The Subway Series is testing the tolerance level of several New York families, couples and coworkers who find themselves divided in their allegiance to their favorite baseball teams but united under one roof.
“I envisioned all of us watching it [the World Series] together,” says New York Yankees fan Christopher Moore of a World Series gathering with his family — including his brother-in-law, a New York Mets fan. “But I now realize those were hallucinations … I go to my room usually during the game to watch it by myself.”
As soon as the World Series between the Yankees and the Mets was set last week, many saw the potential for major schisms.
“It’s gonna split a few families up, I think,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
“It’s going to be a city divided against itself,” New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani predicted. “Like a civil war. Father against son. Brother against brother. Brother against sister.”
Even the fans agreed. “I think our heads might explode,” said Ellen Raimondo, a Bronx Bombers devotee who is engaged to Bob Shupp, a lifelong Mets fan. “I don’t know what we’ll do, but there could be some fights.”
Since then, some families have adopted a bunker mentality: It’s us against them, let’s stick together. Still others have made an extra effort to please loved ones for the sake of maintaining the peace, including cheering against their lifelong favorite team.
Whatever the strategy, relations here are a bit unpredictable.
Survival of the Fittest
Relationship survival strategies by families from Queens, New York, to New Jersey have included watching the games in separate rooms in the same house, and at bars with other like-minded fans to avoid direct taunting from loved ones.
Moore’s brother-in-law, Mike Fallon, says it’s “probably a good thing” he hasn’t watched games with Moore and his Yankee-cheering in-laws. Fallon tends to yell at the television and says he would never be able to watch a potential series-clinching game in the same room with a Yankees fan.
“It would be just too hard,” Fallon admits. “I just couldn’t do it.”
“I’m marrying into a Yankees family,” says Shupp, who has intentionally watched the Subway Series at bars with Raimondo so he can be among other Mets fans. “Over the past few years, I’ve been watching the Yankee playoff games with my future in-laws, but now I’m worried because they might see a side of me they don’t know yet.”
Working eight hours a day with people who root for the cross-town team can also put a strain on office esprit de corps.
“Work has been pretty bad — especially since the incident the other night with Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza,” says Fallon, referring to the now-infamous bat-throwing incident for which Clemens was fined a reported $50,000. “It’s been confrontational. We argue constantly, specifically my boss and I, because we have differing views about what happened.”
Even local politicians can’t resist staking their turf in this baseball civil war. Yankee fan Mayor Rudolph Giuliani traded barbs with City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, a die-hard Mets fan, about the Clemens-Piazza incident. And New York Senate candidate Rick Lazio, a Mets fan, has criticized his opposing candidate’s support for the Yankees — Hillary Clinton is originally from Illinois.
Unifying Effects, Too
Although the dividing lines have been drawn for many, some families have managed to find some middle ground.
One New York couple has a shrine to their two favorite teams on their living room fireplace mantle: her Yankees foam finger is propped up next to her husband’s Mets foam finger — a statement of unity and difference in taste.
Adam Hyman, a fifth-grade school teacher in Forest Hills who also records and edits videotape of games for the Mets, says his father, “a 100 percent, die-hard Yankees fan,” has agreed to root against his favorite team as a gesture to his son.
“He said to me, ‘This will be the first time I’ll root for the Mets to win. I want to see them win for you,’” Hyman says. “He knows I know the Mets on a personal level” through his work at Shea Stadium.
The Queens native says this is quite a switch for his Bronx-born father, who grew up watching the legendary New York Subway Series of the 1940s and ’50s.
“How do you root for the Yankees for 58 years and then all of a sudden go against them?” Hyman says. “He’s showing support for me, but I know it has to be a strange experience for him.”
Like Hyman, many New Yorkers say this rivalry is friendly and good for the city.
“It seems people are really having fun and the whole thing is bringing people together,” says Moore of the unifying effects of the Subway Series. “It’s become a celebration of New York City. And knowing that the rest of the country is bored out of its mind somehow only makes it more fun for us, in a weird, New York kind of way.”
ABC Radio contributed to this report.