Confessions of a She-Fan

CONFESSIONS OF A SHE-FAN

THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE
WITH THE NEW YORK YANKEES

JANE HELLER

For Bruce Gelfand, My Friend and Coach

Contents

Title Page
Dedication
CONFESSIONS OF A SHE-FAN
Prologue August 6, 2007
Book One: you broke my heart
Week 1 April 2, 2007
Week 2 April 9, 2007
Week 3 April 16, 2007
Week 4  April 23, 2007
Week 5 April 30, 2007
Week 6 May 7, 2007
Week 7 May 14, 2007
Week 8 May 21, 2007
Week 9 May 28, 2007
Week 10 June 4, 2007
Week 11 June 11, 2007
Week 12 June 18, 2007
Week 13 June 25, 2007
Week 14 July 2, 2007
Week 15 July 9, 2007
Week 16 July 16, 2007
Week 17 July 23, 2007
Book Two: but I Still love you
Week 17 Continued
Week 18 July 30, 2007
Week 19 August 6, 2007
Week 20 August 13, 2007
Week 21 August 20, 2007
Week 22 August 27, 2007
Week 23 September 3, 2007
Week 24 September 10, 2007
Book Three: for better of worse
Week 25 September 17, 2007
Week 26 September 24, 2007
Week 27 October 1, 2007
ALDS: Game One October 4, 2007
ALDS: Game Two October 5, 2007
ALDS: Game Three October 7, 2007
ALDS: Game Four October 8, 2007
Week 29 October 15, 2007
Week 30 October 22, 2007
Week 31 October 30, 2007
Epilogue February 14, 2008
Index
Acknowledgments
Copyright

A-Rod's eyes are the color of pistachio
. I know this because I am staring straight into them right now. He and I are sharing a moment. Time is standing still. It feels as if there is nobody in the packed restaurant but the two of us, and I am dizzy, light-headed.

I try to steady myself, but he is larger than life in his blue jeans and green-striped polo shirt—not one of those 'roid guys with their cartoon muscles and huge, pimply heads, but “cut,” as they say at the gym. Ripped. Sculpted. And the skin on his face is so smooth, without even the slightest stubble. I wonder if he gets it waxed.

I sip my Pinot Noir, set my glass down on the table, and moisten my lips before speaking his name.

His name. Oops. Which one should I use? A-Rod? Alex? Al? (Well, that is what his old high school buddy and current teammate Doug Mientkiewicz calls him.)

I will go with Al. I like the sound of it. It is charmingly blue-collar for aman with a $252 million contract.

On this August evening, we are in Toronto—the same city where he was photographed in May with that busty but rather butch-looking blonde … the same city where he nearly incited a brawl when he shouted “Hah!” or “Mine!”or “I got it!” as he was heading to third base and caused the Blue Jays' Howie Clark to drop the ball. So much history here, but tonight it is all about us, about our being together at Spuntini, a favorite ristorante of Joe Torre's that is only
minutes from our hotel. Al and I are staying at the Park Hyatt in the trendy Yorkville neighborhood, as are all the Yankees, and we—

Okay.

He and I are not
together
together in Toronto. He is here because the Yankees are playing a three-game series against the Jays, and I am here because I am writing a book about whether or not I am a loyal Yankee fan. We have never met, let alone shared any “moments.” It is my less-than-cut husband Michael who is sitting across the table from me, winding his Capellini Funghi around his fork, oblivious to the fact that we are in the presence of greatness. A-Rod, having stepped out from the private room where Torre is hosting a dinner, is merely walking past us on his way to the men's room.

“Can you follow him in there?” I whisper to Michael, to whom I have been married for 15 years. He claims to be a Yankee fan, but he was born and raised in Connecticut, a state that harbors Red Sox fans, so I am never 100 percent sure. Still, he came along with me on this 2-month odyssey, during which I am following the Yankees to every city and every game, and he seems to be enjoying himself. At least, he was.

He looks up from his pasta. “Run that by me again?”

I nod in the direction of the men's room. “That was A-Rod. He's taking a leak. Can you go in there and—”

“And what?” he says, fully engaged now and not in a good way.

“Just go in there after him and play it by ear.”

“Play what by ear?”

“You know.”

“Forget about it.”

“Why?

“You want me to check out how big it is and you're asking me why?”

“Maybe it's not big. Maybe it's really tiny. Maybe that's why he's so insecure.”

Michael shakes his head as if I am insane and resumes eating.

“Look,” I say, leaning in closer, “it's not like I'm asking you to give him a blow job. I just want you to follow him in there and strike up a conversation, tell him it's fantastic that he's leading the majors in homers and RBIs. Or act like you don't recognize him and talk about the weather or whatever it is men talk about in there.”

“Men don't talk about anything in there.”

“Ever?”

“No.”

“Can't you make an exception? I need material for my book—a funny anecdote, a little story, something. I promised the publisher.”

“I'm not going in there.”


Come on!
Where's your sense of fun? Of adventure?”

