The Right to Boo the Yankees

Yes, I boo my own.

First, let me be clear.  It didn’t start as simply booing a Yankee because he used to be a Met, or even writing it off as booing a player I don’t respect because he is on Page Six too often. To me, applause and boos should be based on performance, not on proclivity alone. If I go to the aquarium and the seal drops the hoop during the scuba show, I’m booing. Bad performance. Tomorrow the seal may be on, and he will get his claps and he will get his little fish. What I don’t want to see is the seal drop this hoop and collect its fish anyway, sort of like Nick Swisher stinking up the postseason and collecting bank at the expense of the fans. If you’re not putting up performance, you’re putting up with us.

I’ve earned the right to boo. I’ve spent my money on Stadium grounds (even dropped some blood out there) and that’s not mentioning TV time, merchandise and discourse. Yeah, I have like 600 games in the docket, but that doesn’t make me any better than the fan who strolls in for the first time, as we all are allowed to boo. We paid our money for a show. If we don’t like the show, we have the right to bark and bray about it.

I’m not sure what surprised me more the last couple of weeks: the Yankees offense or the hue and cry that cloaked the sky as the boos rained down at Yankee Stadium. Sanctimonious Yankee fans in their own minds flying the flag of faith, against those who were straying from the parading herd. Sometimes Yankee fans are funny in that it’s us against the world, but if we turn on one another it’s the most egregious of offenses. I don’t see it that way. It’s not like the fans were booing 30 minutes before first pitch  (well, the ones who showed up, anyway) and all was forgiven game to game until the stink wafted from the field and the booing happened again. And oh, did it ever.

How many times in the nearly 30 years I have been going to Yankee games have I booed the Yankees? You can count them on two hands with a finger left over to flip at a Boston fan. But not only was I booing like a ghost this year, I was even doing so from my couch where the only people who could hear me were my wife, daughter and two disinterested cats. Come on folks, this was ridiculous. If the Yankees went down 6-4 here or 5-1 there then this wouldn’t have happened. Baseball happens and sometimes your team loses. There’s no shame in that unless you’re the Cubs and you haven’t won the big one since things were paid for with rocks. We have all seen the Yankees lose playoff games before (many of them in person) and probably too many of them in recent years. That doesn’t mean we booed. This was something different. This was something odious. This was something we may never again see in our lifetime … well, lets hope! To insure this, the Yankees need to jettison the likes of Nick Swisher and probably Curtis Granderson, and if this world is really a happy place and one full of candy canes and rainbows, the much maligned A-Rod.

Do you have to boo? Hell no! Are you allowed to frown while others boo because you subtly disapprove of their actions? Absolutely! Should you reprimand them? Well, go ahead, we don’t care and we will laugh at your lecture. Should you fight over it? Well, that’s just stupid although I saw and heard of people trying. What really puts a burr in my britches is this attitude out there that everything we see on that field is beyond reproach and that we’re supposed to keep staring at the horror show that unfolded behind our pinstriped blinders and possibly give a nice golf clap after someone in the home duds just struck out for the 11th time in his last 18 at-bats. Sorry, if I see the “Clap Car” pulling to the curb, I’m stepping aside and waiting for the “Boo Bus.”

Let me tell you of a time I once booed. It was the first regular season game I kept score and pretty much my first game in the bleacher seats. As enamored as I was with simply being in Yankee Stadium and seeing these wonderful, magical Bleacher Creatures for the first time, I still found it in me to boo. The Yankees had a four-run lead in the ninth inning and Steve “How” Farr “Will they hit it” coughed it up and the Yankees went on to lose the damn game. Not only did I boo – and lustily at that – but I vandalized. Well, to a point, and pretty much to my own property. I took my little souvenir bat and smacked it on the bench in front of me and shattered the thing. (They were still picking splinters out of there as that Stadium came down over a decade later.) To add more credence to my right to boo, I shared the Stadium that night with a mere 14,090 fans. So I put in the time and earned the right to wax venom. The last time you probably saw a mere 14,090 fans in that Stadium was when you were simply counting the people in front of you in the bathroom line.

Looking back on it, the main kicker of boos toward the home nine have been directed at those who held the closer mantle over the years, as they are set up for failure and sometimes the last wretched thing you see before a “W” shimmies away from the box score. Considering Mariano Rivera has been that guy since the halcyon days of the 90s, it hasn’t happened in eons. But man, in the early 90s and mid-90s, we made booing the closer an art form. There’s not much a guy like Rivera that could do to get a burst of boo. I have seen him leave after the rare blown save to a murmuring of discontent, but that’s more the “boo the seal who dropped the hoop” bad day sort of thing and there’s no malice in it. Guys like Farr, Steve Howe and John Wetteland (despite some fine work) heard the hoots for sure, usually coming from the likes of me. Because of them the desperate cry of, “Quick! Lock the bullpen gate!” was coined as relievers started warming up at the Stadium.

