By Chris Gay
I am a New Englander, born and bred. I love pumpkins, hayrides, and the concept of clambakes. (What can I tell you; I hate seafood. Except for those little Pepperidge Farm Goldfish) I also love flea markets, sledding, autumn leaves, long walks on longer beaches and…the New York Yankees. How is that, you ask? It’s a short story. But first, a little filler; er, perspective.
Connecticut’s Identity Crisis
I’m from Hartford, Connecticut, where generations of people have grown up rooting for either of these teams not only in the same neighborhood, but often in the same household. As if Hartford doesn’t have enough of an identity crisis. (I’ll get to that topic another time) For those of you more well-versed in the Jersey Shore than in geography; unless, of course, the geographical question is actually about the New Jersey shore, we’re centrally located between New York and Boston. In fact, depending on whom you ask, “Hartford” translates either to “Southern Massachusetts” or “Upper Manhattan County.” Just kidding. In truth, Hartford translated loosely means “Deer Crossing,” but that wouldn’t have been quite as funny. (Incidentally New England trivia buffs, “Boston’s Lap Dog” can be interpreted as “Providence, Rhode Island”)
I’ve played softball next to nine other men alternatively wearing Red Sox and Yankees jerseys; where else on Earth would you see that? What baseball has regressed into here in the Constitution State is a never-ending war of words between native Nutmeggers; both fighting for the honor of two wholly separate states that, apart from the contents of our wallets, couldn’t possibly care less about us. Be that as it may, the barbs are unending. Arguments between friends, family. co-workers, teammates, gym attendees and wait staff are common, everyday occurrences here.
In the Beginning…
Here’s the chronology of becoming a baseball fan in Connecticut. You’re 1) Born 2) You choose (or in many cases, be assigned to) the Yankees or Red Sox while still in the maternity ward. From that day on, the only thing that separates you from the native fans of either team in their respective states, is that you don’t have some form of unintelligible accent.
If you’re a guy, generally your preference for one team over the other is based on either emulating or rebelling against your father. If you’re a woman, I couldn’t tell you. I chose the Yankees in my formative years, and if you think I’m a bandwagon jumper it’s worth noting that over my lifetime I’ve also rooted hard; and in some cases much harder, for the Hartford Whalers, Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Expos, Seattle Super Sonics and Kansas City Royals. But I digress. As I grew up, became my own man and began forming my own opinions on everything from sports to politics, I realized I had made the right choice, regardless of parentage.
Like both Democrats and Republicans, fans of the Red Sox and Yankees are to some extent hypocrites. The Red Sox ladle out contracts by the multi-millions while their fans still accuse the Yankees of buying titles. (One can only imagine a Pittsburgh Pirate fan’s reaction after listening to Boston-ians whine about payroll) Citing loyalty, they simultaneously call Johnny Damon a carpetbagger and worse for taking 12 million more dollars to play the same game 4 hours south, while remaining curiously silent as their own management signs Bronson Arroyo to a hometown discount, just before promptly trading him to Cincinnati. They erupt intermittently with chants of “Yankees suck!” even when the Red Sox are below them in the standings. (Which makes sense, one would imagine, if you’ve consumed enough liquefied barley and hops) Prior to 2004, listening to arrogant Red Sox fans you’d never know which team had gone 86 years without winning the World Series. In fact, among my friends who dislike both teams, they prefer the Yankees to win just to keep Sox fans quiet for awhile, as if that were possible.
As for Yankees fans, we are…well, on second thought, a perfect representation of manners and sportsmanship. (What did you expect? This isn’t Curt Shilling’s blog)
At any rate, I love New England. It’s part of the fabric of who I am and always will be. I’m a history buff who’d much prefer spending the day in Boston than New York. I treasure the foliage of Vermont, the beauty of New Hampshire, and the beaches of southern Maine. But as for becoming a New England pro sports fan, aside from a return of my beloved Hartford Whalers, I’ll pass.
The best thing I can think to say on behalf of Boston fans is this: a bartender in Old Orchard Beach, Maine once served me a cold beverage in a New England Patriots glass, and didn’t throw it at me when she was immediately asked to pour it into a neutral one.
God. The Devil. The Bet. The Fate of Mankind in the Balance. Check out my new theological, paranormal crime thriller, Ghost of a Chance.
What if a late 20th Century Jack the Ripper tearing apart a small Connecticut town was the result of a pancake shop bet between God and the devil? Imagine if Satan’s impact on the world in the new millennium hinged entirely on one police officer’s skill in hunting down a ruthless killer…hiding in plain sight. Detective Danny Seabrook is an unwitting pawn in a divine chess match with immeasurable consequences for all mankind. Set primarily in 1995, this action-packed suspense thriller features clever dialogue, humor and romance-with an ending you will never forget.
Chris Gay is an author, freelance writer, voice-over artist, broadcaster and actor. He writes and broadcasts a daily, sponsored minute radio humor spot in Hartford, Connecticut. He’s written three humor books: Shouldn’t Ice Cold Beer Be Frozen? My 365 Random Thoughts to Improve Your Life Not One Iota, And That’s the Way It Was…Give or Take: A Daily Dose of My Radio Writings, and The Bachelor Cookbook: Recipes with a Side of Sarcasm for the Single Guy. He’s currently writing his fourth humor book, Another Round of Ice Cold Beer: My 365 More Random Thoughts to Improve Your Life Not One Iota, along with the Ghost of a Chance sequel Perdition’s Wrath. He has written and voiced radio commercials, authored both comedic and non-comedic freelance articles, scripts, press releases, website, media and technical content, done occasional radio color commentary for local sports, and acted in a couple of movies and plays. He lives in Connecticut.
Hope Springs (Barfly)