On fan anxiety, family and sports media consumption


via Facebook.com

The New York Yankees will be playing the Blue Jays.

Grace Halio, Deputy Features Editor

I was quite literally born and raised a Yankees fan. In my first baby picture I’m wearing a pink Yankees beanie, courtesy of my dad. Breakfast table news generally consisted of baseball stats and if it was out-of-season, it was talk of exhibition games, spring training or trades.

The 1996 championship that the Yankees won was their first since 1978. With so much at stake after 18 years without a title, it’s easy to imagine the anxiety associated with the series. It was enough anxiety that fathers were outfitting their newborns in Yankees paraphernalia.

Fast-forward 18 years. For any Yankees fan, the past two weeks have been full of nail biting, rally caps, and unsurprisingly, more anxiety. The emotional climate surrounding the fans is, at best, uneasy.

I aggressively refreshed the ESPN app for score updates on Tuesday as I watched the Yankees drop a difficult game to the Orioles. Simultaneously, the Blue Jays successfully defeated the Red Sox, extending their lead over the Yankees to 1.5 games, where it remains. For the first time in my life, I found myself committing Yankees sin: silently hoping the Red Sox do anything but lose embarrassingly.

It’s a very exciting time to be a baseball fan in New York, but depending on where your allegiances lie, that could be for a lot of different reasons. The history of each clubhouse, to some extent, dictates that excitement. In 1962, rooting for the Mets was about watching them grow as a team and watching them work toward success. In the 1930s, the way the Yankees performed was unbeatable. Being a fan of a team that has established a culture of winning has done nothing but reinforce the anxiety I feel for them to uphold that standard. It’s an anxiety that most diehards can relate to. My dad felt it, and his dad before him, independent of the way they experienced the game.

“My” baseball was colored by Little League, YES Network, and John Sterling’s win call on the radio after a Yankees victory. My dad passed it all down to me, save for the fact that social media has played a growing part in my experience. After working in Yankee Stadium as a teenager, the kid in him still finds time in his busy schedule to go to a game every now and then.

Today, I can confidently say that I haven’t watched a game on television in months. My consumption of sports news and updates is predominantly app-based. 18 years ago, when I first donned those infant-sized Yankee jerseys, no one would have believed that the Yankees would be live-tweeting their games. Today, I know Yankees fans who do not know John Sterling’s Yankees win call. They’re missing out. If I have learned anything of true value from baseball and my evolving consumption of sports media, it’s that the best way to experience it is to combine the generations of fandom and experience it through more than one medium.

Baseball will never be emotionally charged the way soccer is; it instead produces a looming cloud of suspenseful anxiety. This is not something that you can feel from refreshing a Twitter feed or a scoreboard app. The thrill is only felt in live gameplay, where the pride, the nervousness, and the energy can be heard in the voices of the announcers and seen in the actions of the players. And it’s only appreciated by those who understand the art — and I owe that understanding to a childhood spent appreciating the game.

Email Grace Halio at [email protected]