Every New York sports fan must be excited about this Subway Series matchup tonight at Citi Field between the Mets and the Yankees. Even so for the New York Mets fans that view the Yankees as their chief rival. The Subway Series has been an annual event since Major League Baseball introduced regular season interleague play in 1997. The old-timer fans will also tell you the Subway Series tag was applicable when the Dodgers and Giants called the five boroughs home too.
But what exactly is it like to be at a Subway Series game? Why does the Subway Series take on a whole different meaning? As someone who has been to eight Subway Series games in the past (out of 175 overall Mets games), I have that sense.
The most popular sport in New York is baseball, so it makes sense that the Subway Series is full of buzz, even when the Mets are losing.
The first Subway Series game I attended was in 2011 (I was 13). That year, the Mets started their rebuild under general manager Sandy Alderson and it was hard for the Mets to attract large crowds, unless it was their cross-town rivals, who were two years removed from their 2009 championship with their core still intact.
The most recent one was the 9/11 anniversary game last year in an emotionally charged atmosphere with the memory and the city’s resilience following that cowardly attack and superseding the game itself, yet the moment came with a World Series-like buzz.
As a Mets fan, I can tell you that the Subway Series gives Mets fans something to look forward to more because the Yankees have been winning more often than the Mets for many circumstances, from simplest ideas such as bragging rights, to high level games with playoff implications.
Getting to the games can be a doozy, with the 4 train and 7 train packed with standing Mets and Yankees fans, where you begin to feel the intensity and magnitude of the moment.
The game experience takes on another level. On one hand, I would wait in line for over an hour during the game just to order food. On the other, the buzz and energy were non-stop for three straight hours. I typically hear dueling chants of “Let’s Go Yankees” and “Yankees Suck” from the two fanbases when the Yankees are hitting, and I just took it in like it was no man’s business and let the sounds of the game come to me.
Both teams yield passionate fanbases that seek to hold them accountable for not winning. Winning championships in New York is the greatest reward, especially the World Series, which makes the Subway Series much more unique in terms of anticipation. There is more media attention devoted to the Mets and the Yankees than any other pair of teams around the city.
Just think of other huge sports areas across this country and compare baseball in New York for a minute. Pennsylvanian sports fans care more about their football teams than they do other sports, as the passionate fan bases of Penn State football, the Eagles, and the Steelers reflect that. In North Carolina, fans invest more energy into college basketball (specifically Duke and North Carolina) than they do about the Carolina Panthers and the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Lakers are more popular in Los Angeles than the Dodgers are. Same with the Bucks in Milwaukee over the Brewers now (thanks to someone named Giannis).
Even in New York, as the football Giants have four Super Bowl wins over the past 40 years, and as New York experienced Patrick Ewing’s Knicks go toe-to-toe with Michael Jordan’s Bulls in the 1990s, the baseball tradition in New York will never cease to exist if it lives in its dominant state.
This series that opens tonight carries more weight than other installments of this series because both teams are viewed as World Series contenders. It has been 20 years since you could say that about the Yankees and Mets.
With over 40,000 fans expected in Queens both tonight and tomorrow, I would encourage Mets fans, whether they attend the games, to salivate and enjoy this moment and to let the event, excitement, and experience come to them.