She-Fan in NY Times: “Are YOU A Crazy Fan Too?”

As I started counting the hours (literally) to the Yankees’ season opener tomorrow, it occurred to me that my “crazy” fandom might be just that: crazy. Are all diehard fans certifiably nuts?
I thought I’d better check. After all, I’d been eating chicken two nights in a row to keep the Yankees’ winning streak going, even though the streak only applied to spring training games and even though it’s turkey burgers that are my usual lucky food.
I contacted a shrink in LA and asked the question: Is it healthy to root for a baseball team?
The result of my musings can be found in today’s New York Times sports section. Have a look and then tell me: Has anyone ever called you crazy for rooting – hard – for your team?


A Thin Line Between Psychosis and Fandom

Published: April 4, 2009

The Yankees kick off their 2009 season on Monday against theOrioles in Baltimore, so I fished my lucky Property of Yankees T-shirt out of the dresser drawer, positioned the green chair in the living room for maximum TV viewing and cleared my calendar of social obligations that might conflict with important games. (Yes, all the games are important, but if I were forced to skip Yankees-Royals I could manage it. And sure, there is TiVo, but I prefer to watch games as they happen.)

Keep up with the latest news on The Times’s baseball blog.

Go to the Bats Blog »




“What are you doing?” my husband said when he overheard me on the phone, wriggling out of an important business meeting scheduled for April 16.

“That’s opening day at the new Stadium,” I said. “I’ll be watching the game.”

“You’re nuts,” he said. “You do realize that, right?”

I was taken aback, of course, but chuckled good-naturedly and conceded that all die-hard fans are a bit nutty.

“I thought you were going to approach this season differently,” he said. “Without the craziness.”

I suppose he was referring to my superstition of eating nothing but turkey burgers as long as the Yankees are on a winning streak; about my tendency to grind my teeth at night if they lose more than two games in a row; about my insistence on defending Alex Rodriguez from his detractors, including my 92-year-old mother. Surely, there is nothing crazy about any of that.

Or is there? I had always considered myself passionate as opposed to possessed, but maybe my fandom had crossed over into an actual mental disorder. And maybe I was not alone.

I contacted Margery Shelton, a therapist in private practice in Los Angeles, and asked her if it is unhealthy to root for a baseball team.

“It depends on how it plays out in your life,” she said. “It can be a positive thing that gives you a sense of community, which is something many Americans are seeking in this day and age.”

Absolutely. I am a member of the Yankees Universe. My heart swells every time I chant the roll call along with the Bleacher Creatures.

“On the other hand, it can be a negative thing if you allow your self-esteem to be tied to a team’s successes and failures,” Shelton said.

Oh. I had to admit that I feel brilliant when the Yankees succeed and worthless when they do not.

“So you’re saying that being a fan might indicate some kind of psychosis?” I said.

“Not in and of itself,” she replied. “But if you’re using baseball as an escape — the way some people use drinking — then it could be a problem.”

I swallowed hard. My husband often describes me as a Yankeeholic.

“Let me cut to the chase,” I said. “Are there warning signs — red flags that I and other fans should look out for?”

“Yes,” she said. “Are you neglecting your work?”

Duh. Day games are on at 10 a.m. here in California. There is no way to get any work done.

“Are you neglecting your family?”

O.K., so I skipped my second cousin’s bar mitzvah because the Yankees were holding a news conference to introduce Mark Teixeira and it was being shown live on ESPN.

“Are you neglecting your diet and hygiene?”

My face flamed. I often forget to brush my teeth when games go into extra innings.

“Bottom line?” Shelton said. “If you’re neglecting all of the most fundamental areas of your life because of your team, it’s a problem.”

I gulped. “What should I do? Quit them cold turkey?”

“Not necessarily,” she said. “First, find other enjoyable ways to fill your time.”

“I suppose I could take up golf,” I said. “Or gardening.” Yeah, right.

“The important thing is to get your life back into balance,” she said. “If you can do that on your own? Great. If not? You should see a professional.”

My thoughts wandered to Monday’s game against the O’s. Will C. C. be shelled in his Yankees debut? Will Cody Ransom commit three errors? Will Jorge fail to throw out a single base runner?


“Sorry,” I said. “Do you have any time next week?”

Jane Heller is the author of “Confessions of a She-Fan: The Course of True Love with the New York Yankees.”



