|The author ran the race disguised as a Yankee fan to see how Marathon fans and other runners would react. (BILL GREENE/GLOBE STAFF)|
Faux Yankee gets earful of Bronx cheers
Never have I been so thankful for a Yankees hat. Never again will I wear one.
For 26.2 miles yesterday, my white cap with blue brim kept the rain out of my face, and my Derek Jeter T-shirt announced to spectators and runners along the Boston Marathon route that I was one of the Evil Empire.
To be clear, I am a Red Sox fan, and my disguise was a social experiment: to see how an outsider is treated in Red Sox country during the biggest Boston sports event of the year.
The reaction, as expected, was fierce. Some of the words I heard I can't repeat. But there were also some diplomatic gestures.
I left my parents just off 495 South around 10 a.m. and walked to the starting line. A blue poncho hid my Jeter jersey but a few people stared at the "NY" on my cap as I made my way to the start. I met a gentleman from Montana who was more concerned with the weather and warming up than baseball loyalties. As we chatted, a few policemen talked among themselves while looking at me. So far, so good.
The first acknowledgment came at about Mile 1. As a gentleman passed me on the right, he said in a low voice, "Go Yankees." He was not wearing pinstripes, nor were any of the other hundreds of runners I saw on my way to Boston.
At Mile 2, a man named Hans wearing a Red Sox cap jogged up to my left and explained that four of the five highest-paid players in Major League Baseball are on the Yankees. Jeter, he said, was the only deserving one. A compliment, I think.
Passing a bar in Ashland, I was pelted with the familiar "Yankees suck!" chant for the first time. A group of five or six men sang in unison and laughed. I smiled back. Then a middle-aged man zoomed past me on the right, announcing that he refused to run behind a Yankee fan.
Until about Mile 20, I received the typical reactions; jeers outnumbered cheers, 4 to 1. Several runners commented that I was "brave." I stole a high-five or two from some kids before their fathers realized I had Yankees gear on.
Then the fun started. The Newton and Wellesley hills took a lot out of me, and after passing some drunk Red Sox fans at Boston College, I slowed and began to walk. Oh no.
Earlier in the race, if I needed to insulate myself, I could stay in the middle of the road. But with the route narrowing, it was proper to walk on the outside, where I had to grin and bear the insults. A couple told me they would never do it under any other circumstances, but they clapped and cheered. Another woman ran to greet me from her perch on the side of the road with a high-five. But it took some intoxicated fans in Brookline to get me running again.
Back on the right side, a kid was holding a penguin for runners to pat on the head, presumably for good luck. I reached out as I approached the penguin and he quickly snapped it back. No Yankees allowed. Then a husky fellow standing next to him reiterated that point, with unprintable profanity.
I picked up the pace as I passed, and it sounded to me as if he took off after me. Or maybe he just yelled louder.
I ran the last 2 miles, finishing in 4:13:50, a bit slower than my time last year.
Don't worry, it's the last Yankees apparel I will buy; tomorrow I'll give the hat and shirt to a friend at school who is an actual Yankees fan.
Boston again? Maybe, but never again in the colors of the dark side.