Taking my own life into my hands

IMG_8952.JPGWhile it always seems like I’m out of town on column weekends, it’s lucky I am this time.

Chiefly because if I was in Augusta when this hit the newsstands, I might have been chased to the city limits and told never to come back.

That’s right folks, I finally admitted it: even though the rest of New England is, I’m not a Red Sox fan.

An Australian Yankee in Maine

Since they didn’t made it to the postseason, is it safe yet for Adrian Crawford to publicly admit he doesn’t root for the Red Sox?

Last Sunday, one of my coworkers spent his afternoon at Fenway Park watching the 19-year career of Derek Jeter come to a close. He happened to bemoan via social media that he was surrounded by nothing but New York Yankee fans.

I had intended to be there for the same reason, but the friend I was meant to go with was unable to get his hands on any reasonably priced tickets. So while I didn’t get to witness the closing of a chapter in baseball history, I did get to avoid the ire of one of my colleagues.

Because, you see, had I been at Fenway that day, I’d have been one of the fans wearing pinstripes that he was surrounded by. There, I said it.

I’ve confessed some things in these column inches that have probably put some noses out of joint. I questioned the state of healthcare here, I rooted against the Patriots back in December, I even admitted to being disappointed when winter’s icy grip loosened back in April. But picking New York over Boston, so deep in Red Sox territory, could be my most dangerous gamble of all.

If it’s any consolation, I will say that this casual fandom isn’t a case of me jumping on a bandwagon. If that was the case, I’d more likely have picked the Sox, given their more recent World Series wins and that whole underdog-comes-good history.

Sometime last year, my sister was putting together a photo album of childhood memories for Mother’s Day. She stumbled across a cache of old photos of the two of us growing up, and a collage I’d made for an eighth-grade project. Right in the middle of that masterpiece was a photo of me, at about age 6, sitting amid a pile of Christmas presents, wearing pajamas in the style of the New York Yankees uniform. I don’t know what exactly made me ask for those, or whether it was my parents’ choice rather than mine, but there we go: photographic proof that, 23 years ago, I was a Yankee fan.

Later, during my first year of college in 2003, I befriended a group of Americans studying abroad in Brisbane who ended up being my first really legitimate link to the US and helped to foster my curiosity about, and then love for, the country. One had grown up in New York and gifted me a beat-up Yankee cap when she left, saying I was now a fan of the Bronx Bombers by default.

In 2009 though, the same friend called me out when she saw a photo of me on Facebook wearing a bright red T-shirt I’d bought at Logan Airport emblazoned with the Red Sox logo. I’d made that particular purchase to impress a girl who was a rabid Boston fan. But my hormone-driven changing of allegiances didn’t sit well with those who’d adopted me as a Yankee fan.

I eventually came to my senses though; funnily enough, mere days after the aforementioned Red Sox fan broke it off with me and moved back from Australia to New England. And what better way to toast her departure than to throw my support behind the Yankees she hated so much, the ones who’d won the World Series the past fall?

A couple of months later I attended the wedding of the same friend who’d given me the cap, and I got to meet all the high school friends she’d grown up with. I became fast friends with one in particular, a New York Irishman named T.J. McNulty. By the end of the night had given me his well-worn Yankee fitted, which I took to be a great honor.

Since then, I’ve been able to catch a handful of New York games on my travels in the U.S. – a loss to Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field, a win over the Red Sox at Fenway (the atmosphere at which was one of the highlights of my sports-watching life), and a win over the White Sox in The Bronx that was rain-delayed for two hours, forcing me to spend at least three hours in the bar across the street. After the Yankees-Rays game, on Labor Day 2012, I actually got treated to dinner by a New York relief pitcher named Justin Thomas who was a buddy of the friend I was staying with in Florida. I’m still sore that I squandered an opportunity to tour old Yankee Stadium – the house that Ruth built – in 2008 on my first visit to the city.

But now, here I am in Red Sox territory, where the Y-word is just not welcome. I was told jokingly (or not?) in my second job interview that the paper wouldn’t hire anyone who was a New York fan. Gulp. There were two Yankees T-shirts in my overnight bag, so it was lucky there were no spot luggage checks at the Amtrak terminal in Portland.

Needless to say, my pinstripe jersey has never made it down from where it’s displayed in my apartment, and my baseball caps haven’t had a lot of wear in Augusta. My desk at work happens to be right next to a passionate Boston sports fan who was never shy about slagging off the Yankees. It took me awhile to be brave enough to park near him in the office lot, in case he saw the NY decal on the rear bumper of my car.

But it’s not all a case of hiding my casual fandom. Sure, if someone wanted me to break down the Yankees’ batting line-up or talk stats, or historic games from the 80s, I’d be in trouble. But at the same time I’m not going to turn around and jump on the Red Sox bandwagon just because I moved to New England. They’ve got their fair share of fair-weather fans as it is.

I’d like to think that supporting a non-New England team up here garnered some respect, no matter how begrudging, because in my books it’s tougher to stand up and admit (quietly, at least) you’re a fan of the local club’s sworn enemy than just going along with the loudest cheers. Realistically, though, I’m sure people around me just think, “what the hell does he know about the Yankees and Red Sox anyway? He’s Australian.”

Maybe I should continue to bank on that, if I value my life.

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