What makes a real Yankees fan? Love, life or sacrifice?

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 06: Derek Jeter
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 06: Derek Jeter /

What makes a Yankees fan? Love of a team only goes so far. Sometimes it’s life.

How did you become a fan of your team? Was it geographic? Based on your parents? When you were young, were your friends Yankees fans?

I can assure you that none of the above were the motivating factor for me. I grew up in Nebraska, and in the days when TV consisted of three channels. No cable, no YES network. On a good day, our rabbit ears picked up a fourth, PBS. And on Saturdays in the fall we watched the Big Red. No baseball was allowed.

Fast forward a decade. A new husband and his best friend. A new state — New Jersey.

My husband’s best friend had access to a Jersey shore home. I remember coming back from the beach with his wife to see the guys in the backyard in a baby pool drinking beer and watching who else but the New York Yankees.

Who were these Yankees? I had heard much about them but being a football-loving, Midwestern girl, I didn’t know a ton.

Everyone recognizes the names Ruth and Gehrig — DiMaggio, Mantle and Maris, even if you aren’t a fan of the Yanks. I actually read a book about Babe Ruth in high school. The championships. The Stadium in the Bronx with the unique frieze and Monument Park.

My new husband taught me much. His best friend, who was fanatical showed me the passion. The love of a new team. The love of new players. This I will never forget.

A day in the summer when we had our children in the pool at our home and my husband and I went in and out of the house taking turns watching the Yankees’ game and KNEW something special was going on. We looked at each other and just knew.

We came inside and watched together as David Wells threw a perfect game. I remember that look in my husband’s eyes. It was magical. It was US. The Yankees had become a part of everyday life.

There were the games in the Bronx. The games in Philly when we played interleague and the trip down Interstate 95 that was easier than to the city.

Notable, was the trip to The Stadium when we drove rather than take mass transit. My husband’s nickname was Wrong Way. We left, and in true Wrong Way form, he took the Deegan north rather than south.

I have no idea where all we were that night — I do remember an airport.  But a couple of hours and a sufficient amount of swear words later, we spotted the World Trade Center, lit up like a beacon to lost souls.

Would that bad experience stop us from going back? Of course not. We just didn’t drive again. Back to the train and subway.

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Being the parents of three young daughters, most of our family thought I had really lost it when I taught the girls to recite every Yankees’ player’s name. I’d say the first name and in perfect unison, them their last. DADA JEETA. But it was life. Normal for us.

The championships were the best, of course. Watching the Yankees dominate the late 90s and early 00s was truly amazing. In 2000 we attended the ticker tape parade. It was the last time we were in the World Trade Center that had led us out of the darkness so many years before. A beacon.

In 2002, we decided to move to my native state. Back to the prairie of Nebraska. How would that change us as fans?

Luckily, technology had progressed to the point where access was now available to the more than 4 TV channels. The YES network saved us. Life continued as before without the trips to the city to see the team in person.

Our new second home became Kansas City where we could take in a series when the Yankees were in town. A new tradition. More memories associated with the team our whole family adored.

Unfortunately, in 2009 my best friend and Yankees cohort was diagnosed with Lymphoma. A battle that Derek Jeter would have admired ensued. Cancer won. My husband passed away on June 7, 2011.

Life-changing. Life-altering. After laying him to rest in his native New Jersey, my daughters and I returned home and were mostly lost.

So what did we do on the very day we got home? Turned on the TV to the game, of course. We settled in with our luggage surrounding us and watched.

A certain shortstop for the Yankees had been stuck on 2999 hits for days. As we cheered for the man whose name the girls had so precisely recited so many years ago, it happened. DADA hit No. 3000 the only way he could — a home run.

Life. It knocks you down. That day, my daughters and I so needed a bright spot. Something to make us feel that we would get through. We yelled and cheered and jumped around after Derek’s accomplishment. We were happy. We needed it. Baseball and the Yankees provided it.

It could have been a choice for me to abandon the Yankees following the loss of my husband. Too many memories.

However, I have decided otherwise. I take comfort now in the thought that the tradition continues. I remember my late husband with each game I watch — and every article I write. Thank you, Henry Tamasi. I love you and this team. How I wish we could cheer this 2018 group together. But we are.

Next: Jabari Blash; more than a salary dump?

It’s life. And thank you for making it so very good.