Often times, our memories of our hometowns are colored by the ditties chanted in the streets and in the barrooms that populate it. "It's great in Dayton," is a popular tune in that Ohio city; likewise, Chicago residents are fond of "My Kind of Town."
For sports fans, these sayings are even more identifiable with teams and players. From "Tinker to Evers to Chance, to "Say Hey" to the Tomahawk Chop, chants are an easy way to lend support, capture ESPN's attention, and form a shorthand bond with fellow fans.
As a Red Sox diehard, I was raised on "Bucky Effen Dent," then cut my teeth on "Daaaaaaaaaaryl" and "Steroids" in the 1986 and 1988 post-seasons. Perhaps it has something to do with Boston's supposed inferiority complex, or maybe just our team's lack of success in either series, but it hardly seems coincidental that our chants are negative, slamming opposing players who grabbed the glory that we believed belonged in our town, not theirs.
For the first half of my baseball life, the historical rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox didn't really exist. My New York hatred was reserved for the Mets, and the Bombers were a collection of heavy-set, mustached, aging Steve Balbonis surrounding Don Mattingly.
Ironically enough, the chant "Yankees Suck" became popular once they didn't.
The Bronx Bombers' total domination of the American League came right at the same time that the Red Sox began establishing their own dream team…a squad that would repeatedly fall short against their AL East rivals. For the past six years, my team has been Good But Not Good Enough, which has re-fueled the dormant rivalry with the team that plays just 200 miles from Fenway.
I won't claim that Boston has sole ownership of the "Yankees Suck" chant. In Baltimore, the fans were more than happy to pick it up once class-cutting Jeffrey Maier snatched away the Orioles' World Series hopes in 1996. Atlanta has given the phrase a Southern accent, after the Braves' poor World Series performance against the New Yorkers. In Seattle, the saying is prevalent enough that the Mariners banned shirts bearing the slogan from their stands.
But in Boston, "Yankees Suck" is the equivalent of our city's anthem. Whenever two or more sports fans are gathered together, it is destined to break out. Celtics playoff game? Yankees Suck. Little League Parade? Yankees Suck. Intermission at the Boston Pops? Yankees Suck.
As for the tee-shirts that Safeco Park finds so offensive: I recently attended a wedding shower where "Yankees Suck" shirts were the favors. There are so many varieties of this article of clothing that they almost deserve different categories. Some are simple, to the point, blaring "YANKEES SUCK!" in bold black letters on white cotton. Others are deceptive: navy blue with the Red Sox-style "Boston" lettered in red across the front. Only on the back is a small version of the chant, classily inscribed above the "21" last worn in Boston by Roger Clemens. A recent model lists about twenty different Yankees down the back of the shirt, boasting our knowledge of the enemy roster: "Posada sucks. Pettitte sucks. Spencer Sucks."
Last summer, I was part of a busload of Bostonians arriving at Yankee Stadium for a showdown between our two teams. Dozens of vendors surrounded the buses as they pulled into a lot, brandishing anti-Boston tee-shirts. In a brilliant display of marketing savvy, however, once the gentlemen realized where the buses originated, each one of them quickly brandished a "Yankees Suck" version faster than you could spell Brosius.
As much as this chant has become part of the fabric of the city of Boston, I believe the time to question the validity of our anthem.
Even though New York lost game seven of the last World Series on a ninth-inning play (a Red Sox move if I've ever heard one), can anyone logically argue that the Yankees really do suck? No fan in her right mind would say their recent on-field performance has been anything short of exemplary (although some may point out that the Men in Blue have given the Bronx Bombers the extra support they've needed in that area.) Many believe that only a deal with the Devil would have brought so much success – and so many successful trades – to the New York team (especially if the Devil goes by the name Bud and calls Milwaukee his home.)
How about the individual players? Derek Jeter, perhaps the Yankee with the highest profile, is the most likely answer in the Jeopardy-style category "Yankees Who Suck." But three things save the shortstop. First, he had the good sense to dump Mariah Carey. Second, he had the humility to call himself "a cross between the Rock and a Muppet" during a Saturday Night Live sketch, and happened to be in drag at the time. Third, he's buddies with Nomar Garciaparra, and if Nomah thinks he's OK, than he's automatically granted a reprieve from sucking.
