SCHADENFREUDE (shahd-n-froi-duh) def. Satisfaction or pleasure felt at another’s misfortune. From German SCHADEN “damage” and FREUDE “joy”
There is a type of this psychological phenomenon specific to fans of the New York Metropolitan baseball club that many of us are familiar with and that the more forthcoming (and possibly emotionally healthy) of us will admit to: MET FAN SCHADENFREUDE – that particular type of delight that comes from that special combination of a Mets’ victory coinciding with a Yankees’ loss.
I think of Bob Murphy and his “Happy Recap” and Howie Rose’s “Put it in the books!” and I think: classy, classic, celebratory words.
I hear John Sterling’s “The Yankees win! The-e-e-uh Yankees w-i-i-i-i-n!” and I think: elementary school playground taunt.
Is it me? Do I fall into that particular category of Mets fan that, as I have heard it put, counts it a “good day” if the Mets win and a “great day” if the Mets win AND the Yankees lose? Can I not have the good grace and gentility to wish bon chance to our beloved team’s crosstown rivals? Have I not evolved spiritually to the point where I can easily separate the fortunes or misfortunes of my favorite team from whatever fate befalls the crew from the Bronx? Perhaps not.
As devotees of the Orange and Blue, we have had to deal with the almost perpetual in-your-face superiority of the Pinstriped Pounders who occupy a space across the river from Queens and in the consciousness of the typical Gothamite baseball fan. And it’s not just us. The musical “Damn Yankees” was written from the perspective of a Washington Senators fan, yet another demographic that had to deal with the maddening, seemingly perennial success of the Bronx Bunch.
Are we jealous? Of course! But there is more to it than that. We don’t necessarily begrudge any fan his exultation when his team achieves the goal to which all teams aspire, but we look for a modicum of class to be inherent in the celebratory process. Is it not enough to claim the crown of “champion” without having to rub it in to those of us whose appointed avatars of athletic greatness fell short? Can we not be left to lick the wounds of our disappointment with some dignity? WILL YOU STOP WAVING THOSE DAMN PENNANTS AND JETER JERSEYS IN OUR FACES?!
As I write this, the Yankees are coming off series losses to the Red Sox and Detroit Tigers to open the season. The Tigers are now as the Yankees were then. They have a lineup replete with big time smashers that lead even casual observers to think that it is only a matter of time, in any given game, before they have had their way with whatever pitcher is charged with the daunting task of retiring them. And the Tigers did not merely defeat the Yanks those games, they seemed to be toying with them, letting them get a bit close, and then pulling farther ahead in a way that looked almost effortless.
If those were games involving the Mets, I’d be cringing and hoping for either a miracle or at least a mercifully quick resolution. But because the Yankees were the opponent, I watched with smug satisfaction as the primary object of my baseball envy got swatted about like badminton birdie. Would I care even half as much if it were the Angels or White Sox who were the recipients of this type of man-handling? Doubtful.
There is another type of Mets and Yankees fan I’ve heard of, though I am not entirely sure that they are not merely the stuff of legend: the so-called “New York baseball fan” who roots for both franchises, if not equally, then at least in part. Personally, I find this difficult to believe, because if one were at heart a Yankee fan, the flaunting of the tradition, the many, many championships, and the constant use of the word “dynasty” to describe the various historical eras of success would leave no room and no need for an “auxiliary” object of adoration. If one were a Mets fan at heart, it would be inconceivable to willingly allow them to share the spotlight with a team that appears to hog it way too much anyway.
If this season develops the way it appears to be headed, and the Yankees are pushed to the back of the line for post-season glory, I will make my best effort not to engage in unsportsmanlike schadenfreude at their fate. After all, I have nothing against the players or the organization, per se, and have genuine admiration for members of their current roster (e.g. Mariano, Jeter) for their grace and excellence. But as a Mets fan, I know too well the feeling of having to settle for whatever small satisfaction could be gleaned statistically or otherwise from yet another season out of the spotlight. Frankly, I’m tired of doing so and would just as soon not have to share whatever genuine glory may lay down the road. If this means that I need to evolve more as a person and a sports fan, so be it. I’m still doing it wearing a Mets hat.