|Nick Swisher has gone from autograph target to a target for unhappy Yankees fans. (Getty Images)|
Spend $100 at a restaurant, and you have rights. You have the right to yell at your waiter for bringing you the wrong cut of beef, for example. Other joints get your order correct, and they do it with a lot cheaper menu. This place can't get it right, at these prices? Yell at the waiter. Find the hostess and the chef and give them a piece of your mind, too. You spent good money to be there, you know.
Be an unforgiving jerk. That's your right.
So, um, Yankees fans ... see my point here?
Nah, you probably don't. Which is fine. Tell me my restaurant analogy is wrong. Call me soft. Sneer at my political affiliation.
And keep booing your home team, you unforgiving jerks.
Yankees fans embarrassed themselves during the first two games of the AL Championship Series. They couldn't fill their stadium for either game, but those who came damn sure could boo their own team -- one of four left in baseball -- right off the field. Alex Rodriguez hit a line drive at the left fielder, and the crowd booed. Nick Swisher lost a ball in the lights. Boos. Curtis Granderson struck out. Boos.
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Not all of them were booing, no. But lots of them. Most of them? Maybe. It's hard to be precise when a stadium sounds like Yankee Stadium sounded on Sunday night, angry noise coming from all over the ballpark. This column is not written to say all Yankees fans boo; therefore, all Yankees fans have no class.
Nope, not true. But what is true is this: The ones who did boo were unforgiving jerks.
This isn't a Yankee-centric opinion, OK? This goes for any fans, anywhere, who boo their home team for the sin of failure. It was alarming how bad it was, how ugly it was, for two games at Yankee Stadium -- but it happens all the time, all over the country, by fans who cling to their story like a pacifier: "Paying for a ticket gives me the right to boo."
And that's true. It does. But I'll say it again, because I can't be too clear: Booing the home team -- your sports family -- makes you a jerk.
You wouldn't raise a kid that way. At least, I hope not. Little Johnny comes home from school and shows you his math test. He failed it. Scored a 57 out of 100. You're mad, you're embarrassed or even scared -- is my kid stupid? -- and you lash out. Little Johnny already felt rotten for bombing the test, and now his dad is yelling at him.
Is little Johnny going to pass his next test? Maybe, maybe not. But one thing he learned: My dad's a jerk. I just failed a test, I feel about 3 inches tall, I'm worried that math is going to be a struggle, and here's my dad -- supposed to be on my side -- making me feel worse. Thanks, Dad.
That's you, booing Yankees fan. In the past two seasons Granderson has hit 84 home runs with 225 RBI and 238 runs scored. In the past two games at Yankee Stadium, he struck out five times in seven at-bats. Clearly he failed the test. Probably, after letting down his teammates, he felt 3 inches tall. And what did he learn as he walked to the dugout amidst a barrage of boos? He learned the home crowd -- supposed to be on his side -- was making him feel worse.
Don't take my word for it. Take the word of Swisher, who once was embraced by Yankees fans for his gritty play, his aggression, his passion. When he messes up, it's not for lack of effort. But he messed up in the first two games of the ALCS, losing a ball in the lights in Game 1 and striking out twice in Game 2. And the crowd let him know: We do not approve.
Which is riotous, really. A guy like Nick Swisher, he's really trying. Same goes for A-Rod and Granderson. They're not loafing. They're taking batting practice before the game, not naps. They're also playing a sport where the failure rate for a star is 70 percent, and where a player's true value cannot be measured in one game, one week or even one month. Get hot at the right time of year and you're Scott Brosius, hitting .383 in the 1998 postseason. Get cold and you're Curtis Granderson or Nick Swisher, being booed out of the building.
And the players? They notice.
"It hurts," Swisher said after Game 2. "That's the last thing that I ever thought would be in this ballpark, that people would get on you that bad. Especially your home, where your heart is, where you've been battling and grinding all year long."
Baseball is a mental game, more than any other major sport. All that waiting between pitches gives a player too much time to think. A few years ago when A-Rod struggled at the plate, the boos at home got to him so much that he couldn't play the field, either. That doesn't make him mentally strong, no, but it makes the home crowd stupid. Booing a baseball player isn't going to make him better -- but it sure could make him worse.
The Yankees fans who booed their own players, they don't get it -- or they just don't care. They paid good money for those tickets, you know. And so when Nick Swisher struck out in the seventh inning of Game 2, a one-run game in the ALCS for God's sake, pockets of Yankee Stadium broke into song:
"Na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye."
See, Swisher will be a free agent after the season. And if that was going to be his final home at-bat at Yankee Stadium, some fans wanted to send him out with an earful.
You can't teach class. Can't buy it, either.