“Not in that bathroom.” Michael stabs his fork at a stray strand of pasta. “If you want to talk to him so badly, go in there yourself.”

“You're so passive.” This is the worst thing I can say to him.

“Oh, calm down.” This is the worst thing he can say to me.

“I can't believe we're in the middle of a foreign country and you won't help me.”

“We're in Canada, not Afghanistan.”

“The point is I could lose this book contract if I don't get access to the players. We'll be homeless.”

“Stop it.”

“One simple favor. Please. If you really love me, you'll—”

A-Rod passes our table on his way back to dinner with Joe and the boys. I smile sweetly when it appears that he will look in my direction, but he does not. He faces forward without so much as a glance during his second lap through the restaurant. In an instant, he is gone.

“Great.” I sink into my chair. “Another missed opportunity to meet a Yankee and write about it.”

“You can write about how you had a fight with your husband.”

“I didn't need to leave home for that.”

The Yankees always start slow. Offense takes a while to come around,
especially ours. It's cold out there. The ball doesn't travel very well.
You can't really say that to the media because it sounds like an excuse,
but it's true. This team will score aton of runs, and by the end of the
year, we'll be right where we need to be.

A MEMBER OF THE 2007 YANKEES

It is Monday, Opening Day
. I am beyond excited that the baseball season is finally here, that the Yankees are finally here. They are the love of my life.

I missed them so much during the long, cold, winter months. Okay, I live in Santa Barbara, California, so the winter months are not that cold. Still, I am always aching for news of them during the off-season, never mind actual video images of their pinstripes, and April can't come soon enough. Opening Day is about Possibility and Hope and Maybe This Year. It is better than Christmas. Better than birthdays. Better than sex. I will get to my husband in a second.

And yet even as I can't wait for the first pitch, I am dreading it, too. My Yankees have been picked by many sportswriters to win it all in 2007, but what if we don't make it past the ALDS like last year? What if we don't get to the postseason? What if we can't even beat the pathetic Devil Rays today? Open your heart to a baseball team and you're liable to get it broken.

Before you say I am working myself up for no good reason, I will give you a good reason: Joe Torre is sending Carl Pavano to the mound as our Opening
Day starter. Carl Fucking Pavano. The same guy who has not pitched in 643 days following a string of injuries that included a sore butt. The same guy who cracked up his Porsche and his ribs and neglected to tell anybody in the Yankees organization. The same guy who is so despised by his teammates that they papered his locker with the back covers of the New York tabloids that pictured him with the headline “Crash Test Dummy.”

Apparently, there is no one else to send to the mound today. Pettitte and Moose are not lined up to pitch, and Wang is on the DL with a strained hamstring. The rotation is not just thin; it is anorexic.

And to add to my sense of foreboding on this otherwise joyous occasion, I will not be able to watch the game on TV. Major League Baseball made an exclusive deal with DirecTV for the Extra Innings package that broadcasts out-of-market games, and since I have cable, not a satellite dish, I am shut out.

“I should boycott the whole season,” I announce to my husband as he is eating his Rice Krispies at 9:45 a.m. He is piling the cereal so high in the bowl that little Krispies are bouncing all over the floor. It is one of the many things he does that drive me nuts.

“We could get a dish,” he says. His name is Michael Forester. He has a silvery-gray mustache and beard with wispy head-hair to match, although there is not much head-hair to speak of anymore. I honestly think he gets balder every time I look. He wears glasses and is 6 feet tall and has the craggy appearance of a sailor or a photographer, both of which he is. He also has a soft, whispery voice that reminds everyone of Clint Eastwood's, and he is very quiet and even-tempered—the opposite of me. He once accused me of loving the Yankees more than I love him, and I scoffed at the notion. It is simply that he is the old ball and chain whose laundry I do, and the Yankees are, well, the Yankees.

“We can't get a dish,” I remind him. We live way up in the hills. We get not only the big-time Santa Anas but also Sundowner winds that whip through the canyons at night, especially in the spring and summer. A dish would not have a chance up here.

I disappear into my office and follow the game on my computer. Who am I kidding? I could never boycott baseball. Most of my women friends think it is peculiar—freakish, even—that Iam such a fan. They cannot fathom how I can get manicures and color my hair but would much rather talk about Johnny Damon than Jimmy Choo. They are still amazed that I declined an invitation to
a baby shower because the Yankees were playing the Red Sox and the game was on Fox. “Why can't you just TiVo it?” my friend Renee suggested. There was no way to explain, except to say that I would never attend a baby shower during a Yankees–Red Sox game, not even if the baby in question was my own.

Why baseball and not football or basketball? I love that there is a slow pace; the games are so leisurely, I can read a book or clean the house or check my e-mail and not miss much. I love that there is no time clock; a game lasts as long as it lasts. I love that there is a matchup between a pitcher and batter; it is a contest within a contest. I love that I can seethe players' faces; they are not hidden behind protective equipment. I love that the game is multifaceted; there is hitting and pitching and running and fielding. I love that the athletes are such a mixed bag of characters; they are wily veterans and unripe kids and everything in between. And I love that I can understand it; I don't have to be a math genius to figure out the rules. Come to think of it, there is nothing I don't love about baseball, except that it ends every fall.