  1. letsgoyankees

    I wouldn’t worry Jane. You did publish a book out of the deal. You need to remember that you’re making an income out of your obsession.
    My family thinks I’m nuts for going on Yankees blogs all the time and posting my opinions. Maybe I am. Better this than alcohol, right?
    And whenever the Yankees lose, I become depressed until their next game.

  2. tobymergler

    Great piece Jane. The part about fandom contributing to a sense of community is particularly on point. That’s probably the best thing about being a sports fan, as they serve as a shortcut to connection among strangers. You can introduce me to anyone and if they knew just a little about my favorite team or I knew a little about theirs, the first 20 minutes of conversation is taken care of.
    Overall, this ability to access a sense of community makes it seem even stranger when “die-hards” insist of watching games alone. Eschewing the connections just doesn’t make sense to me.
    – Toby

  3. tobymergler

    Great piece Jane. The part about fandom contributing to a sense of community is particularly on point. That’s probably the best thing about being a sports fan, as they serve as a shortcut to connection among strangers. You can introduce me to anyone and if they knew just a little about my favorite team or I knew a little about theirs, the first 20 minutes of conversation is taken care of.
    Overall, this ability to access a sense of community makes it seem even stranger when “die-hards” insist of watching games alone. Eschewing the connections just doesn’t make sense to me.
    – Toby

  4. Jane Heller

    I like to think it was a decade of writing novels that helped me get a deal writing about being a Yankee fan, Letsgoyankees.:)

    I agree, Toby, and I feel it keenly being a Yankee fan in California. I recently joined a group called Evil Empire West – Yankee fans in the LA area who get together to watch games. There is, indeed, a shortcut when you met someone new. Well said.

    Glad you liked it and can relate, Sarah!

  5. tobymergler

    Glad to hear it Jane. I guess that’s one of the good things about being a Yankees fan, you can find like-minded folks everywhere. If I moved out to LA and looked for fellow Nats fans, I imagine I’d be SOL for sure.

    Also, I just saw your post over on my blog. Thank you for visiting. If you are really fascinated by fantasy sports and haven’t played before, you should check out a few of my columns from last year – I wrote an entire series for’s fantasy page focusing on what it’s like playing fantasy for the first time. I think you’d like it. Either way, if you ever want to talk about fantasy or learn more about the subject, I’m your guy.
    – Toby

  6. Jane Heller

    I bet you’d find like-minded fans out here, Toby. That’s what’s so great about this whole blogging thing. I happened on the group of Yankee fans strictly through the internet. And thanks for the offer about fantasy tutoring!

  7. cheshirecat9

    Thanks for this article Jane. It made me feel a little better. A couple of people have called me crazy recently as I am excited about opening day.
    Just real quickly I wanted to say that I was at the new Yankee Stadium on Friday and I loved it. It may have been built out of taxpayers money and corruption, but it is beautiful. And there are a lot of other improvements. Everyone, from the guy who patted me down upon entering to the food vendors was very friendly. Much friendlier then the old park. The food vendors’ uniforms were pretty snazzy. They are dark navy blue with pinstripes. The museum is cool and there are great photos of old Yankees throughout the Stadium. The food selection is 100% better. A bottle of Coors Light is $9 and with all the high tech screens and advertising the field does have a slight Times Squarish feel to it. But overall I think that it is magnificent and there are going to be a lot of magical moments there.

  8. PAUL

    It’s a good thing you print your op-eds for the Times in your blog otherwise I wouldn’t know they were there. Since I get the thing delivered, I generally don’t feel the need to browse the website as well. (In my considered opinion, you’re quite normal as far as fans go; and believe me when I say I know about mental problems.)

  9. Jane Heller

    I disagree, Jeff and Bern. It won’t be the end of the world if CC gets creamed on Monday. It’ll be the end of the galaxy! Actually, I’m tamping down my expectations. That’s part of being nuts – to tell yourself everything will go wrong and then be surprised when it doesn’t.

    Thanks for your eye-witness report from the stadium, Cheshirecat. It’s great to hear from someone who’s actually been there. I know there are problems and glitches, but I’m really excited to go. Magical moments indeed.

  10. Jane Heller

    The column was in the national edition, Paul, but I guess it got bumped from the later NY editions. Anyhow, I’m glad I’m not alone in my sanity. Or, rather, I’m glad I have company in my insanity!

