(Illustration by Eric Shansby)

  April 19

I am an avid and knowledgeable baseball fan. But I am not a good baseball fan. A good baseball fan is, first and foremost, in love with the game itself. He might have a favorite team for which he will root unequivocally and with passion, but what he really is rooting for is the thrill of competition. A good baseball fan watches the postseason even if his team is not in it. Though he may never admit this even to himself, a good baseball fan might rather see his team lose in a nail-biting, well-played game than slog through a blowout, even if it is his team doing the blowing out.

Me, I want the Yankees to win every game 137-1. (I reluctantly award the loser a run only because 137-0 is a little unrealistic.) On the day that my team is mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, I flick off both the TV and the baseball switch in my brain for the remainder of the season, and turn my attention to things that matter to me more, for example, soup.

I am not proud of any of this, especially since it perpetuates the stereotype of the Ugly Yankees Fan. All I can say is, many stereotypes have a whiff of truth. It’s why they are stereotypes. The true Yankees fan never objected to the grumpy, sour-grapes contention that we were “the best team money can buy.” We are proud of that. Hey, we paid fair and square. Nobody gave us nuttin’.

In other parts of life, I am a different person. I actually can feel shame. I feed stray cats. I have given $20 to a homeless person if his or her plea seems particularly dire and sincere. Because there is so much scarcity around us, I feel it a sin to squander money. But I also want the Yankees to pay $60 trillion for a great player, if that’s what it takes to put us over the top. I say “us” with no sense of embarrassment. I am a Yankees fan.

I am writing this column on Opening Day of the 2018 baseball season. It is 3 in the afternoon. The Yankees are about to take the field. I want them to score 70 runs in the first inning so my anxieties quiet and I can turn off the game and take a nap.

I trace this lamentable situation to the fact that I started caring about baseball in 1960, when I was 9. That year and four following years, the Yankees were in the World Series. It seemed an immutable fact of life, instilled in me at the most impressionable age. Ages 9 through 12, child psychologists say, is when children solidify their abstract and concrete sense of fairness. The seemingly permanent excellence of the Yankees was illusory, but I didn’t know that. For me, their pre-eminence was simply a naive childhood fact, the way a kid just knows his ma is the beautifullest lady in the whole wide world. The fact that the Yankees would stink mightily in 1965 and not even get within smelling distance of another World Series for another 11 years came as a ghastly awakening, like realizing, at 15, that your ma in fact kind of resembles Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. I’d undergone a stunning dismantling of my sense of cosmic fairness.

You take this personally. You want revenge against everyone and everything. This feeling not only never dissipates, it amplifies. Eventually, after nursing your grievances for half a century, you might find yourself, regrettably but necessarily, semi-rooting for the opposing star catcher to suffer a fully extruded explosive hernia as he squats.

As I say, I am a bad fan.

Okay, the Yankees Opening Day game has just ended. They defeated the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-1. Their newly acquired superstar, outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, for whom they paid $60 trillion, hit two home runs, scored three runs and drove in four. If he continues at that rate, he will finish the season with 324 home runs, 486 runs scored and 648 runs batted in.

Not bad. But I expect a little more.