Whether you love them or hate them, I’ll always be a fan of the New York Yankees. It wasn’t a conscious choice; it was decades of watching Yankees games with my grandparents. If it was baseball season, and there was a Yankees game on, my grandparents were watching it. Yankees fandom seemed the logical path. It was a family affair.
In the interest of full disclosure, I went through a traitorous period of time in the mid-80s when I rooted for the Mets. I had a crush on Lenny Dykstra (I know, I know, you’re laughing at me), and when the Mets won the World Series I was on top of the world and loving Lenny, while my family was suffering through a brutal time in Yankees history.
I left baseball behind for a few years when I went away to college. As a student at Arizona State University, we had plenty of guys on campus to root for. Including the football players who’d come to our apartment to drink, but couldn’t take me up on the offer to do bong hits during the season.
Next thing I knew, sports had taken a backseat to drugs and mental illness. I was lost. I wasn’t watching games or keeping track of standings. Sports weren’t on my mind at all. For a couple years, there was little on my mind other than reeling from the initial psychotic symptoms of bipolar disorder and an obsession to escape them through drugs.
Then there was a glimmer of hope in the darkness of a life filled with nothing. It was 1995, and I was working at a direct mail publishing company in Stamford, Connecticut. When March Madness rolled around we all filled out our pool entries for the NCAA tournament. The UConn women’s team was compelling, Rebecca Lobo and Jennifer Rizzotti were kicking ass. During the final game against Tennessee I was sitting in my room, watching the game, smoking joints and cigarettes. It was a nail biter, but UConn won! The girls won it all!
Sports were back. Having an emotional investment in a team makes a person experience joy and heartache and everything in between. I needed that sort of excitement. It helped me feel real and alive.
In 1996, I was struggling mightily to stay out of the mental hospital. It was baseball season, and the Yankees had done well and were headed to the postseason. The NBA season was on the horizon. Since I lived in Las Vegas without one single solitary friend, I watched a lot of television. Or gambled. Or ate too much. That was my life.
I was in the mental hospital when the Yankees won the pennant race, and I had an upcoming trip to Connecticut which would get me there for the World Series. I wouldn’t be going to any games, but I’d be with people who bled blue for the Yanks.
I was discharged and ended up back in the hospital directly before the trip. I wore my Yankees cap and paced the hallway, worried about the Series. They just had to win. If not for me, for my grandparents. Oh, they’d been waiting years and years for a World Series win.
Walt (my doctor) and I discussed the ramifications of the Series. He didn’t want me to go home to Milford, because I truly needed to be in the hospital. I was severely depressed. We talked about the rapid cycling nature of my bipolar disorder. I wouldn’t be deterred from the trip.
I told Walt, “Look, if the Yankees don’t win, I’m going to kill myself.”
He gave me a look and said, “You’re going to kill yourself if the Yankees lose?”
“That’s right,” I replied, nodding my head. “I need to go home tomorrow for the rest of the Series. In Connecticut.”
“You think you can handle it?” He asked.
“Yes,” I answered. “I swear, everything will be great.”
“Okay,” he got up to walk away.
“Will you root for the Yankees for me?” I asked.
“Yes, Chris,” he said, smiling. “I will root for the Yankees to keep you alive.”
When I arrived the next day at my grandparents’ house I was depressed. I kept sleeping; it’s all I wanted to do. I cried quite a bit and thought about death. The night of the final game of the World Series, I was sleeping. I’d watched the first few innings and couldn’t stay awake. I went upstairs and fell asleep.
Then my Uncle Bobby was shaking me awake, telling me the Yankees had won! With a burst of excitement I ran downstairs to hug my grandparents and celebrate.
Within two days I was acutely suicidal, and when I called Walt he told me to either check myself into a hospital in Connecticut or fly home immediately and admit myself there. He told me I couldn’t kill myself - the Yankees won.
I flew home to Las Vegas the next day and was immediately readmitted to the hospital for severe depression. The only positive thing I could think of was the start of the NBA season that week. Then mania took over and I decided to keep living a little longer, if just to see what happened next.