It took less than 24 hours.
I knew it would happen. I just knew. Because I've been here before. But down in Florida at a random mall in Coral Springs? That's a little surprising.
As you may know, a certain baseball team won a championship. The next afternoon, I happen to be at the Coral Square Mall in Coral Springs, Florida. Wearing a Boston Red Sox cap, I minded my own business while I exited the mall and a bald man decked out in Yankee regalia shouted out at me.
I was at least 20 feet away, but when I heard, "I can't believe you're wearing that hat in this mall," I figured he might be talking to me.
"Burn that hat! Burn that hat and throw it in the garbage. I can't believe you're wearing that thing!"
Did I have a sharp comeback? Of course not. I just said, "In good times and bad." Meaning I wear the hat no matter what. Lame. Lame. Lame. Then I just walked out the door. Once in the car, a comeback came to me. When he told me to throw the hat in the trash, I should have said, "Yeah, with your 2004 AL championship gear." Yeah!
Too bad I always think of good comebacks after the conversation.
It is funny because the moment I put on that cap in my apartment, a distant thought entered my mind envisioning just that scenario - an altercation or incident with a Yankee fan.
This has happened before. After the Yankees beat the Red Sox in the 1999 ALCS, the preppy son of a math teacher at my high school walked into one of my classes to brag about the Yankees. We're talking your stereotypical sweater-vest preppy kid. I was fuming. He wasn't even in the class. He just came to brag.
During my high school graduation while I was proceeding to my seat, a Yankee fan teacher of mine started ripping Pedro. It was more friendly ribbing, but I figured I mention it. Then in 2003 after the Aaron Boone game, I took numerous calls at the Globe from Yankee fans. There was nothing I could do but listen for a moment and then hang up on them.
After Game 3 in 2004 while walking to the T on Morrissey Boulevard, a black SUV pulled up alongside me. Mind you, it was around midnight and a strange vehicle stopping like that freaked me out. No, it wasn't to shoot me. It was a car full of Yankee fans who started hollering about a soon-to-be sweep of the "Red Sux."
Already at an all-time low as a baseball fan, I was on the Green Line that same night when another group of Yankee fans decided to roll up and down the train to get in everyone's faces, including mine. Luckily, their stop came just seconds after they reached me, so I was spared (somewhat.)
After that 5-game sweep of the Red Sox in Fenway in 2006, a Yankee fan stranger started talking smack to me in a bar. I just rolled my eyes. He was clearly drunk. Rhode Island is the front-running Yankee fan capital of the world. A bunch of yahoos who root for the Yankees because they had an Italian player 50 years ago.
So yeah, I kind of expected it, even a 1,000 miles away from New York. Of course, these same morons were nowhere to be seen on October 20th, 2004. Or a week later that year. Nor did they come out in 2005 or in October, 2006. Where were they when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2007? I don't know. Strangely silent and absent. How about 2008? Only last year. Incognito.
But like worms crawling from the dirt after a child lifts a log or rats scurrying from a torn-down building, they swarm out from their hiding places to annoy and pester anyone who happens to walk by.
Of course any fan base is guilty of this to some extent. But no other fan base has ever approached me in the manner I described above. Not even Giants fans. There's just something about a high, high number of Yankee fans. While the Red Sox have plenty of idiotic meatheads with "Yankees Suck" t-shirts or myopic, Red Sox Nation-card holders who secretly wished the Sox were still lovable losers or cranky talk show callers who want Terry Francona fired after a two-game losing streak in May, Yankee fans are in a class of their own.
Not all, obviously. But most. 75 percent?
I wish I could find these people from the past, my tormentors. I wish I could have found those SUV people when their team blew a 3-0 lead. I wish I could find Preppy Boy or those scumbags on the T. But even if I did, I probably wouldn't say much. I'm not much of a trash-talker with strangers. I can't deal with strangers. I might be the worst person in the world at small talk. Instead, there has to be come Yankee fan version of me and there has to be a Red Sox fan version of the tormentors. I hope this Yankee fan receives similar treatment, just to equalize the karma, bring things back to a balance.
The guy today had a threatening smile on his face today, like he really expected me to start a bonfire right there. Why not smile? Your team just won. But what makes this person, or any person, talk smack to a stranger? What's the point? I could do the same to him. He probably likes the New York Knicks, and as much as the Yankees crush the Red Sox in titles, the Celtics crush the Knicks. Or what about the Jets? Or Giants? They beat the Pats, sure, but they suck right now.
I could do it.
Instead, I'll just wait for the next incident. Another addition to the story collection, a collection almost as thick as a dictionary. And when I (and all other Boston fans) have the upper-hand again, I won't even bother finding this guy. By then, he'll surely have already crawled back under his log.