I remember the chant dimly, a Red Sox/Orioles game when I was seven or eight years old. It didn’t seem odd, or menacing, just slightly out of place. A few months later, when my parents took me and my brother to a taping off WWF Thursday Night Smackdown, it erupted again. Finally, when it burst out randomly in Faneuil Hall one evening, I had to ask. “Dad, why do people yell ‘Yankees suck’ all the time, even when no Yankees are around to hear it?”
I can’t remember my dad’s exact response, but it went something along the lines of this: those people are idiots, that chant is senseless, and it’s embarrassing that Red Sox fans–and Boston citizens in general–took it up as an unofficial slogan.
While it’s a regional example, the “Yankees suck” chant is an example of how we can all learn a lesson between uneducated hatred and spirited competition.
Lesson #1: Respect
Despite lasting only two words, exactly 50% of the “Yankees suck” chant is libel: the Yankees do not suck, and outside of a dozen scattered seasons over a century of combat, they have never sucked. If the Yankees actually sucked, Boston fans would love them, the way Celtics fans love the Knicks and Nets–it’s not a rivalry when you’re consistently winning. When you’re consistently losing, however, it’s best to avoid name calling, calling card of the perpetual Wild Card racer.
Lesson #2: Humor
The difference between a kindly Masshole jeering a smug New Yorker over a plate of hot wings in a Connecticut bar and the Bryan Stow tragedy is a matter of humor. Sports–professional or in 4th gym class–are glorified games. Sports can teach important lessons, tell wondrous stories and have the ability to parallel the life of a dedicated fan. But they’re still a game, nothing more.
My favorite athletes are all passionate to a fault, while remaining realistic about their place in the world. As the victim of the most shocking upset in Wimbledon history this summer, Rafael Nadal (not at all self-deprecating) said “It’s not a tragedy, it’s just tennis,” and went on to explain that he is the same person before and after a loss. Losing sight of this fact, especially as a fan, will turn you into a world class douche bag in world record time.
Lesson #3: Victory!
Perhaps the most important lesson a young athlete can learn is how to win with class. No one likes a sore loser, but everyone understands them. A boastful champion? That’s how you alienate people. When the Red Sox completed their historic 2004 ALCS comeback from an 0-3 deficit, no one was chanting “Yankees suck.”
Game 7 took place in New York, and all for the better. Such a chant would have ruined the moment. Instead, the crowd roared. Sure, there are plenty of Red Sox fans living in NYC/willing to make the trip south, but you have to admire the Yankees fans who applauded; they’d have several months to stomach their team’s spectacular collapse, but in that moment they enjoyed–along with the rest of the country–one of the hallmark victories in all of professional sports. Win quietly, lose courageously.
So keep hating kids, just follow the rules.