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.)
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“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?”
“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?”