New Yorkers are divided into three categories: Yankees fans, Mets fans and foreigners. There is no room for neutrality when it comes to sports. And in the Big Apple, to talk about sports is to talk about baseball.

The city may have the biggest basketball (New York Knicks), hockey (New York Rangers) and football (New York Giants and the Jets) fan base in the world, but the passion New Yorkers feel for baseball surpasses even that. So, for anybody who sets foot in it, the only question is, where do you stand?

The Role of Baseball

NY Baseball

Personal feelings aside, and based on the cold statistics -- it all boils down to this: If you like prominence, the taste of victory and like to root for winners, you belong to the New York Yankees. If, on the other hand, you like fighting for every triumph and are not afraid to take defeat like a man, then you are one of the increasingly rare Mets fans.

The vast majority of foreigners visiting New York City have enormous difficulties learning the mechanics of baseball. Those who can get through its numerous rules (and their even more numerous exceptions), usually have to cope with a different problem: they find it mind-numbingly boring.

This is most because a quiet, four-hour game of baseball can't really compete against the nonstop 90-minute structure of most European games. It is also because of that cliché scene from countless films where the ball flies into the sky and disappears from sight (or better yet, destroys the counter which in turn showers the players with sparks) and the batter runs in slow motion to his third base. In reality, baseball is nothing like that.

The uninitiated tend to spend the first half hour furiously concentrated on the spectacle of the game (players spitting, making signs to one another, shaking their heads) that he's likely to miss that apparently insignificant move that turns the game around and earns the team some applause. That's when the uninitiated usually give up.

However, it is a good pastime that is worth the time and effort to understand, highly recommended for summer days.

Baseball 101

Rules Baseball

Baseball rules are too complex to detail in a few paragraphs, but we can define the structure of the game with a few broad strokes. It's nine people against nine other people, trying to score as many points (in this case, runs) as possible. The game is led by whichever team is batting at that moment (just look at the guy with the bat in his hand and you'll be looking at the game). The pitcher must send the ball towards the batter inside an imaginary square that's been previously established by the umpire.

If the batter does his job well and sends the ball to where his teammates are, the teammates can rotate around four bases (forming the shape of a diamond) and thus make a "run". If he fails to do so, he will be removed and will go back to cursing and chewing gum at the bench. Sometimes, though, he makes it spectacularly well and the whole diamond rotates. This is the "home run" seen in movies. It rarely happens. And it never destroys the counter. But if you can see it with your own eyes, it's beautiful.

National Baseball League and American Baseball League


There are two parallel leagues in the America: the National League and the American League. What teams play in what league is decided by two types of criteria: historic and random. Each league begins with the play-offs but then each one goes its merry way until the end.

The best teams from both leagues face each other in an event immodestly known as the World Series. It has been played yearly despite World War I, the global influenza pandemic of 1918-1919, the Great Depression, World War II and even an earthquake in the host cities of the 1989 World Series.

And yet this is American passion can't hold a candle to New York. The American national pastime becomes a local obsession in New York. The Yankees and the Mets play in different leagues. Which means that every once in a while (namely, the year 2000), the planets will align and both New York teams will face each other in the World Series. When that happens, the event is known as the Subway World Series (because both stadiums can be reached using the subway) and the New York obsession for baseball reaches a fever pitch.

And of course, the New York Yankees will win it and will create a controversy that will get the fans going until the next season. Baseball makes the city go round that way.