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Wednesday, September 28, 2011
I'll take New York's devoted female fans any day

By Amanda Rykoff

With ESPN The Magazine dedicating a full issue to the city of Boston, espnW asks: What city has the most dedicated female fans? The debate kicks off with cases for Beantown and the Big Apple.

I've heard that Pittsburgh has the best female football fans. The Redskins recently introduced the Women of Washington Redskins, a new fan club for women. The loyalty and passion demonstrated by the female Phillies fans at Baseball 101 this summer impressed me. I've met incredibly smart and devoted female fans of all teams and sports on Twitter. But for my money, give me the amazing female sports fans of New York.

The two things I love the most about living in New York are the passion and energy of the city. The sports fans here mirror those qualities. Especially the women.

Yankees, Mets, Giants, Knicks, Jets, Rangers and, yes, even Islanders. The women I've met who root for these teams have always impressed me. And it's not just because I'm one of them, though I'd like to think I'm a good example of the strong, smart, knowledgeable fans who populate this great city.

Am I horrified by the pink hats and T-shirts that are often on display at Yankees home games? Of course. But sadly, pink sports paraphernalia exists everywhere, as much as I'd like it all to go away (and the same for any bedazzled shirts).

Was I surprised to see that New York doesn't even rank in the top six cities for licensed merchandise sold by Alyssa Milano's Touch by AM line for women? Yes. But that doesn't mean that the women of New York don't represent their teams. And yes, I am aware that Boston is No. 1 on the Touch by AM sales list. Good for them. I'm still taking New York.

Amanda Rykoff
Stefanie Gordon and Amanda Rykoff hit Chase Field in Arizona as part of their 2010 Yankees road trip.

Give me Stefanie Gordon, whom I met through Twitter and who has become one of my close friends, both in and out of Yankee Stadium. She's a lifelong Yankees fan and has had season tickets for the Yankees for the past five seasons since she moved back to the New York area. Her toughest conundrum before any Yankees game is whether to wear her Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera jersey. Stef, a longtime Rangers devotee, is also one of the biggest hockey nuts I know.

Stef is just one of the many smart and passionate Yankees fans I've met over the years. She's taught even me about the team during the many games we've watched together. I love listening to some of the great stories passed down from her grandfather and father, the two men from whom she learned the game. If you're wondering about her bona fides, her grandfather was at Don Larsen's perfect game during the 1956 World Series.

"We moved to Florida when I was 13, and we moved my dad's dad down from New Jersey as well since we were his only family," Gordon said. "Once I started driving, I loved to pick him up for family dinners. This ensured quality time with him, and he would tell me stories about the Yankees and all the games he used to go to. Stories of Joe Gordon -- his favorite player -- Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and others.

"When we moved to Florida, the Yankees' spring training took place in Fort Lauderdale," Gordon continued. "My dad would take myself and both of my grandfathers to the field when they would just begin spring training. We would go and watch batting practice and fielding drills for hours."

Most of my girlfriends who are Yankees fans (including Stefanie) have season tickets, but even the most devoted among us can't go to all 81 games. So far this season, I've been to 38 games, home and away. Many take an annual spring training trip to Tampa. We take at least one Yankees road trip. In 2010, it was Los Angeles and Phoenix. This season we went to Chicago and Minnesota. As soon as the new schedule comes out, we start planning the next one. Washington, D.C., here we come in 2012. We female fans take our Yankees fandom seriously.

This devotion to a New York team isn't limited to the Bronx. Though the Mets have had some tough times lately, the female fans I know stick with the team even when they're struggling.

Taryn Cooper, a blogger and podcast host, has a full 81-game season-ticket plan for the Mets at Citi Field. She attends between 30 and 40 games per year, home and on the road. She barters or sells many of her tickets so that she can take at least one road trip with her husband. This year it was to Arlington, Texas, for the Mets-at-Rangers interleague series.

Taryn's devotion to the Mets runs so deep, she even met her husband through her team allegiance.

"I can say that I am married as a result of rooting for the Mets," Cooper said. "My husband -- Ed Leyro, also a Mets blogger for Studious Metsimus -- and I met on Facebook early in 2009. We met at a game and started dating when he asked me, 'What do you do in the offseason?' That's how you know a true baseball fan: when you look at the seasons as 'during' and 'offseason'!

"We got married on May 5, 2010, and our two witnesses were our friends whom we also met on Facebook -- big Mets fans in their own right," Cooper continued. "The most important part of our day, after [the ceremony at] City Hall, was finding a place that would serve margaritas for Cinco de Mayo and turn on the Mets game for us. Sadly, they lost to the Cincinnati Reds that afternoon."

During the "offseason," Taryn roots for the New York Rangers and the New York Jets, but her main devotion is to the Amazin's.

"I did a business trip to India," Cooper said, recalling her former career in finance. "They wanted to send me back in April. I told them that was no good for me, because baseball season started then. They didn't think I was serious, 'til they realized I wasn't laughing!"

On the football side, my friend Naomi Lindower, aka Sports Yenta, is as devoted a Jets fan as I've ever met. A lifelong fan of Gang Green and a season-ticket holder, Naomi tries not to miss any Jets home games. Sometimes her family obligations as a devoted mother get in the way of her obsession.

"I go to all games, including preseason," Lindower said. "Last year I missed two games, one for vacation and one for my daughter's parents' weekend at college. Thank God this year, parents' weekend is during the bye week!"

Naomi also attends at least two road games per year, often driving by herself to Buffalo. Venturing into enemy territory takes a thick skin, and Lindower's got one.

"Last year, in Buffalo, some kids in their late teens, early 20s were tailgating, and one of them said, 'Hey Jets b----!'" Lindower recalled. "My response was, 'Does your mother know you talk like that, and if I was your mother, I would slap you upside the head!' His friends laughed and said, 'She got you good' and I walked on."

She's also been spat at and even pushed, but she wouldn't have it any other way, if that's what it takes to represent her team in hostile territory.

Lindower is quick to point out that not all of her road experiences are negative ones.

"I know lovely people who are Bills and Patriots fans," Lindower said. "In fact, when I go to Patriots games, I meet my friend for something to eat beforehand, and she will always stand up for me and not let other Patriots fans insult me. I do not want it to appear as if I believe all opposing fans are mean. Every fan base has idiots."

What I love most about the female sports fans in New York is that while we may not root for the same teams, we still love the sport. Taryn and I took a day trip together in early September for a random Orioles-Blue Jays game at Camden Yards. We both love that ballpark and had the day off. Mets and Yankees fans can, in fact, be friends.

Our love of sports is a bond that goes beyond the jerseys.