One of everyone’s favorite Yankee boo-birding moments came out of our twisted relationship with Jack McDowell. As he left the mound to a crescendo of boos one not so fine evening, he petulantly flipped that bird up in the air and pretty much told the fans, “Right back at ya.” That prompted one of the more jolly backpages I have seen over the years with a full page of McDowell, finger aloft and the block heading of  “JACK ASS.” That baby spent a couple of years taped on the closet door in my apartment for a quick look and a chuckle when I needed a pick-me-up or a get-up-and-go. Bring that story up to someone griping about the treatment of the circus clown Nick Swisher or the doting dugout courtier Alex Rodriguez and they will call for a pass and probably add something like, “Save your boos for Jack McDowell.” Well, Jack McDowell, who was looked at akin to the old man on the corner that waves his fist at kids skipping to the bus stop, went 15-10 in his year of service with an ERA on the south side of 4. But he is considered boo-worthy, when today’s pinstriped heroes are immune. Not on my watch!

I’ve seen good men rack up a Golden Sombrero and they were booed for that. In retrospect, it’s not easy to strike out four times in a game, so maybe they should have been applauded. But there is nothing wrong with saying, “Look, I’m not happy with what I saw out of you today. I want you to go home, think about it and not sleep well. Let’s hope for the both of us tomorrow will be a better day.” That said, I have seen dozens of more guys strike out three times on the day, and not get booed. Bad day. We have all had them. Actually, we had a lot of them watching the Yankees this October. So yeah, the three-strikeout guy was not necessarily booed. Well, unless one of them came with the bases loaded, of course.

There’s also a touch of hypocrisy in the “tisk, tisk” thinking of a lot of Yankee fans when it comes to the boos hurled at the heroes. Yankee fans are known to hurl the sharpest of invectives at the foes and are known for not only a rapier wit, but a mean streak that a badger would envy. So, when you think about it, when you have a dog in the house who will bite any idiot that walks in the door, it may turn one day and nip at you. You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to realize it may come to that very thing. We are wired differently, and rightfully so. It’s not simply being spoiled. It’s looking up and noticing the payroll is $200 million. This team should win. Especially when part of that $200 million payroll comes from our $11 beers and our $35 parking charges.

There were rumors making the rounds that Nick Swisher turned into the little girl on the playground who had her pigtail pulled because of “personal insults” that rained down on the clown for one of a dozen reasons. I don’t endorse this and I can see where it would drive fellow fans crazy, but let’s save that stuff for when he comes back to Yankee Stadium next year in the Red Sox uniform. If he thought he heard boos before, wait until he comes to visit in his spiffy new road tags. He may end up being the most hated player in baseball history and not just the worst playoff player in baseball history.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. To “blame” Swisher for Derek Jeter’s injury is so laughable and silly that it should be discounted by him and not used as a reason to pout. Apparently he was taken aback and offended he heard this waft from the right field stands. Yes, Jeter would not have gotten hurt if the Yankees had been out of the inning, but there were a dozen things that led to that. Comments against his wife? Uncalled for, if they happened. I find this dubious, and if they did, it was a fan here and there, and not a pack of rabid Yankee fans looking for amends or his “Bleacher Creature friends turning on him” as this was offered up. Boos are great. Insults to the home team, not necessary, and counterproductive. That said, I believe Swisher should have had some cheese with that whine of his. (And his wife’s TV show sucked, and I’m glad it got cancelled.)

I read some petulant tweets a couple of days before the Yankees were shown the door that the A’s, their World Series hopes dashed, were then serenaded with a nice ovation from the local fans with comments like, “That’s class! Too bad we won’t be seeing that if the Yankees are eliminated.” Ding, ding! You win what’s behind door No. 2! You nailed it, ace!  After that postseason performance from the Yankees? I can sit here and recite the putrid numbers that were put on the board, but they can be found in the obituary section, as well as the record books. What the hell would I be applauding for? I did my share of applauding all year and it cost me a pretty penny to do so. I also sat through some bad baseball, and even worse, some lazy baseball. I’ve seen Robinson Cano get down the line so slowly that butterflies passed and beat him to the bag. This sort of thing should not be booed? Years of playoff ineptitude in the cases of Swisher and A-Rod should not be booed? (Yeah, I know “the Yankees would not have won that World Series without A-Rod,” but hey, even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes.)

In the end, there was a lot of support for the “I Will Boo a Yankee” doctrine I follow myself. One night, after Granderson stuck to plan and struck out, I took a picture on my phone of some lout in Yankee Stadium engaged in a hearty “Booooooo!” toward the field on my TV, which also featured a crabby looking lady in mid-holler behind him. I tweeted this work of art, with a simple “Boooooooo!” as the caption. Well, I continued this on and off over the next couple of days to a litany of my Twitter followers that soon were asking me to break it out if the situation warranted it. I got to know this booing guy in the picture quite well simply by forwarding him out three to four times a night when things were at their worst. While we don’t like what leads us to boo, we like to boo. It’s cathartic.

So here is the deal. Yes, I have booed Yankees. I’m sure I will do it again. It’s not a task I take to lightly, but I’m prepared to do so if the situation warrants it. I raise my glass to others who booed since they know a bad product when they see it. And if you think I’m not a real fan for booing, you never walked in my shoes and you can go to bed tonight in your Yankee pajamas and count Nick Swishers walking back to the dugout after striking out in your sleep.

Yankee ALCS baseball! Booooooooooo!