There has been a plague slowly overcoming me. Not the kind that destroys the body, but the kind that eats away at the soul. I was recently in New York and went to the new Yankee Stadium for the first time and marveled at the statuesque nature of not just the structure itself, but the grounds surrounding it. There was an unrivaled mysticism to it all; being somewhere you only ever see on television. It felt in a way, like stepping on sacred soil. And this wasn’t even the old Yankee Stadium. Its pristine exterior only rivaled by the billions of dollars poured into the lavish interior; highlighted by a baseball diamond so near perfect that one would believe during its construction the echoing mantra was surely “if you build it, they will come.”
The problem here you see, is that I’m a Philadelphia Phillies fan. At least I think I am. I’ve lived through the toils of supporting a franchise with more losses than any other professional team in America. Born a year after their first World Series, I was 27 years old before they won anything of significance. The second baseball game I ever saw was one between the Orioles and the Phillies; so boring and lifeless that a bunt down the left foul line was met with the kind of exuberance reserved for parades down Broad Street.
So these words are hard to write, but ever since I went to see the Yankees play the Mets on June 10th of this year, there has been a slow but growing black tide washing over me. Like the spirit of evil filling my veins; resistance futile. There’s the history, the unmatched global branding in its sport, the legends that have donned the pinstripes and of course, the 27. Winning championships are the pillars of sporting success and with 27, few franchises are held up stronger than the one that calls Yankee Stadium home.
At the game, there was a good spattering of Mets fans. Not sure why or why they exist. But they were there. Hopeful as always, buoyed annually by the promise of hope, but left disappointed by an ineptness that is but the yearly tradition of ‘the Yankees win, the Mets lose’. The Mets lost of course, but it wasn’t just this one game, they’ve been losing forever; a paltry 2 World Series titles to the Yankees 27. If you were living in New York and identified as a New Yorker, why on God’s green Earth would possess you to choose the Mets over the Yankees? I’m sure there’s plenty of that “the team chooses you” nonsense but really? Suppress it, ignore it, will it away. I’ve never understood the choice to be a loser over a winner. Life is about choices. Why pick the Cubs over the White Sox? Why pick Melbourne Heart over Melbourne Victory? Why pick Manchester City over Manchester United (until recently)? Why pick the Mets over the Yankees?
Since I’ve come back to Melbourne, I’ve been in this perpetual rut. At the gym, I’ve started giving the “what’s up?” head nod to the guy always wearing the Yankees shirt (maybe I need to stay away and get a home exercise program, like the Rushfit). Feeling slowly torn from what I thought was right, slowly overcome by an injection of navy blue, white and grey. These colors are bleeding into the red; turning the crimson into night.
Yet, the most obvious and painful realization is that I just like Evil Empires. I am a Manchester United fan, a Melbourne Victory fan and if I lived in Chicago, there is no chance in hell I would suffer a lifetime of being a Cubs fan. I like global corporations, I like law and order, I like money, I like first class and I like nice things. And so maybe the darkness overcoming me is an inevitable turn; an evil just waiting for an Anakin Skywalker or an Eddie Brock to sink its teeth into. I’ve been bitten and the infection is spreading.
The Philadelphia red in me is still fighting; a spirit of brotherhood bred on the tough Philly streets swinging away at Wall Street, but in the end the spirit is always broken. The high rises of success and power are far too great for man to overcome and winning is far too much of an intoxicating brew to pass up. I’ll toss and turn and feel my soul staving off the inevitable, and I will try with every bit of cheese steak left in me to fight away the allure of glory, money and power. Yet I know deep down inside, evil will rise. And I have a feeling it won’t be long before I enjoy wearing my #7 Mantle shirt more than I do any other.
Photos by: Billy Ho