So how did this Queens County girl become a fan of the Bronx Bombers? It started with Mets Opening Day, 1993. I informed my teacher, Mrs. Murphy, that my dad said I was playing hooky to see the Mets play this brand-new team, the Colorado Rockies. Mrs. Murphy did not react gleefully as I hoped. Later, my grandmother told me it was a bad idea to tell your teacher you were playing hooky, especially for a baseball game, even if your dad said it was OK. Lesson learned, Nana. Lesson learned.
It was a little cold, since it was early spring in New York City, but I was excited. This was my first Major League Baseball game, and my dad trusted me to enter this sacred sports arena with him and engage in a ritual normally reserved for sons. As I attempted to sip scalding hot chocolate, my dad explained how the scoreboard worked and who the pitchers were. This was so cool, I thought.
Until the Mets lost. Badly. To a brand-new team, nonetheless. How could this happen?
I was born into a Mets family. I've always imagined the happiest moment in my parents' marriage (other than the births of my sister and yours truly, of course) was Game 7 of the 1986 World Series, when the Mets beat the Boston Red Sox. But the Colorado Rockies beat my 1993 Mets. My hometown team. And the Rockies had ugly uniforms! To add insult to injury, the Mets continued to be the laughingstock of every New York tabloid on every newsstand that season. They ended the season 59-103. (That's really bad.)
By middle school I had moved on to basketball. Besides, the NBA was so popular that a dozen of its biggest stars actually spent time to film Space Jam. But in the fall of seventh grade, a bunch of the kids in my class were crazy about the Yankees and this new Derek Jeter guy. So I watched, to my parents' disgust of course, and I dragged my young, impressionable sister into it.
It was the best time for a young Yankees fan to be discovering baseball. You had the Core Four: Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada. Then there was Bernie Williams, who everyone said was my father's twin, and Chuck Knoblauch, who I loved to yell at through my TV screen. Owner George Steinbrenner was like your favorite uncle drunk at Thanksgiving: bawdy and unpredictable. I felt reassurance in David Wells's pitching and Joe Torre's leadership (I know, I know, but hindsight is 20-20). My dad even extended an olive branch by buying me two posters that remained taped to my walls throughout high school and followed me upstate to college: one of the 1999 New York Yankees, and a big old Jeter poster.
When it was time to move to Los Angeles after college, I decided I would look into this Dodger thing. I couldn't be an Angels fan, since the Yanks would always be my American League team, but the National League team I grew up with had been persistent in disappointing me. My otherwise sports-ambivalent S.O. agreed to watch baseball with me if it was the Dodgers. Yeah, the Dodgers left Brooklyn, but, uh, I'm from Queens, and it was 30 years before I was even born. Besides, no one in Minnesota is crying that the Lakers left, and I'm pretty sure Montreal still has no idea the Expos even left. Teams move. Players get traded. It hurts, but that's how things go.
During our first summer in Los Angeles, we somehow acquired tickets to four games. By October 2006, I was hooked on Dodger Blue and a team of my actual peers, including Matt Kemp, Russell Martin, and Andre Ethier.
I hoped for a Dodger-Yankee World Series. In 2009 it felt possible until the Dodgers lost the playoffs. But that year the Yankees pulled out their first World Series win in nine seasons against the Phillies. Yes, I know how capitalistic and snooty it sounds that I expect the Yankees to win the World Series every year, but … I do.
Somehow, the baseball overlords heard the cries of Los Angeles and New York fans (or maybe it was the potential for stellar Nielsen ratings between the two cities), but the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers would be paired up for an exhibition series in 2010. I counted the days until I could buy tickets. I knew I would wear my Dodger shirt and Yankee hat. I would cheer throughout the entire game because I could see my teams face off against each other. It's like watching your current significant other meet the best ex you'd ever had; it might be messy, and you won't know how you feel during and after it happens, but you're curious to see it all take place.
When I got to Dodger Stadium, probably my favorite place to watch any professional sport, all I got were jeers.
"You can't like both!"
I deflected as many jeers as possible. I cheered for both of my teams. But I was livid that fellow fans couldn't fathom that a person could like both the Dodgers and the Yankees, two teams that could only meet in special games and the World Series because they're in two completely different leagues.
Sound familiar? (The answer should be "yes," because these are basically the same things that bisexual people hear. A lot.) It's not that I can't decide. I decide to like both the Dodgers and the Yankees because I like baseball. I'm allowed to be more complex than "durrrr I like this team because blah blah derp, and screw everyone else."
This year, a group of friends and I returned to Dodger Stadium's top deck for another series of special games. There I was with a Yankee hat and my Matt Kemp shirt, in a group of friends — some former New Yorkers — who are Dodger and Cardinals fans. This time I was ready with salty comebacks. But I didn't really have to use them. I was somehow surrounded by other Yankee/Dodger fans. The couple sitting next to me were also former New Yorkers who have adopted the Dodgers as their other team. A hard-core Yankee fan in front of me gave me a high-five when Alfonso Soriano scored, and the Dodger fans around me gave a respectful golf clap when Jeter was at bat. This was heavenly, compared to my experience in 2010.
As we know, with visibility comes progress. As more of us bi-leaguers express our affection for teams in both leagues during this postseason and into spring training, and into 2014 Opening Day, hopefully more of us will be accepted in the stands. Go Dodgers. Go Yankees. Go baseball.
MICHELLE GARCIA is The Advocate's managing editor. If she could somehow bleed Dodger-blue pinstripes, she would. Follow her @MzMichGarcia.