  11. flairforthedramatic

    I haven’t been called crazy because of my love for the Yanks, but I have been called a loser a couple times. Seriously, since when is it loser-ish to be a die-hard fan? And yet, fellas who slave over football and will gain 20 pounds making an impression in their couch every Sunday watching it are what? Cool? Lol.. I think it’s more of a female thing though. When females take sports too seriously it’s like.. weird or something I guess.
    – V [ ]

  12. Jane Heller

    You’re right, V. How come all those couch potato guys who watch football all day aren’t called crazy?

  13. Lissi

    I am pretty sure you have nothing to worry about and if you do then so do I. I am pretty sure I may have a problem but I like it so I don’t see a need to fix it. 🙂 Just don’t throw food at your husband this year and you should be fine. 😉

  14. contractyear

    Hi, Jane,

    First of all, thanks for posting a comment on my blog: I really appreciate it. Glad to know someone else intelligent enough to write a book about baseball.

    Are you crazy? Hell, no! I’ve cancelled dinners, bookgroup attendance, even going to work when the A’s are playing (they’re my drug of choice). I’m retired now so I don’t have to worry so much about the latter, although I have skipped out on things like doing my taxes, the laundry, parties, etc. if someone offers me a ticket to an A’s game. I have a share in a full season group with killer seats, but that only gets me about 15 games so I jump at the chance to go to a game on the spur of the moment.

    It must be frustrating for you to be located in LaLa land with your beloved Yanks so far away. I lived in Yankee and (Boo!) Red Sox Territory for most of my life, so I know how it feels. Keep up with your psychosis and know that there are lots of us suffering from the same affliction–or should I say addiction. It’s just that my drug carries a different name. Go A’s!

  15. crzblue2

    Great column Jane! Yes, I’ve been called crazy many times. Got to get back to booking hotel for the games in San Diego against my beloved Dodgers then is to do my taxes which I have been neglecting because of many trips to Spring Training in AZ, WBC games, exhibition games at Dodger stadium, blogging, finding information about who makes the team…

  16. levelboss

    i think extreme sports fandom is a type of co-dependency.. a sports fan’s happiness and validation comes from how well their team is doing.. and superstitiously eating a chicken dish every night might be symptomatic behavior 😉

  17. Jane Heller

    I’m with you, Melissa. I know I have a problem, but I don’t want to do anything about it. LOL!

    Yes, let’s keep our psychoses going and root for our teams AND write books about them, Bee. I look forward to reading yours.

    LOL, Erin. I certainly have used baseball as an excuse to get out of things I don’t want to do. You hit it on the nose.

    Emma, watching baseball instead of paying taxes is a sign of serious craziness. I love it!

    I’ll certainly check out your blog, Metsgo.

    Co-dependent as charged, Levelboss. I think there is an element of that. But I also agree with the therapist that sports fandom provides a connection to a community of other like-minded people. With all the disconnect going on these days, that’s not a bad thing at all.

  18. mptalk

    I am a crazy fan at certain points like if Tex hits a walk-off homer I am not just going to say yayI am going to cheer like hell. If you are one of those fans that likes to break your television every time they throw a ball wll you are crazy and you are probably running out of money too.
    Monument Park Talk
    2009: The Year of the Yankee

  19. Alex

    You will know you are crazy when everything in your house is Yankees Licensed from the grass to the fence to the toilets to the meat you can buy in the gift shop. And, if you are truly crazy you will be buried in a Yankees Casket.

  20. levelboss

    just a question, Jane, as long as we’re on the subject of psychology and such.. do you get a certain satisfaction when you see the comment numbers go to 20 and higher?

    your comment numbers i think average to about 25 or so for each post – do you feel validated when you see such numbers? i’m thinking it’s akin to the number of ‘friends’ people have on facebook or myspace – an artificial validation of sorts for some

  21. heartruss

    I like to think that I am not obsessed with the Dodgers but everyone thinks differently. All I talk about is the Dodgers. The screensavers on all the computers are Dodger related. No one can turn their backs or their background turns into something Dodger blue. My vacation was planned to coincide with opening day. All my nice clothes are Dodger wear. I read everything I can about them. I write a Dodger blog. This year I have full season tickets in the front row in field section where the only thing that separates me from Dodger heaven is the bumper pads. I have a good view of Manny. Last year I bought this mini pack and that mini pack plus extra tickets so that I had several seats per game. All my friends looked at me as though I was ticketmaster. This year I have one seat so far. Well, maybe two.
    I’m going to try to convince you that the Dodgers could be your second favorite team.

