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Being a Yankee in Red Sox Nation

Being a New York Yankees fan at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is a lot like a soldier being behind enemy lines. Everywhere you go people are always out to get you.

One of my first campus experiences in this respect happened as a freshman while walking to my first class. People were giving me filthy looks and looking at me as if I were lower than dirt. I couldn’t figure it out. Did I smell? Did I have a stain on my shirt? Nope, even worse – I was wearing a Yankees hat. This sort of scene would replay itself approximately 5,000 times that year.

I’ve had some interesting experiences because of that Yankees hat on top of my head. A typical day for me involves hearing “Yankees suck!” from at least one person. In fact, if I don’t hear it at all I feel like my day isn’t normal – like it’s missing something.

I’ve been called every name under the sun just for wearing something with a simple logo on it. My usual interaction with one person I know involves me hearing “take that hat off!” as soon as I’m in sight. Another friend likes to greet with, “what’s up Kaya, Yankees suck.” After two years, I find those funny, but the really amusing ones are from the people who don’t even know my name.

Strangers are always quick to get their digs in. On a Friday night walking up Fearing Street, I’ll pass a group of guys, and it’s always the one lagging behind who’ll yell the usual, “Yankees suck!”

I once made a derogatory comment about a girl’s shirt one night and she came back with “at least I’m not wearing a Yankees hat.” Maybe I deserved that one, but everyone else just feels obligated to dish out some hate. Even the old crossing guard on Massachusetts Avenue during the week gives me his two cents whenever he can. I could tell he was from the older generation of no-nonsense Red Sox supporters because of the scowl I receive as I walk by everyday, and the fact that he’s never seen without a Boston hat on his head no matter what the weathers like.

The bus rides on weekend nights are always full of anti-New York sentimentality. They wouldn’t be complete without someone in the back starting a ‘Yankees suck!’ chant that ends up with the whole bus joining in every Friday or Saturday night. What these types of interactions have really taught me though is a lesson in respect. I knew what I was getting myself into going to school at the heart of Red Sox country, but what I didn’t expect was to meet such a united front of opposition.

I may not get respect for supporting my team, but what I can respect about the people and fans up here is their commitment. Sox fans are a passionate group of supporters who’ve stood behind their team through the best and the worst. I mentioned a united front earlier, and to me that was a completely new concept.

As a native New Yorker – if you haven’t guessed by now – all I saw before coming to UMass is a medley of teams to support. In New York we have at least two teams to cheer on in every sport, so there’s always a sense of division. And that’s not even counting New Jersey teams, as many people support them as if they were there home state teams as well.

Here, it is a completely different story. Almost everyone from Massachusetts supports a Boston-based team. In a way, the unity of the native fans helps push out-of-state students who support the same team together or you risk cheering alone. Then you realize that it’s not just standing against Massachusetts, but all of New England. No wonder I feel like I’m surrounded by a sea of enemies.

I’ve come to realize that I’m not about to get respect from most die-hard Sox fans. The old crossing guard tried to make me wait unnecessarily at the divider this past fall. I’ve seen arguments over who is a better team, Boston or New York, turn violent. You will see some Red Sox fans sport numbers and statistics to back up their arguments, but all I see is a championship drought of 86 years with 27 championships for us.  But if you disrespect the Red Sox up here, you can be sure someone is going to jump headfirst into that argument, and if crazy enough, maybe even a fight.

Part of the charm of UMass for me is this constant back and forth between opposing fans. In fact, it actually helps to keep me on my toes. There’s nothing like hearing a comment about my teams and coming back with an even better one. Up here it’s all about the teams you love and the teams you love to hate, because it just wouldn’t be UMass without hearing “Yankees suck!” wherever you go.

Kaya Swainson is Collegian columnist. He can be reached at kswainso@student.umass.edu.

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