The rhinestones glittering in the “N.Y.” on Jane Heller‘s baseball cap disguise the grittiness of her passion for the New York Yankees. Pity the Boston Red Sox fan who disses the Yankees within earshot of this Santa Barbara novelist. She’ll unleash a volley of unprintable words, and in her new book-Confessions of a She-Fan: The Course of True Love with the New York Yankees-she prints them.
“I’m this oddity to my women friends,” Heller said. “They didn’t know I had such a potty mouth. It just came naturally to me.” She recently visited a tarot card reader to allay her anxiety about the upcoming baseball season. “The reader determined I was harmonically connected to the Yankees,” Heller explained.
There was disharmony in their relationship almost two years ago. The Yankees stumbled so badly at the start of the 2007 season that Heller, thoroughly disgusted, wrote a screed announcing that she was divorcing the club, from the owner to the trainer. The New York Times offered to publish the essay a week later, as long as the Yankees continued to lose, and they obliged.
That story, and the subsequent reaction to it, was the springboard for Confessions of a She-Fan. Heller hits the road, following the Yankees throughout the second half of the season, and in the process she rekindles the romance that began when she was a child growing up in Scarsdale, New York, with two grandfathers who doted on the Bronx Bombers.
Heller has embraced the faith of her forebears with an avidity not unlike religious devotion. The Yankees wear their famed pinstriped uniforms like vestments in which they enact the daily ritual of one-two-three-strikes-you’re-out. Throughout the years, they have done it better than any other team, to the tune of 26 World Series championships. Off the field, Heller realizes her heroes are flawed human beings, but she loves them nonetheless because they belong to something bigger.
Like any thoughtful believer, Heller struggles with some doubts. She has ambivalent feelings about superstar Alex Rodriguez. She interviews him in a dream and questions whether he is “a true Yankee.” What about his admission of using performance-enhancing substances? Fugeddaboutit.
“I can’t stand the whole subject of steroids,” she said in a recent interview. “I’m tired of it.” In her book, she confesses: “I want A-Rod back. There. I said it. I want those homers and those RBIs.”
She’s got him. And she still has her favorite player, Mariano Rivera, the estimable closer who taught her perspective by counseling a friend whose father was dying. She has new arrivals in pitcher CC Sabathia (“He’s a big horse, he’s going to be great”) and first baseman Mark Teixeira (“Very workmanlike, no drama; the Yankees haven’t had a first baseman who can catch the ball since Tino Martinez and Jason Giambi“). But instead of Joe Torre-whose departure at the end of the 2007 season Heller discusses in the book-the manager is Joe Girardi.
Torre took the Yankees into the postseason 12 straight years and won four world titles, while the club fell short under Girardi last year. But her love of the Yankees trumps her sorrow over losing Torre. In a recent blog, Heller affirmed she is standing by Girardi “for the sake of the kids.” Not coincidentally, Heller’s experience with the Yankees in 2007 also strengthens her bond with her husband, Michael Forester, a wise companion throughout her adventure.
Confessions of a She-Fan could not be released at a more auspicious time, with the A-Rod expose and Torre’s new book grabbing headlines. Heller will be conducting a “Take Me Out to the Book Launch” on Saturday, February 28, at the Hollister Brewing Company on Marketplace Drive in Goleta. Baseball fans and readers are invited to drop by at 3 p.m. and meet the author. She promises not to curl your ears if you’re wearing Red Sox apparel.
GAMES OF THE WEEK: Two-time defending champion Levi Leipheimer and a newcomer to the Tour of California by the name of Lance Armstrong will highlight the pivotal Stage 6 of the epic cycling race, a 15-mile time trial in Solvang at noon on Friday, February 20. : Santa Barbara Channels will present the inspiring basketball film Believe in Me at 7 p.m. on Friday at Marjorie Luke Theatre. : UCSB will be awash in pink on Tuesday, February 24, at two games calling attention to breast cancer: baseball (Gauchos vs. UCLA) at 2 p.m. and women’s basketball (Gauchos vs. Oregon State) at 7 p.m.