On to the other candidates. Scott Brosius? Retired to buy his daughter a puppy. Jorge Posada? Provided the most enjoyable moment of the horrendeously boring All-Star game telecast by sending his two-year-old son out in his place during the announcement of the starting lineup. David Wells? He looks too much like the average baseball fan, beer belly and all, for any of us to hate him. Roger Clemens? Well, the Hall of Fame changed their rule regarding inductees' bronze images shortly after the thirteen-year Boston vet announced he would wear a New York hat in his eventual portrait, rumored to be a clause in his new long-term deal with the Boss. The Hall of Fame stepped in to let all players know that one thing in baseball, at least, is not for sale. Other than that, the girl who once had "RedSox21" as her license plate must refrain from further commentary on the Rocket.
The "Yankees Suck" cheer took a big hit last September 11, obviously. After terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and New Yorkers reacted with courage, compassion, and unity, it felt petty and rude to throw out derogatory statements about that city's sports team.
Since then, there's been a time and a place for my city's anthem. During a bachelorette party in October, a Yankees fan began harassing the Red Sox hat-wearing bride.
"Can we do it?" We asked the New Yorker in our party.
When she nodded, we took up the chant again. It didn't matter to us that the Yanks were currently blowing through the Seattle Mariners on their way to the World Series while our beloved Sox were already on the golf course. We were striking back with our only ammunition.
The chant made another appearance in February, after the Patriots won the Super Bowl. Two days later, the team gathered in Boston, hoisting the Lombardi trophy, dancing and singing to millions of giddy fans. At one point during the celebration, the Patriots' Larry Izzo attempted to start "Yankees Suck" cheer, but it fell flat over the crowd. Why degrade a baseball team in the middle of winter on the day when cheers of "We're number one" were rightly ours?
While "Yankees Suck" still lingers, it's beginning to fade, like a pennant race in September. I attended a Red Sox game last Saturday, and not one verse of our anthem sounded through the lyrical bandbox. Instead, as Boston crushed the Orioles, an a cappella version of "Sweet Caroline" broke out.
Perhaps a year that began with an improbable Super Bowl win could usher in a new attitude for Boston fans. I, for one, am ready to retire the Bronx Jeer, and have no problems replacing it with lyrics that proclaim, "Good times never seemed so good."
Originally from Boston, Michelle is a writer, editor, instructor, obsessive sports fan, loud talker, quick laugher, new mom, and chances are, she watches more television than you do. Follow her on Twitter at michellevoneuw
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
8.12.02 @ 12:27a
Andy Pettitte is Marilyn Manson. And note that the only nice thing you say about Scott Brosius comes about because he stops being a Yankee. Heh.
As long as George Steinbrenner treats the other 29 teams as the Yankees' farm system, I will have nothing but disdain for the ballclub, despite individual performances. It's easy to look good when you're fielding an All Star team every night. The Yankees are the prime example of the bloat of baseball... and have been for decades.
8.12.02 @ 8:02a
Speaking as a Red Sox fan...
The Yankees themselves piss me off a lot less than their fans. There's no denying that the Yanks are the best ballclub money can buy. The fans, though, are a little too damn smug for their own good. They just need one good beatdown to keep 'em equal with everybody else.
8.12.02 @ 10:53a
Russ.. you've got to give Steinbrenner credit for being able to pick good talent consistently. :)
As for Boston, I'm always torn between them and the Yanks, I think the Yankees remain my favorite because I'm from NY, but I've always loved the underdog and that makes Boston a solid second.
Great article Michelle, I've sent it to friends of mine because they always argue that "girls don't know sports".
8.12.02 @ 11:02a
Erik - didn't we get a good beatdown last year? You guys didn't have to stand in a bar chanting "14 more! 14 more!" when the score was 15-1.
8.12.02 @ 11:22a
Speaking as a Yankees fan...
I fully understand the disdain that the fans of 29 teams can have for the Yanks. That disdain should be reserved for the players of all 30 teams for not doing the right thing and not allowing an increase in revenue sharing or a serious luxury tax, or god forbid the salary cap that has helped make the NFL the best sports league.
The Yankees are an example of what is wrong in baseball, no doubt, but they're just playing by the rules, stupid as they are. The worst thing that could happen to baseball would be a team like the Twins winning the World Series, because it would make the current system look acceptable.
