Now that the regular season has concluded and the playoffs are about to begin, you're going to notice a lot of new Yankees fans suddenly showing up around the office.
You'll realize this when Hal From Accounting saunters in at 9:00 9:15 with a Yankees cap awkwardly affixed to his skull and a big smile on his face. Just 45 minutes earlier, Hal was frantically searching for the hat in his closet—he literally thanked God when it finally announced its presence beneath his lucky Train "Drops of Jupiter Tour '06" T-shirt.
He wears this hat for the commute to work, but mostly it's for those 60 or so steps that separate the key-card entrance from the cramped cubicle he's given his life to since 2003.
He shoots over to the break room, where he pours a fresh cup of coffee into the World Series champion mug he purchased from MLB.com last Nov. 4. He takes a sip then recites—to no one in particular—something about A-Rod's OPS that he read on ESPN.com the previous morning.
He heads over to his desk, where the first order of business is to pick out a Nick Swisher screensaver to replace his ironic The Situation screensaver that replaced his Derek Jeter screensaver last December.
Yes, make no mistake, Hal From Accounting is excited to watch baseball again. More specifically, he's excited to be a winner again. The way Hal looks at it, there's no reason why the fate of the 2010 Yankees will be any different than that of the 2009 Yankees.
And that's when you'll realize: Hal From Accounting is more excited about watching the Yankees this week than you are.
How can that be? You're the true fan! You went 162-deep with the team this season, even stayed up for all those West Coast games when John Flaherty and Ken Singleton didn't even try to hide their contest to see who could put you to sleep first. You sat through 59 combined starts from A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez—dear Jesus, did you hear me?! I said 59 combined starts!—because you knew a game like Wednesday's ALDS opener against the Minnesota Twins may be on the other end of all that pain.
But you know something that Hal From Accounting could never know, something that five innings of that one Subway Series game he watched in June never could have told him.
The Yankees are ripe to be picked off. It's the dirty little secret that the true Yankee fan doesn't want to admit even if he knows it's true.
The starting rotation is in tatters. The lineup looks haggard. Even the great Mariano may not be himself. 90 percent in baseball is about timing; who gets hot at the time of year when it matters most.
The Yankees are 30-31 since Aug. 1. They just kicked away home-field advantage through the ALCS for no good reason.
You would love to be as blissfully ignorant as Hal From Accounting, but you know too much.
Even still, you hold out hope, because you're a fan, and that's what you do. You think back to 2000, when the Yankees fell apart in September only to snap back into form when the playoffs began. "There's a precedent," you'll say, and you might even believe your own words.
But then your eyes will drift back to Hal's cubicle, where the sounds of "Empire State of Mind" being played on repeat cut into you like a freight train running through the middle of your head.
The song's the same. But everything else feels different.
Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.
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