A few weeks ago, my New York Rangers twitter friend (joining us from Norway! And no, don’t ask him about A-Ha…I learned my lesson awhile ago), posed this question about who roots for what in New York sports.
I seem to do this every year but I really want an answer this time..Can someone please explain the geopolitical divides of NYC teams?
— Hvem som helst (@Hvemsomhelst) August 3, 2015
It’s an interesting question, one that I have often wondered myself. Because while I live in New York City now, I am a full-blooded Jersey girl, and I’m very proud of my roots. Yet, I loathe the New Jersey Devils with every ounce of my being. But then again, I am a New York Mets fan in baseball. And people often ask why, because of where I grew up in New Jersey, I’d probably be geographically closer to Philadelphia and should be a Phillies fan. But I would also say that Phillies fans are almost an anomaly in my town in NJ, and the lines of demarcation there are distinctly Mets vs Yankees.
Which begs the question…how does one pick a team to root for?
I guess there’s no easy way to answer it, but I will say this: it’s not like being from New England or the Pacific Northwest or friggin Denver where you basically have one team to choose from for each major sport. And even sometimes that is not as cut-and-dry as you’d think. Even take my husband for example, who is a notoriously born-and-bred Bronx boy who loathes the Yankees, and is a huge Mets fan with other geopolitical sports leanings towards the Seattle Seahawks and Utah Jazz (He can also thank me for making him a Rangers fan).
I guess there are six major categories that should determine your rooting interests, there may be more, but off the top of my head, that’s what I’ve come up with: Geography; Family Influence; History; Media; “Collars;” and Marrying Into It. I would also say that many of these are not set in stone (e.g. being from the Bronx and not being a Yankees fan, being from New Jersey and being a Rangers fan). Some are just flipping annoying (don’t get me started on “Giants AND Jets fans.” Mostly, they know there’s a better chance of the Giants winning anything and rooting for the Jets is an exercise in futility).
Also, bear in mind that much of rooting interests in sports are not contingent upon where one is “from” anymore. I have a friend who grew up in New England area, yet is a huge Minnesota Vikings fan (but a Red Sox fan in baseball, that will never change, according to him). Media has changed the rooting landscape, but I would say in New York, it’s pretty simple: you’re either a Mets or Yankees fan (never both, don’t care what anyone says about “I want to see New York win,” you’re just a Yankee fan who wants to say they never gave up on the Mets – just go away already); you’re either a Knicks or Nets fan; you’re either a Rangers or Isles or Devils fan – it’s a WRITTEN rule that you love one team and hate the other two; you’re either a Giants or Jets fan. It’s funny because when I still identified myself as a Jets fan (mostly because – ta da! my dad said he was one), I never hated or disliked the Giants. I just didn’t root for them, despite how successful they may be (I think most Jets fans are blase about it too – but true Giants fans HATE the Jets – go figure).
This one is pretty easy. Basically, wherever you are from, there you are. I live and breathe New Jersey with every fiber of my being. However, you could not pay me enough money to root for the Devils, unless of course I could use that money to move the team to Mars and never hear about them again. I digress. There are exceptions to every rule.
If you’re from Queens, you better be a friggin Mets fan. If you’re from Long Island, you better be a Mets and Islanders fan. If you’re from Queens and/or Long Island (even Brooklyn) remember when the Jets played at Shea Stadium, you better be a Jets fan too.
If your family is from old school Brooklyn and you have a grandparent or great uncle or whoever who went to games at Ebbets Field, chances are you will be a Mets fan now. I know most of this story is elementary to most Baseball 101 fans (this is mostly for my Norwegian friend), but back in 1957, the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York (baseball) Giants picked up and left for the West Coast for who is now the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. If you rooted for either of those teams and have your roots in New York or the tri-state area at least, you could never in good conscience root for the Yankees.
If you’re from Westchester/South Bronx/Upper Manhattan, chances are that you are also a Yankees fan. Proximity to games has a lot to do with team loyalties. And if it’s easier for you to take the D train than the 7, you’ll probably be a Yankees fan.
Football is weird. Both teams have a New York title but reside in New Jersey (go figure), but the Jets used to play in Queens, and therefore have a lot of leanings in that area and also in Long Island. Some folks would rather drop dead from that area than root for the Jets as well. Those people may be transplanted from somewhere else. But then again when I’ve assumed things like someone being from Long Island or grew up in Flushing is automatically a Mets fan, I’ve been wrong. Just like someone guessing that being from New Jersey automatically qualified you as a Devils fan.
Lastly, Connecticut is kind of funny. New Jersey is kind of a free-for-all with Yankees, Mets, Phillies, even some Red Sox thrown in there. Half of CT is geographically closer to the traditional “New England” states, therefore Red Sox territory. But I know plenty of Mets fans in Connecticut too.
As I’m sure you can tell, geography doesn’t dictate all of it. But if you are a Yankee fan living in Queens, there will be some ball busting for sure.
My Pop Pop (Dad’s dad) was a National League baseball fan. No one bothered to ask him while he was still living where his loyalty was (but it was most certainly not the Yankees). I would guess though, he was probably a New York Giants fan, since he took my dad as a young ‘un to the old Polo Grounds. My dad’s been a Mets fan, and in 1983, I had to write what my likes/dislikes were and what my parents liked and disliked. My mom said, “Be sure to write ‘the Mets’ as something Daddy likes.” I asked him about the Mets as he watched a game with a popped open Budweiser can. I started watching. In 1984, I went to my first game. Doc Gooden started. It, as they say, was history. Dad was also a New York Rangers fan from the Broadway Blues era in the 70s. Dad is also a Jets fan. I don’t hold that against him anymore since I left Gang Green.