Today's game starts at 10:00 a.m. here on the West Coast. I am a writer of novels—13 romantic comedies that have sold to Hollywood and provided me with a healthy income but have yet to be made into movies. I am supposed to be working on a new novel, but instead I procrastinate. I sit in front of my computer and “watch” the game as well as post entries on a Yankees blog. I have a macho screen name on the blog—I am known as Bronx Bad Ass—because I noticed that women who call themselves things like Yankee Princess are either disparaged or dismissed. Everybody on the blog assumes I am a guy, and I get a kick out of it when they answer my posts with “Listen, dude.” Today, we are all trying to outdo each other with our insulting remarks about Pavano, the general consensus being that he has “shit the bed.”

Carl only goes 4½ innings, allowing five runs (four earned), but the Yanks beat the Devil Rays 9–5, thanks in part to A-Rod's two-run homer.

I feel much better with our first victory under my belt. I allow myself to relax, to smile, to look forward to the rest of the day. When the Yankees win, I have a sense that all is right with the world. I have never been good at losing, although as a tennis player I was not very good at winning. I had a killer forehand but was not a killer myself. I would make it to the finals of tournaments, only to fold. As a Yankee fan, I never fold.

The second game of the series against Tampa Bay on the 4th is rained out,
but the third on the 5th results in a 7–6 loss in what is supposed to be Pettitte's triumphant return to the Bronx. The Yankees commit three errors, three wild pitches, and a passed ball. I tell myself it takes a few days to iron out the kinks, that there is no cause for concern. I am just glad I am able to watch the games on TV now. Major League Baseball and the cable companies made a deal after all. I am not being shut out.

The Yankees open a weekend series against the Orioles, and it turns out that there may be cause for concern. Mussina is a dud in Friday night's loss, and Damon sits out the game with a strained right calf.

Igawa gives up seven runs in his major league debut on Saturday, and Matsui goes on the DL with a strained hamstring. A pattern is emerging already—every starter will pitch badly and every position player will get injured—and I don't like it. A-Rod hits two more homers, including a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth that wins the game. I can only hope his homer thing is a pattern, too.

He goes deep again in Sunday's game, but our rookie starter, Darrell Rasner, is so shaky that Pettitte has to pitch in relief, and the Yankees lose the game and the series to the Orioles.
The Orioles
. Come on.

I know, I know. It is only the end of the first week of the season. But I am slightly uneasy, skittish. I am yelling derogatory things at the TV when Michael and I watch the games together, forcing him to withdraw into his sailing magazines. He used to get a kick out of how “spirited” a fan I was. Now he looks at me with bewilderment.

“I thought you couldn't wait for the season to start,” he says as the O's congratulate each other on the field.

“I couldn't,” I say, giving Kevin Millar the finger.

“Then why do you seem so miserable?”

I suppose this is where I should just flat-out admit that the quality of my days and nights is significantly influenced by whether the Yankees win or lose. Which is another way of saying that I can't bear it when they lose. Which is another way of saying that I want them to win every game—and not in tight pitchers' duels; I prefer blowouts.

But I didn't always have such nutty expectations. I used to view baseball as a simple, innocent pleasure. My father died of a brain tumor when I was 6, so our house was not a cheery place for a child—except when my two grandpas came over on Sunday afternoons to pick up the paternal slack. They would settle into their chairs in the den, light up their La Primadora cigars, watch Yankee games on our black-and-white Zenith TV, and teach my older sister Susan and me how to keep score with our pencils and pads. Mickey Mantle would hit a home run and everybody would clap, and suddenly the atmosphere was festive instead of funereal. For those few hours I could forget that I was the only kid in first grade whose daddy was absent on Parents' Day. For those few hours I could block out all the grownups' scary, mysterious whispers about hospitals and seizures and cancer. For those few hours I could parrot the funny words I heard on TV—
bunt and chin music
and
safety squeeze
—and be pals with Grandpa Lou and Grandpa Max. Who cared that I had absolutely no idea what the words meant? Baseball made me happy. The Yankees made me happy. They were something to hang on to, to believe in.

I know people hate the “Evil Empire” because they always win and always spend money and always grab headlines. To me they are not evil; they are royalty. They continue to provide a kind of No-Sadness Zone where the skies are bluer and the grass is greener—an escape—but the pinstripes also symbolize excellence and achievement and brilliance. When the Yankees win, I have this notion that their brilliance somehow rubs off on me.

AL EAST STANDINGS/APRIL 8
TEAM
W
L
PCT
GB
TORONTO
3
2
.600
—
BOSTON
3
3
.500
0.5
NEW YORK
2
3
.400
1.0
TAMPA BAY
2
3
.400
1.0
BALTIMORE
2
4
.333
1.5

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