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Home Team Advantage

City Paper Digi-Cam™
Laura Zitnik wearing the offending T-shirt

Posted 9/29/2004

The Nose has decided to rename the home of the Baltimore Orioles. Maybe Yankee Park at Camden Yards, as it’s an ideal place for a New York fan to enjoy a game. Convenient by car or train, overlooking a lovely harbor, and featuring deluxe (yet affordable) accommodations right across the street, Yankee Park at Camden Yards has every amenity that’s lacking in and around Yankee Stadium in New York. And the best part: Security will keep the fans of that other team, the Orioles, from getting out of line or insulting the delicate Bronx Bombers’ sensibilities.

City Paper retail sales representative Laura Zitnik confronted this phenomenon on Saturday, Sept. 11, at Yankee Park at Camden Yards. Wearing a YANKEES SUCK T-shirt in what she imagined was a harmless way to rib the visiting team, Zitnik says she “was walking up the steps to the concession area, and an usher grabbed me and said, ‘You have to take that off right now.’ When I asked why, she told me that Yankee fans might find it offensive, and we don’t want to offend the Yankee fans. And, she was acting like ‘suck’ was the most obscene word she’s ever heard.”

Zitnik says she is not a rabid sports fan and that the Yanks fans she had met were amused by her attire. She relayed her story to the Nose via e-mail a few days after the event.

“I made them get their manager [and] he told me the same thing, and that I could wear my shirt inside out, but I wasn’t having it,” Zitnik wrote. “So, then I went on a tangent about how I do one thing to support my team, and how it’s turning into Yankee’s Stadium here, etc. . . . They grabbed my friend, and did the same to her. I guess they can have their rules, but it doesn’t seem right.”

The Nose called the park to inquire. Bill Stetka, the Orioles’ director of media relations and publications, answered on the first ring.

The Orioles have banned “anything in our mind that is deemed inappropriate,” Stetka said. “Certain words and phrases that we deem inappropriate for a family-entertainment venue.”

Stetka could offer no list of banned words beyond “suck,” nor could he say when, exactly, this policy began. He did not know how many other ballparks operate similar policies, but cited the Seattle Mariners’ Safeco Field as one.

In truth the Seattle ban was enforced for the duration of a single Yankees stand of April 2002, and then was dumped in the face of protest. Press reports at the time indicated that no fewer than 14 of the 30 Major League Baseball venues have similar (mostly unenforced, unwritten, and totally arbitrary) dress codes.

Of course, one place an O’s fan can sport a YANKEES SUCK T-shirt is Yankee Stadium, which tolerates many variations on the theme.

“I’ve seen much worse,” says Ken Krayeske, a devout Yankees fan, who with the Nose, attended the same game Zitnik was ejected from. “The standard are RED SOX SUCK, NOMAR SWALLOWS.” (The Boston Red Sox and Yanks both have official rules banning such garb, which are seldom enforced).

Stetka says the Orioles policy forbids banners that are “commercial, political, obscene, or offensive according to the Orioles discretion. So under that, a T-shirt can be viewed as a banner.” He adds that banners deemed inappropriate are subject to confiscation. But it’s not policy to take away a woman’s shirt and leave her topless, Stetka says.

Considering the fact that Camden Yards is but a few hours’ drive south of Yankee Stadium, the nine games per year the New York team plays here tend to attract lots of Yanks fans—in fact, some O’s fans complain that the stadium is overrun and rowdy when the team is in town. The Nose is certain that the powers-that-be at the stadium love the financial boon that comes with the influx of out-of-town fans and will do whatever it takes to keep them coming back to fill the seats at the sometimes sleepy Yards again and again.

We will note for the record that on the afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 11, the Yankees beat the O’s. But a glance at the stands told any observer that, on that day, the home team won.

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