  22. crazy19canuck

    Yes, I’ve cancelled meetings/dates/dinners…because of games! I am the one who wouldn’t think twice about dressing crazy at a game. I love my team, and I’m proud to show it…win or lose. If that makes me crazy, I’m good with it!

  23. jonnnnnn

    Hey, what’s up! I am commenting to invite you to a content I am starting for the 2009 MLB season. It’s going to be a pick ’em contest. Every Friday all us bloggers who are competing will make our picks for the slate of MLB games, and we’ll keep running totals and see who comes out on top. Should be fun, it’s only once a week so it shouldn’t be hard to keep up, let me know if you’re interested!

  24. Jane Heller

    Nick, I’ve never thrown anything at the TV and broken it, but I’ve wanted to at times. And yeah, I cheer like hell!

    So true, Julia.

    Alex, I’m not there yet. In fact, I really don’t own a lot of licensed “stuff.” I have a few pieces of memorabilia (a ball signed by Mantle, a menu signed by the Babe, some photos and giveaways) but that’s it. I’m seriously considering a purchase of the Mantle bathrobe though.

    Levelboss, all any writer wants is to have readers. I’ve been turning out books for over a decade, and I’ve saved every fan letter and email because they mean so much to me. It’s very validating to know that people are being entertained. I’m on Facebook too, but that seems to be more about quantity than quality.

    You’re so hooked, Russ. You show all the warning signs. LOL. And you don’t have to try and convince me to make the Dodgers my second team. They already are.

    So you dress crazy at games, Canuck? Have you ever painted your face in the Rays colors and logo? I’m curious because I’ve always wanted to show up at a Yankees game with my face painted in pinstripes but I’ve never had the nerve. Also, I’m not a very good artist!

  25. Jane Heller

    Thanks for the invitation, Jonnnnn. I’m not very good at predictions though.

    Only you know if you’ve crossed over yet, Neal. But judging by all those photos on your blog, I think maybe the answer is yes!

  26. AJRoxMyWhiteSox

    Great article, Jane. I’m definitely the crazy fan. I was at the Padres FanFest today when I found out that the Sox-Royals game was postponed until Tuesday, and my face dropped. Ask Kaybee. 🙂 When I got home, I HAD to go online to see if this was for real. And when I found out it was, I shed a tear. I shed a tear for Opening Day! My mom laughed at my, and I could tell my dad was rolling his eyes when I was on the phone with him. In any case, I like having baseball as my escape. After all, there’s only so much law school I can take at a time. 🙂

  27. Jane Heller

    Oh, Jen. I’m so sorry your opening day was postponed. What a bummer. I can understand why your face dropped. But I hope you had a great time at FanFest. I’ll check your blog to see if you posted about it.

  28. levelboss

    oops, i reread my last comment, and it sounds so harsh.. Jane, i apologize if that comment made it seem that reader response to you was just an ego-trip – it’s not.. i know that you really care about your readers, because you know so many people from mlblogs in detail and you take the time to read every one of the comments and respond in a personal way 🙂 (just bad phrasing on my part)

  29. crazy19canuck

    No I haven’t! Haven’t had the chance either! But that is something that I would do. And I’d be loving the reactions of other fans too! Especially if I wasn’t at the Trop! 🙂

  30. jimmy27nyy

    Hey, Jane …

    Excellent article !!!
    I think all fans are the same; I know that’s the case for me … During the baseball season the 162 Yankee games are my number one priority … Whenever I’m not at home or don’t have access to a T.V., I aways keep updated on the score of the games anyway I can – usually by radio – or just asking people for an update throughout the day … It certainly helps that the Yes Network has two encores of each game … Now, watching a game live, and, then, also watching the two encores may be a little excessive — but I have done just that more than a few times [at least the encores are only two and a half hours long — less time than the live games] !!!
    Enjoy the opening game, Jane !!!
    “Go Yankees” !!!
    — Jimmy [27NYY], “BY&L”

  31. Jane Heller

    No worries, Levelboss. I always enjoy your comments. They’re never run-of-the-mill.

    Let me know when you go to a game with face paint, Canuck. It will be so photo worthy.

    Jimmy, if I got the YES Network I’d watch the game plus the encores too. I guess I’m lucky I only get one showing or I’d never leave the house! GO YANKS!

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