A 1999 book by Dean Chadwin, called Those Damn Yankees: The Secret Life of America’s Greatest Franchise, introduced the world to the dark underbelly of Yankee fans at the height of the club’s late-1990s dynasty. Using the Yanks as his storytelling device, Chadwin explored the problems inherent in baseball economics, the way the team used its influence to secure the promise of a new stadium from then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani and of course, the way Yankee fans are utterly ruthless in their taunting. For those who attend the games and follow the team, the short tome didn’t break new ground, but Chadwin’s writing highlighting some of the more uncomfortable aspects of Yankee Stadium.
As a highlight of the book, Chadwin goes inside the bleachers. Then holding court in Section 39, the Bleacher Creature at Yankee Stadium was — and still is — ruthless. Those who wear the colors of an opposing team into that section can be prepared for nine innings of taunts. One part, though, garnered headlines. Chadwin explored the homophobic nature of the taunts, and in the middle of the book, he republished the Creature’s version of Y.M.C.A. The chorus replaces the Village People’s line with “Why are you gay?” and the rest of the verse isn’t much better. It’s laid out on page 45 of the book for all to see.
When the book came out, the media focused a bit on this version of the song but eventually let the issue drop. Recently, though, with a rash of high-profile anti-gay incidents and a video from the bleachers on YouTube, the bleachers’ version of this song came under fire. Gay rights activists were up in arms over the song, and the Yankees quickly responded. Security guards, the team said, would no longer tolerate this version of the song.
GLAAD issued a statement on this little brouhaha. “We reached out to the Yankees, and were extremely pleased with their reaction. Yankees spokesperson Alice McGillion told us ‘the Yankees have zero tolerance for this and any kind of abuse.’ She said that security in the bleacher sections of the stadium will warn fans, before Y.M.C.A. is played, that any type of homophobic abuse ‘will not be tolerated’ and she assured us that any fans who take part in this ugly bullying will be ejected from the game.”
The Yanks’ decision to put an end to this practice is, in my opinion, about a decade too late, but while the club turned a blind eye to this practice, so too did anyone who covered the team. I’ve known about this chant for years and never wrote about it. Team beat writers or sports columnists could have chosen to attack this song instead of moralizing for the umpteenth time about steroids. But they didn’t. Homophobia has no place in sports, and while the Yanks should be applauded for vowing to stop it, albeit years too late, at their stadium, fans should not remain silent about it either.