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By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist
I wore a Red Sox T-shirt in the Yankee Stadium bleachers and a Yankees T-shirt in the Fenway Park bleachers during the playoffs this past week. And having done so, an apology might be in order for all the Yankees fans I have gleefully insulted over the past few years.
Not that I actually WILL apologize, mind you. I'm just saying that an apology would be in order if I was a bigger man.
I wore the Boston shirt on the subway to Yankee Stadium for Game 2. And I wore it for an hour outside the stadium. And I wore it in the bleachers for three innings. And no one offered so much as a single unpleasant remark. Not one. In fact, one Yankee fan even held the door open for me at the McDonald's across from the stadium.
Sure, I got some cross looks. And I got some comments. But they were all in the "Hey, there's a Red Sox fan. Let's have some fun with him because we know we're going to win this series anyway'' variety. Red Sox fans may hate Yankees fans, but not vice-versa. It's like Bogie says in "Casablanca" when Peter Lorre asks whether he despises him. "I suppose I would if I gave you any thought whatsoever."
The only potentially ugly moment was when one fan in the bleachers looked at my shirt and shook his head. I told him he looked disgusted, and he came back at me and said, "What did you call me?"
"I said you look disgusted by my shirt."
"Oh," he said. "I thought you said I was disgusting. I was about to rip your friggin' head off."
In Boston, on the other hand, I received much more abuse, usually of the "Yankees suck!" variety, with some additional thoughts on homosexuality.
In contrast to Yankee Stadium, where there were many Red Sox fans, there were only a handful of Yankees shirts at Fenway. Which isn't to say there weren't Yankees fans. As one New York fan said while slapping me on the back, "I'm rooting for the Yankees, too. Only I'm smart enough not to wear a shirt advertising it here."
Perhaps, but there's a certain amount of pride and spirit involved for a fan to not only go into enemy territory but to do so brazenly. You have to admire someone who loves his team enough to endure abuse and risk bodily harm. Although you can definitely take this too far. Those two Red Sox fans who kept standing up and flipping off the rest of the Yankees fans were way out of line. Hey, boys, if you want someone to kick your asses, I'm sure there are some S&M clubs where they'll gladly do it for less money than a playoff ticket costs.
Naturally, there are other emotions involved when you don the shirt of a team you hate. I'm proud to say that I had never before worn any article of clothing with a Yankees logo on it, so pulling that New York shirt over my head was the most disagreeable thing I've ever had to do as a writer. It was even worse than when I had to buy a ticket to watch "Gigli" for a review.
(On the other hand, it was better than putting on one of those ridiculous "Cowboy Up" shirts. Are you tired of that expression yet, or what? What's next? Belt buckles the size of the plate in Don Zimmer's head? C'mon, Boston. You're the home of Harvard and MIT, of Longfellow, Thoreau and Sargent, you're the intellectual center of the country, the Athens of America. Enough with the cowboy hats and bandanas. You look like a bunch of little kids waiting for their ice cream and cake at a birthday party.)
"Same place yours is going to be in a minute," said a fan glowering at me from the sidewalk. He wore a T-shirt that featured a Calvin and Hobbes character urinating on the Yankees logo.
"What do you mean by that?" I replied.
The fan glared some more and mumbled something under his breath. If I was so inclined (i.e. drunk and stupid), this minor incident easily could have escalated into a fight. But it didn't. I was sober and I can't take any insult seriously from a man who would wear a T-shirt of a person urinating in public.
(Not to go all Tipper Gore on you, but I'll never understand what possesses some people to wear shirts that read, "Yankees Suck" or "Nomar Swallows" or "You can take your 26 rings and shove them up your ---" or something even worse in public. I'm not saying these shirts should be banned at stadiums; but good God, have some sense of personal decorum, will you?)
Game 3, of course, was as wild a game as I've ever seen; and before the day was over, 72-year-old bench coach Don Zimmer had left the park in an ambulance and the police were considering whether to arrest Jeff Nelson for fighting a groundskeeper in the bullpen. But wandering around in the bleachers with my Yankees shirt in the seventh inning (I didn't wear it the first six innings while I sat in the auxiliary press box), I didn't receive much abuse. People were too much into the game to pay much attention to an idiot in a Yankees shirt. The Red Sox said only one person was arrested at the game, substantially under the norm for a Yankees-Red Sox game, and I don't doubt it.
The most interesting moment happened during the bottom of the seventh when I bought a bratwurst at the concession stand while watching the game on the TV monitor. When I saw Bill Mueller single to put runners on first and third with nobody out, I took a bite from my bratwurst and turned to head back to the auxiliary pressbox. A half-dozen Red Sox fans blocked my path.
"You're not going anywhere, buddy."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"You're staying right here."
"What are you talking about?" I said. "You guys don't want me around here."
"Yeah, we do. We want to see your face when we rally."
Deciding to taunt a little, I told them that wasn't going to happen. "Nixon is going to ground into a double play."
"No, he won't. And besides, a doubleplay will still score a run."
"So, what?" I said. "You need two runs. He'll ground into a double play and you won't score again. Because that's the way it always works."
"You're still staying here."
OK, I replied, and returned my attention to the TV monitor ... just in time to see Nixon ground into a rally-killing 4-6-3 double play.
"See?" I said, turning around to face the six fans. Only no one was there. They were all slinking away as quietly as possible.
And in that moment, I suddenly knew what it was like to be a Yankee fan. And as much as I hate to admit, it felt pretty good.
But the feeling wore off pretty quickly. I mean, everybody loves their team, but it just seems so unfulfilling when outrageous success is expected each year rather than anticipated over many summers. Where's the fun in winning if you take it as a Constitutional right? Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for Ticketmaster, only with better T-shirts.
So in closing, I wore the enemy colors in both stadiums; and I not only lived to tell about it, I can say it's safer than wearing them in the visiting team's bullpen.
And if anyone wants the Yankees shirt, let me know. I'll tell you which dumpster I left it in.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.