After a black kid was killed by young Italian-Americans in Bensonhurst in 1989, and recalling the similar Howard Beach incident of 1986, Pete Hamill put an article in the New York Post called “The Lesson of Howard Beach Was Lost on the Punks of Guidoville,” filled with Hamill’s ripe evocations of the local lingo, e.g., “den I slap huh in da truckin’ mout’, I mean, in the mout’, cause dat’s all a trucking broad respects, a rap in da mout…”
Times have changed, thank God, and we are less inclined to exacerbate racial animosities in print. Baseball, however, still excites our animal spirits, especially as the Yankees have managed to find their way back into the World Series against a longtime, hated New York rival. So what if that rivalry is traditionally attached to the New York Mets? Blood ties reach across the boroughs, and the Yankees fan is encouraged to adopt the animosities of his brother (or, as Hamill might have put it, his brudder).
This morning the Post offers a long putdown of the Philadelphia “Frillies” and their fans. “Yankee fans have a message for the Phillies and their hometown,” it begins: “This ain’t Rocky, and the underdog won’t win!” (Boy, ain’t dat de trut’).
Characterizing the arrival of the National League champions by train as appropriate to “their second-class billing,” the Post enlists Real People to denounce Phillie fans as “thugs” (“You can’t go to a game without getting booze thrown at you”), Philadelphia as “a nothing city,” and cheese steak sandwiches as “overcooked.” Elsewhere they defame the Phillie Phanatic mascot (“Philadelphia lost its last ounce of respectability, Yankee fans said yesterday”) and, momentarily unmindful of the need to include all New Yorkers in their rabble-rousing, quote a fan who thinks “Mr. Met is even better than that — and Mr. Met is retarded.”
The Daily News, as is its habit, is somewhat gentler, referring to the competing city as “Silly-delphia,” and the Phanatic as “a green, pig-nosed monster.” They also use the clever expedient of quoting the insults of equally partisan Phillie fans, which may have been chosen for their insufficiency (“We actually say ‘excuse me’ when we bump into each other in the street,” “We have four PBS channels,” etc), and which the author answers with unflattering comparisons of local museums, celebrities, parades, and zoos.
The Times did its thing in its usual style yesterday, with deep historical analysis of the last Yankees-Phillies series in 1950. Though the paper duly records the lopsidedness of the matchup (“Seldom have pitchers dominated a Series as that Yankees staff did”), no insults are included.
Game One starts at Yankee Stadium tonight at 7:57 p.m.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 27, 2009