And come on, shouting "Yankees suck" is just ludicrous. The team has won 4 of the last 6 World Series for god's sake. How about "Yankees exploit the economic system of baseball by outspending all of the other teams"? Now that's catchy!
8.12.02 @ 3:59p
See, I don't think the Yankees are what's wrong with baseball. They're playing by the same rules as everyone else.
What's wrong with baseball is Bud Selig, who won't use his power to even try and level baseball's playing field.
Does anyone fault Lance Armstrong because he gets more sponsorship money than any other rider. thus allowing him to hire a better team and win the Tour de France every year?
Sure, the Yankees use their money to take advantage of the system. But I think it's more up to the system to change so it's not taken advantage of.
8.12.02 @ 4:22p
It's not the Yankees fault, but it makes them easy to hate. And so what? You win that much, you can take it.
And the chant thing just makes the chanters look bad. Especially Larry Izzo. It's called dignity. Sox fans need to have some. And I am one.
michelle von euw
8.12.02 @ 4:47p
Number one, Matt, Bud Selig has no power. The owners hijacked the Commissioners' office and Bud ended up as a mouthpiece for the owners, nothing else.
I'm not 100% sure about this, but I'd guess that even without sponsorship money, Lance Armstrong could still win the Tour de France. What I do fault him for is raising our stamps 3 cents.
8.12.02 @ 4:50p
Adam -- No.. that's not a good beatdown. That was one game... as was the World Series.. that's all it was -- one game. I mean they need to be set back for a year -- come in 5th place in the AL East instead of 1st. That's all. Just once. Just to get everybody back to normal relations.
Mike -- I couldn't agree more. While I do find it amusing to take my out-of-town friends to Sox/Orioles games and have them hear a Yankees Suck chant, in general, it's an embarrassment. Dignity it is. We can lose (after 84 years) and still be devoted to our team because we're Red Sox fans. It's not New York's fault.
It's Bud Selig's fault.
michelle von euw
8.12.02 @ 4:58p
I agree with Mike and Erik. I was definitely annoyed to hear it at the Celtics playoff game. I yelled back, "Come on, we're spanking Allen Iverson. Screw the Yankees!"
8.12.02 @ 5:45p
Okay, but now you're talking about my Sixers.
8.12.02 @ 6:07p
I always thought it was clearly understood that "Yankees Suck" doesn't mean the Yankees are a bad team (I mean, we Sox fans aren't in TOTAL denial). It just plain means "I hate those overpaid, arrogant a-hole Yankees and their fans too." But it's much catchier.
Speaking as someone who has lived in enemy territory for five years: The great thing about the Yankees is just when the ones you've always hated do endearing things (Jeter, Posada) or retire (Brosius, O'Neill), they bring in NEW guys to hate! So thanks, Jason Giambi!
8.13.02 @ 8:03a
See, but that's the thing. How can you hate them for playing a good game of baseball. That's what we're there to watch, right?
I can't hold anything against the Yanks, themselves.
90% of the fan base needs a good slap, though. 'Course you can say the same thing about the Sox, really, I guess.
I lost a bet which made me wear a Yankees cap for the entire month of July. I've never been more abused in public.
michelle von euw
8.13.02 @ 9:34a
So we have Bill, the Yankees fan who lives in Boston, and Donna, the Red Sox fan who lives in New York.
Erik, I love the Boston fan base, because they are known for their knowledge, their loyalty, their dedication, their passion, their appreciation for the game, and their ability to fill Fenway during a losing season. But they can also be obnoxious, profane, small minded, and can carry a grudge forever.
No matter how bad the Sox (or Yankees) fans are, though, there's always someone worse: Eagles fans. Adam?
8.13.02 @ 10:16a
For example. This is our year, though. I can feel it. Actually, Flyers fans are worse.
But I'm sorry. I don't actually believe that outside of the Boston area, Sox fans are known for anything except fanatical backing of a perennial underdog. Which is fine, but they are not "known for their knowledge."
michelle von euw
8.13.02 @ 10:34a
Actually, Adam, SI called Red Sox fans the toughest and most knowledgeable sports fans. Granted, I live here so I may get the local bias, but I've heard that a lot.
