The Failure of Yankees Fans (and Mets Fans Too)

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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.


Josh

I believe that excessive ticket premiums are currently illegal in NY state. (The law that allowed them lapsed this month, and, well, we don't have a functioning legislature now.) When did you pay gouging fees for the seats?

dd

In Europe the problem wouldn't be about chanting. In football (soccer) matches in Europe, opposing fans are kept to separate sides of the stadium. Still riots break out regularly.

Of course, as Europeans always remind us, they are so much more civilized than Americans.

Mike Kriskey

Maybe this was the optimal solution--keeping things semi-civil and reducing the chance of fisticuffs. There's also a co-operative element there that says, "We're all New Yorkers, even if we hate each others' guts."

Jeremy Schwaeber

ESPN played a commercial that I lived out over 6 years ago. At a father's day interleague game between the Dodgers and Yankees at Dodger's Stadium, the people behind us shouted Hip-Hip-Jorge. I thought it was very creative but I have not heard anything as good since.

Fred T.

Be glad it didn't go further! Unfortunately, with a typical sports fan crowd on hand, I think the next counter-chant would go something like this...

Yankees Fans: "Let's Go Yankees!"

Mets Fans: "Yankees Suck!"

Yankees Fans: "Mets Swallow!"

And it would just go (even further) downhill from there.

Will

It's too bad singing a la euro soccer has never made it to North American sports.

At the best stadiums fans have endless "material" to add to the atmosphere

Michael C

What motivates chanting or cheering? I suspect that fans are not so much motivated to win the chanting war between fan groups as they are to be heard by the players.

Further, cheering and chants are more difficult to motivate and coordinate outdoors than indoors, in professional rather than college environs, and in fast-paced rather than slow-paced sports. Given that you were in an outdoor venue, a professional game, and a slow-paced game, it was difficult to coordinate a chant and motivate fans to participate. They were willing to accept detente.

All of that said, occasionally when an entire baseball stadium chants in unison -- a la the "RAUGHH-GERRR" chants that inevitably broke out whenever Roger Clemens returned to Fenway Park playing for another team -- it is quite an experience.

Jeremy

The level of jealousy that second tier team in a city (Mets and White Sox) has for its more nationally popular cross town rival amazes me. I was once at a mid season White Sox game against the Twins and the Sox fans victory chant was "Cubs Suck". I have no problem with loving your team but when the best you can do is degrade the other team in town I question your status as a true "fan"

Tyler

Check out a Harvard-Cornell hockey game some time!

Michael Toney

At a high school basketball game between my racially diverse high school and a nearby lilly-white one the following happened.

My high school was winning by double figures late in the game so the opposing school decided to change the terms of debate (moving beyond the game) and chanted "pass the proficiencies" ("the proficiencies" are Ohio's state-wide standardized tests).

In response we cheered back, "pass a levy" (in Ohio property tax initiatives to fund schools are placed on the ballot).

For the first time all game the kids from the lilly-white school shut up and sat down (in their own gym, no less). The next election, the district finally passed a much-needed school ballot. I like to think we had a hand in that.

Doug Schoemer

As weak as it was, at least Mets fans had a comeback. I was at 2 Nationals-Red Sox games here in DC last week, and whenever the Sox fans started chanting "Let's go Red Sox" they were met with only silence. Maybe because Sox fans accounted for at least 75% of the (record) crowds.

Erin

I'm surprised you'd expect chant creativity from sports fans. Ranger fans are still chanting "Potvin sucks!", which nurses an interpreted wrong from over 30 years ago that I doubt most fans today even witnessed.

Jeffrey

@ #2 - riots are very very rare in Europe. Insults and the occasional scuffle aren't strangers, but riots? Not in the last 15-20 years. Except maybe for Turkey.

On the same Europe theme--their chants/songs/taunts/etc. are much more diverse, creative, and lively.

Elana

"Yankees Suck!" is the traditional cheer at ANY Boston sporting event (I've heard it at hockey games). You get used to it.

charles

Most possible progressions aren't good, and a steady state was probably your best option.

MaiaW

I urge Yankee fans to please take a dose of humble pie. Yes, you can come into our stadium and cheer for your team. There's nothing wrong with a little "sibling rivalry." But the level of obnoxiousness has got to be toned down. When you're already winning, and when the game is already over, it's time for you to take the high road and not continue your taunting. It only makes you look and sound like a bratty 10-year-old child. To Mets fans, I agree with the author: You've got to come up with a better retort than "Yankees suck." Come on, people. Cheer for your own team.

Mike C

Interestingly enough the same thing happened on Sunday during the Braves-Red Sox game, though if I remember correctly the cheer was alternating "Let's go Red Sox/Let's go Braves"

Ramstone

#2 -- Not sure how European soccer enters into this, but since you brought it up, at least European soccer fans sing dozens of songs and chants in full voice, as opposed to scoreboard-led monotony.

John R.

As a Yankees fan, I find the "Hip-Hip-Jorge" chant to be the lamest cheer ever.

John Birge

Anyone who has been to Yankee Stadium (new or old) should be at least a little impressed at how creative (and well prepared) the chants are that are led by the Bleacher Creatures. I mean these people do serious research on opposing right-fielders and their chants are pretty funny (if often just as raunchy). I think the problem for Yankee fans at Citi is they aren't sitting where they normally do. As for Mets fans you are right - I mean they Yankees don't exactly live in a glass house in terms of chanting material.