My point is, if your parents, grandparents, favorite uncle, cousin, former roommate liked a team and had a passion about it, chances are, you will too. I have a friend who said that even though he lived just minutes from Shea Stadium, he is a die hard Yankee fan because of his family influence.
Sometimes if there’s a Mets/Islanders fan, chances are they’re from the Island. If you meet a Mets/Rangers fan, chances are a family member made that choice for them.
Some people are sports geeks. Others are history geeks. Sometimes, you have both. While I am a Mets fan, I would never be a Yankees fan. Not just BECAUSE I am a Mets fan, but because I love the really unique history of National League baseball in New York. There were two teams, they started the expansion out west. If you rooted for either of those teams, you were already an underdog rooter, because they could never beat those stinkin Yankees!
But then history can work the other way. We can say “New York Rangers are O6,” therefore, superior (and that’s actually true). Or “27 RingZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.” Or Broadway Joe Namath. I mean, if you know your shit about a team, salut and root for whoever you fuckin want to. Chances are, if you’re passionate about a team, you’re gonna know their background inside and out. And that’s what makes you a fan.
This doesn’t so much apply to today as yesteryear. As I know several people who grew up in New York or the tri-state area and do not have team affiliations from their region. There may be a Columbus Blue Jackets fan in say, Connecticut, because the Whalers left for Carolina and hockey died in their heart. Or they may have caught a game on TV and decided to make them “their” team. But 30 years ago, media was a lot different than it is now where you were beholden as a consumer to watch whatever sports team your local affiliates made you. As I mentioned earlier, I had friends and family in South Jersey who started root for Phillies/Eagles/Flyers or some variation thereof because they got those channels and had no choice. I know some folks who became Mets fans because of the old WOR-9 and where they were able to get a signal (no kidding). Nowadays we got these kids and their goddamn rock n’ roll rooting for the Texas Rangers because they started following that Adrian Beltre guy and do you think he’s a first ballot Hall of Famer, and oh I’m getting off topic.
I have two friends who started watching the Rangers in NJ because MSG Network was free and Sportschannel (where the Devils games were televised) was a pay channel. Who would’ve paid to watch the Devils back then??? (And before you get started, I do know the Mets were on SC back then…but they were actually watchable and you wanted to buy the channel).
In the New York metropolitan region, you have the white collar executives who wear suits and ties and have a two-martini lunch on a corporate card. Then there are the blue collar types who wear their hard hats and toil in the sub and bring their lunch in a pail.
Yankees are given the nickname “Pinstripes” or rather, wear uniforms with distinct pinstripes to cater to the moneyed-executive (yes, even though the stadium itself is in a shitty-ass area in the Bronx). Yes, Mets also have uniform choices with “stripes” on them, but no self-respecting Mets fan would EVER call them “pinstripes.” We know better. The Mets are geographically closer to Long Island and in the heart of Queens, where many of these blue collars reside. And the Yankees with all that money, how could they EVER root for them?
And yes, there is the whole “corporate America is ruining sports BLAHHHH!” people. The white collars who show up, stare at their phone, and cause it to be quiet in the arenas and stadiums. That’s not to say that you can’t be a true fan if you’re a banker or lawyer or sales person. It’s just the guys getting the tickets sometimes could give a rat’s ass about sports or the teams.
You Marry Into It
I was lucky that I married another passionate Mets fan. It was important that my future spouse knew sports. Otherwise, I’d be spending a lot of time by myself going to games. Someone could go through life not having a sports affiliation, but if your spouse or partner is into it, chances are you’re gonna get into it too. This is certainly not geographically based. If you are from Texas and you marry a native New Yorker, they’ll probably get you into New York sports if you couldn’t care less about the Texas Rangers or Dallas Cowboys. This category is self-explanatory.
I posted a question on Facebook to see about other categories, but I think I have it covered. I’d be interested in getting other feedback as well. And go Mets, Rangers and Seahawks (huh?).
Nice job, Coop. Just as a clarification, folks who grew up in the Lower Hudson Valley. (Putnam, Westchester, Orange, Dutchess, Rockland) are mostly from families that are originally from the City. Therefore they are essentially a mixed bag of fandom. You could say the same thing about parts of North Jersey and Western Connecticut as well.
Most importantly, you are correct, you cannot root for teams that are rivals of one another. Anyone who says something like “I root for NY” should not be taken seriously.
You’re forgetting the “imprinting at an impressionable age” factor. I worked with someone (in CT) whose 6-year-old became a rabid Mariners fan in ARod’s rookie season. Kids in the NY Metro area who came of sports viewing age in 1969 or 1986 would, naturally, have been Mets fans, while those who came of age in the mid- to late-90s are more likely to have become Yankees fans. Then there were the Braves fans, due to the wide coverage of games on WTBS.
Interesting post! You’ve inspired me to write my own entry about my path to fandom, from the shadow of Yankee Stadium…
i live in connecticut, and, despite my dads family being born and bred boston, i hate all boston teams. in baseball, i root for the new york yankees, because the mets are for pathetic queens and LI residents that love to lose! connecticut fans are yankees or red sox, mets fans are an anomaly or hop on the ferry to visit their parents. basketball i root for the nets, because i hate james dolans evil empire, but most people here are celtics fans. knicks vs nets is about even. hockey i’m a devils fan, once again, i hate dolan, and i don’t like long island either, so that explains that. in the north you might find some bruins fans, where i live, fairfield county, most people are rangers fans, new haven and other coastal areas are die hard islanders territory, and there are many devils fans in my area, too. i don’t follow football, so i have nothing to say about that.