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Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Updated: May 31, 2:21 PM ET
Sounding like the enemy

By Bill Simmons
Page 2 columnist

Editor's Note: This column appears in the March 1 edition of ESPN The Magazine.

Something strange happened after Super Bowl XXXVIII. Apparently, I became a Yankee fan.

There weren't any overt signs. I didn't grow a wispy mustache. My IQ didn't drop 45 points. I wasn't buddies with anyone named Vinny or Joey Z. I didn't think Mattingly was a biblical figure. I wasn't dating anyone who chewed Jolly Ranchers and looked like Paula Jones.

Patriots fans
Are Patriots fans starting to become spoiled like Yankees fans?
But I sounded like a Yankee fan. At least that's what everyone was saying after my post-game column on ESPN.com. This was different than the first Super Bowl. Like most Patriots fans, I was more relieved than euphoric. That's what happens when your team improbably emerges as the favorite. You just hope they don't screw things up. But now I was thinking "big picture," even getting a little greedy.

Here's what I wrote: "You want to keep winning. You want to make history. You want everyone to remember this team, this particular group of guys. You want to protect your turf. Every time someone tries to come along and take it, you want to fight back. You won't lose. You can't lose." And then: "Anyone can win one championship. Few teams can keep coming back for more. And that's what I want -- for the Patriots to reach that point. I want true greatness. I want immortality."

I liked the column when it posted. Captured my feelings to a T. Then the e-mails started pouring in: hundreds and hundreds of them, mostly from Yankee fans, all saying the same things: Welcome to the club. Now you know how we feel. Do you realize you just described what it's like to be a Yankee fan?

NO FEAR
A-Rod's a Yankee. So what? The Sports Guy's not panicking. In fact, he's got 33 reasons for Red Sox fans to rejoice about the upcoming season.
After the 500th e-mail, I started to lose the sight in my right eye. My god, they were right. I read the column again. I read it three times. I read the offending passages. Made me sick to my stomach. I sounded like an insatiable bastard. I sounded like a Yankee fan. I mean, I sounded just like a Yankee fan. I felt like I had just inadvertently joined Al Qaeda.

I immediately called my father, who felt just like me: giddy about No. 2, hungry for more. I asked him if we were turning into Yankee fans. Was Bob Kraft a kinder, friendlier Steinbrenner? Was Brady our version of Jeter, the poster-boy superstar everyone envied? Would we become spoiled, lose any and all perspective, become obnoxious and overbearing? Would other football fans instinctively band against us? Was it possible -- just asking, but was it possible -- that Yankee fans weren't that bad, that we were just jealous of their good fortune? Dad thought about it for a second.

"I don't know," he said finally. "Yankee fans are pretty awful."

Aaron Boone
An Aaron Boone photo -- not the Sports Guy's favorite Christmas present.
As always, he was right. For instance, my Uncle Ricky is the resident Yankee fan in my family. He's my mom's brother, but we're pretty sure he was adopted. Anyway, he sent me a Christmas present this year, a framed "Curse of the Bambino" montage with pictures of Dent's home run, the ball rolling through Buckner's legs and Boone's homer against Wakefield. It was either funny or evil, depending on your mood. Merry Christmas. Right now it's sitting in my closet, next to my signed Buckner-Mookie baseball, another holiday gift from Uncle Ricky. These are the things Yankee fans do.

Here's my point: I would never do something like that. And that's the difference between Yankee fans and everyone else. They delight in tweaking their rivals, seeing other fans miserable, pushing everyone's buttons. They honestly believe that supporting a champion makes them better than everyone else. They are never happy, no matter how well the Yankees are doing. And they talk so much smack, you root against them almost as much as you root for your own team. Not only are they the resident bully, they like it that way, as their insufferable chest-thumping after the A-Rod trade proved once again.

One of my readers once compared rooting for the Yankees to rooting for the house in blackjack. We obviously have not reached that point with the Pats. If they capture 15 Super Bowls over the next 40 years, maybe things will change for me. Maybe winning isn't enough. Maybe you even get bored. Maybe you have to mess with everyone else just to stay interested.

In a weird way, I hope I never find out what it feels like.

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine, as well as one of the writers for "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on ABC