Before I talk about New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano and the boo-birds he received in Kansas City over the All-Star break, I want to share a little story about the one and only night I have ever been immortalized on the U.S. Cellular Field Jumbotron.
The day was July 28, 1999. It was a Wednesday night. My friend Mark and I had tickets to sit in the right field seats at Sox Park. The defending World Series champion Yankees were in town (and New York would win another title just three months later). The White Sox were struggling -- on their way to their third consecutive losing season.
Among the 22,523 in attendance that night, Mark and I were probably among the, oh, I'd say 4,000 people cheering for the White Sox. The ballpark was overrun with Yankee fans. With New York at the height of its late 1990s dynasty and New York fans at the height of their arrogance, it wasn't a comfortable feeling. When we sat down in our seats, we realized we had New York fans seated in front of us, in back of us, to our left and to our right. We both expected the Sox to lose (Andy Pettitte vs. Jim Parque? Ugh!), and I thought to myself, "Oh boy, it's gonna be a long night."
Much to our surprise, the White Sox took an early 2-0 lead against Pettitte, who believe it or not was the subject of trade rumors at the time. The lead didn't last long. When Scott Brosius hit a home run off Parque in the third inning, the taunting from the New York fans began in earnest. (BOOM! SCOTT BROSIUS! HOME RUN ******!) Quickly, the Yankees tied the game and we figured our fun was over. (HELL YEAH ******! WE'RE TIED UP NOW! WHOZ YOUR DADDY WHITE SOX?!)
Funny thing is, Pettitte was not himself. I don't know if he was distracted by the rumors or what, but he uncharacteristically couldn't get the ball over the plate on this night. He threw 90 pitches and only got 10 outs. New York manager Joe Torre went to his bullpen in the fourth inning with the Sox leading 3-2. (**** YOU ANDY! I HOPE WE TRADE YOUR ASS, YOU BUM!)
The Yankees brought in a steroid cheat by the name of Dan Naulty. You may have read about him recently in Sports Illustrated. (Excellent article, BTW.) Naulty got out of the fourth with no further damage, but he served up some serious batting practice in the fifth. Magglio Ordonez and Ray Durham homered. Even Mike "Slappy" Caruso and Craig Wilson were getting hits. The Sox scored six times and took a 9-2 lead into the sixth inning. (I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE **** IS WRONG WITH DIS YANKEE TEAM!)
The Yankees failed to score in their next at-bat. Suddenly, I looked around and realized Mark and I were the only people left in our section. Literally, the only people left. The Yankee fans, understanding their team was toast, were GONE. And it wasn't even the seventh inning.
So, when the seventh inning stretch rolled around and the "fan cam" was on the Jumbotron, we ended up making a cameo. It was the standard, "Look at these two idiots, they're the only two left in right field!" kind of shot. I looked over my right shoulder just in time to see us up there. It was funny. We laughed, enjoyed the rest of the 11-3 White Sox winner and headed for home.
Here's my point: Yankee fans don't know a damn thing about adversity. Not a damn thing. Their team is kicking people's asses most of the time, and on the rare occasion someone returns the favor, they won't hang around and take the pain. They'll tuck tail and head for the exits.
Now, back to Cano. In case you hadn't heard the backstory, Cano was the captain of the American League squad for Monday's Home Run Derby. He said he would select Kansas City's Billy Butler to participate in the event, then reneged and chose Prince Fielder, Mark Trumbo and Jose Bautista instead. Fielder won the event, and Cano was booed mercilessly and serenaded with chants of Butler's name by the Kansas City fans. So rattled was Cano that he failed to hit a single home run in the competition.
Big deal right? This is nothing new. Anyone who follows baseball remembers last year's Home Run Derby in Arizona. Fielder, who was with the Milwaukee Brewers at the time, selected teammate Rickie Weeks to participate instead of hometown hero Justin Upton. Diamondbacks fans didn't like it, and they let Fielder hear it. Fielder took his medicine and showed well, advancing into the second round before bowing out of the competition. He then hit a home run and won MVP honors in the All-Star Game. The booing he received was nothing more than a blip in the 24-hour news cycle.
The Cano booing? Well, this is another matter. The land of Twitter exploded with outrage over Kansas City's treatment of Cano. Apparently, Royals fans are "classless," "pathetic," "disgraceful" scumbags, and their fair city is not fit to host such an important event like the All-Star Game ever again.
What a bunch of bull. Royals fans did the same thing Diamondbacks fans did. I don't think any other fan base in baseball would have reacted any differently. They wanted to see their hometown guy participate. They didn't get that opportunity, they were pissed and they let the guy who made the decision hear about it. That's life.
You know the only real difference between this Cano situation and the Fielder situation? Cano plays for the Yankees. That's the difference. Now, it's a tragedy that poor "Robbie" was treated so harshly. You see, New York fans are used to winning everything. They are used to having half their roster in the All-Star Game. They are used to having their players treated like royalty on ESPN. How dare those damn Royals fans boo the best second baseman in baseball? Just who do they think they are?
Yankee fans don't have a clue what it's like to be Kansas City. They don't know what it's like to suck for five, 10, 20 years at a time. They don't know what it's like to have deserving players snubbed out of the All-Star Game. They don't know what it's like to have a homegrown star traded away for no other reason than money. They are the spoiled baby who always gets his bottle. They just don't get the disappointment Royals fans must have felt, because they are never the ones left disappointed.
Usually, when their team is getting beat 11-3, they can head for the exits early with the knowledge there will likely be a better result tomorrow. This time, there was no tucking tail. One of their own was getting booed ruthlessly on national television in a once-a-year event. They had to sit there and take it.
Yankee fans are usually the ones sitting there laughing while others fail. This time, it was "lowly" Kansas City's turn to laugh while a New York player failed. It was rare, rich and beautiful to watch. And Yankee faithful hated it.
Cry us a river, New York.