Metro: A Yankees fan roaming Center City


I was paid by Metro to parade around a rainy Center City Philadelphia last Wednesday wearing a Yankees hat, ahead of their World Series matchup with the Phillies, who won that first battle.

Diane Allman took a second glance at the only piece of Yankees memorabilia for sale at the Moell’s at 16th and Chestnut streets, turning up her nose at the Derek Jeter shirt. [Source]

See how the clip appeared in print here, and check that Thursday New York edition, which ran the experience of a reporter who dressed as a Phillies fan in Manhattan.

It’s one of those experiences that remind you why freelance writing can be a sweet gig. Below some background and extras from the story.

How seriously fans take their teams, particularly in the big and rugged East Coast cities, is a question that is often asked, so the Metro staff wanted to find out for themselves. I got this e-mail forwarded to me from my editor that preceding afternoon:

We’ve got Brayden to go out in Phillies gear tomorrow and record his experience. But to fully conduct the experiment, we need someone to wear Yankees stuff in Philly and see how much more vicious one city is vs. the other. …can you set that up for tomorrow morning?

After a few minutes of thought, I took the gig.

Other Yankees hats in Center City

Yankees hats aren’t an unknown in Center City, often on the heads of young black men, Kevin Savage told me during my experiment.

“It’s a style from that culture,” Savage, 45 of South Philly, said.

Savage himself had a Yankees hat on his head as he stood on Broad Street just above Sansom Street.

“I’m actually a Phillies fan,” Savage said. “But the Yankees hat is a look.”

Contemporary young urban black culture has been strongly influenced by a hip-hop scene that was brought to international fame by rappers like Jay-Z, Nas and Biggie, all of whom were known to have a Yankees hat on their head.

“I won’t wear the hat this weekend,” said Savage, who works at the Chickies and Petes near the stadiums. “Because I’d have problems if I did.”

Dink Mills, 22 of Germantown, said he wears a New York hat because he has so many family members and friends there. It has nothing to do with the series.

“The game?” he said. “I don’t care about that at all.”

Despite the rain and a slow first 20 minutes, it turned out to be a fine experience. I put the hat, which I borrowed from a friend, on my head at Dilworth Plaza of City Hall, walked through and down South Broad Street and down Walnut Street to Rittenhouse Square, back up 19th Street and east down Market Street back toward City Hall.

In the drizzle and mist from 11 a.m. to just before 1 p.m., I got lots of glances and rolled eyes, but I didn’t have so much as a word said to me the first half hour I walked around City Hall.

My editor asked that I remain “a perfect gentleman,” instigating nothing, so I went on that way. Walking down the Avenue of the Arts, just about 11:30 a.m., a bicyclist whizzed by on the street, gave a small yelp that caused me to turn and there he flipped me the middle finger.

I had a story.

My counterpart in New York was sticking to Manhattan — more people and perceived to be less passionate about the Yankees than in perhaps the Bronx — so I did the same and remained in a compact central portion of Center City, rather than South Philly or the Northeast where I’d expect quite more of a response, though fewer street walkers.

Despite what I expected, it was around Rittenhouse Square — the ritzy Center City nighborhood — where I got the most response. A young woman dressed in Phillies gear,  pair of 30-somethings, two construction workers and others who didn’t even make it into my story.

After any audible or clear response to me, I engaged them, telling them I was a reporter trying to gauge the response from Philadelphians.

I’d explain it was happening in New York, too, and, usually after a laugh, these people would tell me what more vicious things they would have done if…the circumstances were different.

The lesson? Big cities are never as violent against opposing teams as people suggest, particularly in their most cosmopolitan hearts and certainly on a rainy weekday morning.

Still, I feel like I need to display my Philly love after parading around town in their competition’s garb, so I’ll share this actually fantastic Philly Version of Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” has been making the rounds on the local blogosphere.

Written and performed by local cat NeeKo and featuring a hot hook from a Deana Marie, it’s getting a lot of play for its timely Phillies reference. Like 35 seconds in: “Yeah I’m talking REPEAT, heat like Hamels/utterly amazing, Charlie wrote the manual.”

While I don’t think nearly as good, you might also check out more Phillies-centric tracks “Unstoppablee (Guerilladelphia)” by Kuf Knots from the Hustle and “Phillies Go Hard” by Jakk Frost and featuring a hook by Freeway. In an entirely different genre, how about a Phillies polka created the last time the Phillies and Yankees met in the World Series — 1950.

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