Work in Sports
Smug vs. sentimental
Yankees, Mets fans take different approaches at Shea
Updated: Thursday October 26, 2000 8:46 AM
By Kostya Kennedy, Sports Illustrated
NEW YORK -- Among the recognizable New Yorkers watching Game 4 from the stands at Shea, was Mike Milbury, the combustible general manager of the New York Islanders.
He was simply dressed and had a seat far out in the left field mezzanine among the orange-and-blue diehards. (Yes those are Mets AND Isles colors.)
Milbury, you may remember, is no stranger to the stands, having famously gone into the seats at the old Boston Garden during his playing days as a Bruin, looking to put a whupping on a particularly belligerent fan.
Naturally, Milbury was quickly identified and thus was approached from time to time by sports fans for whom seeing a man who actually has an impact on the games they watch proves more noteworthy than running into, say, a blonde sitcom actress and her husband, Ferris.
"So, Mike, are you on the right side of the fence?" one fan asked tugging on the brim of his Mets cap to show what he meant.
"Oh, yeah. And if I wasn't I'd keep quiet about it," Milbury said, peering over the green railing. "It's a long drop down."
Never mind the right-minded Milbury, not even the most ardent Yankee fans were in danger of being tossed over the edge on Wednesday. And if one had been tossed, there would have been plenty of his brethren around to get revenge. Yankees fans were out in force at Shea for Game 4, sporting their elegant caps and clad in jerseys bearing numbers ranging from 7 (Mantle) to 51 (Bernie).
The Yankee fans were loud and were into the game and even though each "Let's Go Yan-kees" chant was quickly drowned out by loving words for the Mets, the visiting faithful made their presence felt.
Oddly this was far more passion than Yankees fans had shown up in the Bronx, where at times they hardly seemed into the games. "I think what it is," said a twentysomething man in a Yankees cap who had been drinking some beer, "is that at home there's not much suspense. We know we're going to win. Over here, we acknowledge there's at least the possibility we could drop one."
Even at Shea, Yankees fans were the confident ones. As the game wore on and the wrong team held its one-run lead, Mets fans fell more and more into their superstitious rites. Caps were spun back when the Mets were in the field. A group took to calling out to players using full names every time: Come on Jay Payton! Come on Armando Benitez! One fellow, definitely not Corey Hart, put on a pair of good-luck sunglasses.
When it was over and all those idiosyncrasies had not been enough to overcome the forces of Yankees evil, Mets fans could be heard saying things like, "Well, I guess this is going seven now."
The Yankees fans meanwhile, were back to their stoic smug selves and feeling sure that, as one said to another. "The World Series is ours. Again!"
In a press conference after the game, Yankees manager Joe Torre was asked whether his players amazed him with performances like the one that beat the Mets in Game 4. "No, they don't amaze me," said Torre. "I expect it."
Yankees fans expect it too, and such expectations often met leave you with a cold, non-suspenseful feel. That explains why so many of the Yankees faithful have to come out to Shea to cut loose a little and to have a little fun.