My response to Matthew Berry, five years later

In February 2010, I was a freshman at Boston College. One day, ESPN fantasy “expert” Matthew Berry came to give a talk on campus. I attended, because it was something to do and a chance to meet a semi-famous person from ESPN.

The esteemed Matthew Berry walked into the room to a nice round of applause, and the first thing he said was:

Hi, I’m Matthew Berry, and I hate the Yankees.

Everyone exploded into applause, with hoots and hollers and loud clapping all around. This is what happens when you go to school in Boston. Meanwhile, I sat and looked at the floor.

Berry spoke for an hour. I don’t remember much of what he said, other than the fact that he came across as a big, pretentious jerk.

At the end of his talk, he opened it up for questions. I immediately raised my hand. I was the first person to ask a question.

So I asked: Why do you hate the Yankees?

He gave a rambling answer about their arrogance and their bloated payroll and then he moved on.

The next day, while I was sitting in class, I got multiple texts from friends. Go to! So I did, and wouldn’t you know it, Matthew Berry wrote a column about why he hates the Yankees. He even referenced me!

After I gave my talk, during the Q-and-A session a young man asked me, very simply, why I hated the Yankees.

I was famous!

And then I read the column. And I don’t want to be hyperbolic here, but it was the worst thing I’ve ever read. Here’s the link, if you’re so inclined to read it. And even though it’s been five years, I’d like to go through some of Matthew Berry’s comments, line-by-line. Consider this my official response:

Hi Matt, Jeff here. OK, so you start out by saying that one time you went to a Yankee game and sat near some bratty kids with no parents in sight.

Apparently, they were just dumped there or something. I know baseball is America’s pastime and kids are cute, but let me tell you something, and I’m not gonna lie. These kids were superannoying.

I’m sorry you had to deal with that, I really am. I’ve sat near annoying people in New York and also Boston and Los Angeles and Philadelphia and lots of other places.

My life philosophy is generally people are good, but sometimes when I go to sporting events and look around at the loud, drunk, annoying people around me, I start to reconsider. So I know where you’re coming from.

They were discussing foul balls and bragging to one another about how many they had. This one had five, this one had three, a third had four, so on and so on.

Well, bragging is never good, but that’s what kids do sometimes. Then what did they do?

“Throw us a ball! Give us a ball! Hey, mister, we want a ball! Give us a ball! Hey, throw the ball here! We want a ball! Please, mister, throw us a ball!” On and on they went. “Hey, mister! Mister! MISTER! GIVE US A BALL!”

If you think that is annoying to read, imagine it being screamed during the game, constantly, inning after inning, directly behind you.

I mean, yes, it’s fairly annoying. Sometimes annoying things happen.

As the Blue Jays ran off the field, first baseman Carlos Delgado tossed the ball up into the stands. Many folks went for it, but I came down with it.

NICE. You did it, Matt. The kids wanted a ball, but you got one first.

The kids started yelling. “Can we have the ball? Hey, mister, we want that ball. Give us the ball! We’ve been yelling,” and so on. My father-in-law turned to me and said, “If you want to give the kids the ball, that’s OK.”

So what was your response?

Hells. No.

Wait, why?

My father-in-law was a softy. I’m not. And I was not going to give up Joe’s first foul ball in 65 years so some spoiled brats could add it to their collection. Just because you beg for something in an annoying manner does not mean your efforts are rewarded. Learned that while dating in high school.

OH HO HO, good one Matt.

Look, you got the ball, you deserve to keep it. You have no obligation to give it to the kids. In fact, if I was in your position, I’d definitely keep the ball because I’ve never caught one at a baseball game, and it’s one of my lifelong dreams.

But you can expect to hear some backlash. That’s just the way it goes.

Some wise guy a few rows behind the kids started a chant. “Give-the-kid-the-ball. Give-the-kid-the-ball.” It picked up steam. “Give! The Kid! The Ball! Give! The Kid! The Ball!” Soon, the whole section was chanting this. GIVE! THE KID! THE BALL! GIVE! THE KID! THE BALL!

Then the food bombardment started. Peanuts, hot dogs and beer were thrown at us. Repeatedly. Security was nowhere to be found. We asked folks to stop, which made it worse. We tried to ignore it. But the food, beer and insults kept coming.

Order was finally restored a half-inning later when the first-base umpire came over and handed the kids some balls. The kids bragged to us. “Told you we’d get a ball, a–hole.”

Look, I imagine this whole ordeal was annoying, but surely you wouldn’t hate on an entire organization because of a few loud, annoying, borderline-abusive kids?

And that’s why I hate the Yankees.

Wait, what? You hate the Yankees because you sat near some bratty kids at a game once? You, sir, are applying some supremely broad strokes based on your interaction with, what, three kids? They’re CHILDREN!

It’s not just the team and the way it is run. It’s not just its owner or the cheating, performance-enhancing drug users A-Rod and Andy Pettitte.

It’s the collective known as Yankee Nation.

There’s no such thing as Yankees Nation. I don’t know what you’re talking about. There is a Red Sox Nation, everyone knows that. It’s literally on the team website.

I came away from that game with a hatred of the Yankees and was absolute in this belief: Yankees fans are subhuman.

Well, that’s not very nice.

You mean to tell me that because these kids were annoying, you can safely assume that all Yankee fans, everywhere, are SUBHUMAN?

Everything the Yankees stand for was represented during that half-inning. Like the kids, they are spoiled and demanding and see things only from their self-indulgent point of view. Like the adults, they act out when they don’t get their way.

If by ‘act out’ you mean ‘sign some high-priced free agents’, then yeah, the Yankees do act out. But as I’ve written before – that, sir, is an attack on competence. The Yankees have money to spend, and the rules allow them spend their money to acquire players, and lots of times those players help the team win. That’s a great thing! Other teams have the money and choose not to spend it. Why wouldn’t you do everything in your power to improve your odds of winning?

By the way, the Yankees penchant for ‘acting out’ has probably hurt them more than anything. Yes, they’ve been successful, but they have also been burdened with lots of bloated contacts and an inept farm system.

What should have been a great day with my father-in-law was ruined.

Good, I’m glad it was.

Although my hatred is still alive, it has softened. Since that game, I’ve met Yankees fans who are reasonable, intelligent people, including friends, colleagues, friends of colleagues and colleagues of friends. 

And colleagues of friends of colleagues. And colleagues of my third cousin’s second wife. And colleagues of my friend’s twice-removed grandmother’s plumber.

You trying to no disrespect us? You sound like Jon Stewart doing a Donald Trump impression:

No disrespect here. Yankee fans are spoiled, entitled, self-indulgent dirtbags. Some, I assume, are good people. But most are scum of the earth. No disrespect.

But I’d say your best line of all comes at the end, the final flourish to let us know that Yankee fans can, in fact, be decent:

I’m even dating a woman who is a Yankees fan.

NICE. Way to subtly let us know that you’re off the market.

So, yeah, let me repeat again that your whole argument about hating the Yankees is based on a bad interaction with some kids at a baseball game. And a handful of other jerks who sat near you. Except you can’t just make assumptions on an entire group of people like that. That’s just wrong, Matt! And it really hurts my feelings, because I like to think that I am an intelligent, capable, not subhuman Yankee fan.

There are good people and bad people in this world. Some like the Yankees, some don’t. Some like the Milwaukee Brewers, and some don’t. And look, Matt, you can hate the Yankees all you want, because there are certainly legitimate reasons to hate the Yankees. Yours just happens to be wrong.

Your column in 2010 is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever read. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone is now dumber for reading it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.


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