you can expect a lot of fan interaction. In the section where we sat — right above the Modell’s sign in right field — the yapping between Yankees and Mets was loud but generally friendly.
A pattern quickly emerged. The many Yankees fans regularly broke into their thunderous cheer: “Let’s go Yankees!” (clap-clap-clap-clap … clap-clap). If you are a Yankees fan (we are; but we do not hate the Mets), this was a sign of what might be called prideful hubris, or maybe hubristic pride: we can come into your stadium and rock it very, very hard.
How’d the Mets fans respond? Succinctly. In the space where the Yankees fans did their rhythmic clapping, Mets fans shouted “Yankees suck!”
The first 13 times or so, this was pretty funny. The two cheers fitted together nicely, like a married couple who know their comebacks well. Yes, we told the kids, it’s too bad “suck” is so commonplace and yes, it’s too bad the Mets fans can’t come up with something more clever or (God forbid) more positive, but hey …
This pattern was repeated all night. What surprised me is that neither side found a way to improve their effort. I kept waiting for the Yankees fans to fill in their clapping with some chanting that couldn’t be hijacked by the Mets fans, and I kept waiting for the Mets fans to either be proactive in their chanting or to move beyond “Yankees suck!” But neither side budged. By the end of the game, the only people chanting were the kids in the stands, all of them up way past their bedtimes, their voices ragged and high-pitched.
I fear not that we are teaching our children to be coarse (as these things go, suck isn’t the worst word they’ll encounter in a given day) but that we are teaching them to be uncreative and unskilled in the use of game theory.
I’m sure there are many, many counterexamples of clever fans moving the ball forward in ways that neither the Yankees fans nor Mets fans last night could not. If you know of any, please leave them in the comments section below.