Yankees fans: Go home!

Commentary

April 15, 2005|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,SUN STAFF

Oh, you hate them.

You hate their swagger.

You hate what they wear, those Yankees caps and pinstriped Yankees jerseys and satin Yankees jackets that look like something from a bad bowling league.

You hate the way they talk, which is megaphone-loud and New Yawk-y, and then they get a few beers in them and it sounds like Amphetamine Night at Yankee Stadium, everyone yapping about "Derek" and "Bernie" and "da Yanks, da mos' wunnerful team in da woild."

But most of all, you hate their arrogance, their sense of entitlement, how they expect to win every year and when they don't, it's treated like a statistical anomaly, a blip in the natural order of life, a puzzler that even has God scratching his head.

Damn Yankees fans ... and here they come again, thousands and thousands of them descending on Camden Yards for this weekend's three-game Orioles-Yankees series, so many that if you're an O's fan, you might wonder if a screaming foul ball didn't smack you in the head and you woke up on 161st Street and River Avenue in the Bronx.

One Yankees fan planning to attend tomorrow's game is Paul Katcher, 32, a sportswriter from Manhattan who will be here with nine of his Yankee-loving friends.

Katcher's first visit to Oriole Park was last September, when he made the 3 1/2 -hour drive from New York only to watch the O's drill the Yanks 14-8, a minor pothole for the Bronx Bombers on the road to yet another divisional title.

On his Weblog, shortly after the trip, Katcher pronounced Camden Yards and the Inner Harbor "an awesome, awesome scene," despite the fact that he ended the night by dropping 200 bucks in a blackjack game.

Nevertheless, wandering about the stadium that night in his Yankees jersey, Katcher could definitely feel the bad vibes radiating toward him and his pinstripe-loving brethren.

"When I was in Baltimore," he recalled over the phone, "when [the Orioles] did something good, I saw less of their fans high-fiving each other than I did them turning to Yankees fans and making sure they knew they were getting their butts kicked."

Well, sure.

After all, where is the law that says Oriole fans - considered among the most knowledgeable and polite in all of baseball, but often a tad too, well, reserved at times - can't loosen up occasionally and knock back a few beers and taunt the other fans?

Especially Yankees fans.

Maybe Yankees vs. Orioles is just another series in the Bronx, where they tend to reserve their industrial-strength, vein-popping vitriol for the Red Sox and their nouveau-riche fans, who can finally stop whining about the Curse of the Bambino, Bill Buckner, no championship love since 1918, etc.

But for Oriole fans, beating the Yankees is the ultimate high. And since they haven't experienced it often in recent years, there can be a lot of pent-up frustration released at Camden Yards when the O's finally cuff around the Yankees for a change.

"I'm usually the guy at these games trying to start a `Yankees s---!' cheer," said O's fan Jerry Herpel, 48, a pharmacist from McHenry in Western Maryland who professes to loathe not just the Yankees, but "everything related to New York."

"They're obnoxious," he says of Yankee fans. Sometimes, his loathing for the Big Apple can be elevated to an art form.

At a Ravens-New York Giants game last year at M&T Bank Stadium, Herpel and his pals spotted two Giants fans and proceeded to rag them unmercifully, directing their favorite anti-New York cheer - yes, like the one he does at Camden Yards - at each and every pro football, baseball, basketball and hockey team in New York, then starting in on the pro soccer team and all the colleges.

Yet there's a sense that, even with their rich history and 26 world championships and annual marquee lineup of millionaire All-Stars, the Yankees are a humbled team this season.

This, of course, stems mainly from their disastrous loss to the hated Red Sox in last year's American League Championship Series, when, depending on your point of view, the Yanks committed the biggest choke of all time by blowing a 3-0 lead in games, or the Red Sox pulled off the greatest comeback in baseball history.

Still, no matter how you spin it, there's a feeling that the Yankees - and their fans - have been brought down a peg.

"Yeah," agreed Katcher. "I think you can't ignore the obvious, that this is a team capable of losing in the playoffs and doing exactly the opposite of what you'd think the Yankees would do: not losing with a big lead."

Nevertheless, the Orioles expect big crowds this weekend.

When Katcher was here, he said, it seemed as if half the ballpark was rooting for the Yankees.

Which, to make the story come full-circle, drives longtime fans like Bob Oler, 37, nuts.

Oler, from Timonium, said it's the scoreboard, as much as the beer flow, that dictates how, um, lively Yankee fans will be.

"If they're winning, they're really bad," he said. "If we're winning, they're not as bad."

To O's fans, apparently, it's all a matter of degree.

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