And I have to say that the Eagles fans are worse than Flyers fans. I have friends who go to Dallas games in Philly, and always take two changes of clothing, because they are pelted with beer, hot dogs, whatever all game. The Eagles fans have also: thrown snowballs at Santa Claus; cheered when Irvin was knocked unconscious; and boast a courtroom below their stadium.
8.13.02 @ 11:21a
Well, what do they expect, being Dallas fans. I'm not even a die-hard Eagles fan and I'd pelt them with beer.
And technically, that courtroom is also used for Phillies games.
I think the world is pretty much aware that the Philadelphia fans are loud, raucous, violent, and stupid. But that doesn't make them bad fans, just bad people. Bob Uecker tells a story about when he was playing in the old Connie Mack stadium and Philly fans booed a guy who fell out of the 300 level seats because he was able to get up and walk away.
8.13.02 @ 12:45p
Actually what Boston baseball fans are know outside of Boston is loyal. With the team not winning since 1918 they get a lot of credit for sticking with a team that can't win a big game.
Sorry Boston fans, but outside the NE area they are also know somewhat as crybabies too since they always have a reason why the team comes up short.
8.13.02 @ 12:50p
You could say that about Cubs fans, too.
And hell, I cheered when Michael Irvin was knocked out...
8.13.02 @ 12:52p
Why wouldn't we have a reason when our team comes up short?
I mean.. there's got to be a reason, otherwise it wouldn't happen, right?
I blame it on global warming, myself.
8.13.02 @ 12:55p
Here is a remark I have never heard in Boston, they were the better team????
michelle von euw
8.13.02 @ 1:32p
You didn't know me in October 1988. I admitted then that the As were a better team.
8.13.02 @ 1:54p
I'll say it. The Rams were the better team. So were the Raiders.
8.13.02 @ 1:56p
Better than the Sox?
michelle von euw
8.13.02 @ 2:18p
Raiders 54, Sox 10.
8.13.02 @ 3:15p
What's the spread?
8.14.02 @ 5:18p
In the "My God, I can contribute some topical discussion to a sports column!" department:
Miss Manners had a column this week on this very topic.
Root For Away Team, But Do So At Own Risk
8.14.02 @ 5:25p
Here is a remark I have never heard in Boston, they were the better team????
Ah, that's because you don't hang around with me. I'll be the first to admit when my team gets outplayed. I'll be disappointed, but let's face it -- I'm there to watch a ballgame, and a ballgame I saw, so how can I be disappointed, in the end?
'Course it also depends on the team we're talking about. I mean.. I just wouldn't say that about Tampa Bay. Because it wouldn't be true.
9.4.02 @ 12:11p
Anyone else find it ironic that Red Sox fans criticize the Yanks for spending so much money to win titles? Was it not just a couple of years ago that the Sox had the biggest payroll in baseball? I'm not a Yanks fan, but I recognize that the difference btween the Yanks & Sox is that the Yankees spend their money on signing quality players like a Giambi or Mussina, and put their abundance of revenues into scouting, developing, and locking up talent (see Jeter, Posada, Bernie Williams, Soriano... - all homegrown players). True, the Yankees have infinitely more resources than most other clubs to buy players and, more importantly, to write off mistakes (like signing Sterling Hitchcock or Rondell White, both way overpaid), but fans in Minnesota, Kansas City, Oakland, and Pittsburgh should be moaning about the Yankees and financial inequities in baseball. Sox fans can hate the Yanks all they want, but they can't criticize them for having too much money. They can, however, criticize Sox management for paying good money to Jose Offerman, Mike Lansing, and a host of other stiffs, and for ignoring their farm system. Perhaps the appropriate slogan on Boston T-shirts should read "Duquette Sucks".
P.S. Grady Little for Manager of the Year.
michelle von euw
9.4.02 @ 1:11p
To your first question, Enrique: Nope. =) We may have one of the higher payrolls in baseball (because the fans are so dedicated that we continue to pay extrodinarily high ticket prices) but we still have a signifcantly lower payroll than the Yankees.
And to the rest: Believe me, Boston fans despite Dan Duquette. He is still booed at his son's little league games. And while he didn't ignore the farm system, he tried too hard to pack it with local talent, drafting New England boys instead of going after the best players available. It was a strategy, but it backfired.
Sox fans shouldn't forget, however, that Duquette traded for Pedro, as well as excuting the best swap in Red Sox history: Slocumb for Vertiek and Lowe.