Say what you will about C.C., A.J. and Tex. Talk all you want about the strong bullpen, the mojo of the new stadium, the managerial aptitude of Joe Girardi, the birth of the walk-off win pie-in-the-face ritual. But for my money, there was one unsung hero, one key player, that transformed the New York Yankees from a third place team in 2008 to World Series champs in '09.
Of course, I'm referring to Fake Michael Kay on Twitter.
A lucky few of us are blessed with a special gift. And this anonymous gent (or lady), known on Twitter as @yesmichaelkay, has found his (or her) niche in being able to channel the very essence of the amiable, slightly buffoonish Yankees play-by-play broadcaster Michael Kay into 140-character musings on baseball, philosophy, sex, and life in general -- all of which begin "Hey fans!"
In fact, those two words were the entirety of Fake Michael Kay's first Tweet back on April 24th. Yet from such humble beginnings, an art form was created.
"Hey fans! Driven out to deep center! Back is Hunter! Still back! Heeeee makes the catch 54 feet in front of the track for the first out....."
"Hey fans! Joba Chamberlain's pitch count is at zero so far today."
"Hey fans! OH WHAT A BUNT BY SWISHER! IIIIIIIIIIT'S A SACRIFICE BY....NICK SWISHER! AND THE YANKEES STILL TRAIL...TWO TO ONE!"
"Hey fans! Track wall see ya! Philthies! OH WHAT A PLAY BY JETER!!!!! This Tweet is 140 characters long exactly, tying a record held by many."
Fake Michael Kay's tweets weren't meant as a tribute to the real Michael Kay -- quite the opposite, in fact. As some of the missives indicate, they were intended to reveal the depths of Kay's stupidity and, with any luck, start a grassroots movement to get him fired.
"Hey fans! In case you're just joining us, there's been some drama that I have completely made up!"
"Hey fans! Lineups! First pitch! Baseball! Rambling! Bad jokes! Making you want to kill yourself! Next!"
"Hey fans! Tune in to my show on ESPN Radio where I shock the world every day by showing I know even less about other sports than baseball!"
Kay's catchphrases, his plugs for sponsor W.B. Mason ("Who But!"), his overblown praise for Derek Jeter, his incessant pitch counts, his frequent insinuations that broadcast cohort David Cone is a drunk, all were fair game for Fake Michael Kay. And believe me, the Real Michael Kay gave the fake one plenty of material to work with.
But a funny thing happened on the way to getting Kay his pink slip. Rather than groaning and turning the sound off when Kay unleashed another "Track! Wall! SEE YA!" or did things like mentioning a pitcher's "zaftig" ERA (which he really did on at least one occasion), I began to look forward to hearing his Kay-isms every night. And just as eagerly, I'd anticipate @yesmichaelkay's zingers and retorts. It soon became part of my game-night ritual to regularly check in with Twitter, so I could find out what both Michael Kays were saying.
"Hey fans! Joba has ALL of his pitches working! All 94 of them in 4.2 innings that have resulted in four runs! ALL of his pitches!"
"Hey fans! Phil Coke's the Philthiest! Sure his 5.00 ERA ranks 2,487th among relievers, but he's Philthy! Who But! See Ya! COKE DEALS! OH!"
"Hey fans! Bottom of the ninth. Tie game. Yankees coming up. This means just one thing. My pants are off! OH LOOK AT THE JUNK ON ME!!!"
In a weird way, Fake Michael Kay turned me into, of all things, a fan of Michael Kay, if only for the inspiration he gave to his Twitter doppelganger (Twoppelganger?). I mean, without Hitler, Charlie Chaplin never would have made The Great Dictator, right?
And speaking of Nazis, Fake M.K. loved to remind us that the real Michael Kay once compared the old sports announcers' superstition about mentioning a no-hitter in progress to Nazi Germany and slavery (check this out if you don't believe me). So at regular intervals, we'd be treated to gems like "Hey fans! Pettitte perfect through 4! Suck it, Goebbels!"
I wasn't the only Yankee fan with Fake Michael Kay on the brain. He's got over 2,000 Twitter followers, many of whom apparently believe they're reading the Tweets of the real Michael Kay. Which frustrates Fake M.K. no end. Every so often we'd get a pissed-off announcement:
"Hey fan! I AM NOT THE REAL FUCKING MICHAEL KAY! JESUS CHRIST! HOW IS THAT NOT APPARENT!? WHO BUT WB MASON!" But worse still was the report from Sports Illustrated writer Jon Heyman that Real M.K. thought Fake was "hilarious," inspiring this response: "Hey fans! Word is the real Michael Kay enjoys this Twitter Feed. OH WHAT A FAILURE I AM AT THIS!!!! WHO BUT. SEE YA."
Now and then, the enormity of having to boil down three-plus hours of Kay being Kay into a handful of Tweets proved overwhelming even for Fake M.K. The facade would drop just a little, and we could see a bit of the tortured genius behind the curtain (Twurtain?):
"Hey fans! Seriously. Am I brutal or what? I don't STFU for a second, I misread everything, I can't see, my voice sucks, no one likes me, etc."
"Hey fans! NFL fans don't care about stats like career rushing yards. MLB stats are way better because...seriously, I'm a god damn retard."
"Hey fans! I don't think I've ever said anything stupider than all NY fans are the same fans of the same teams. Please fire me."
But Fake M.K.'s dedication to his craft never flagged for long, and by July he was on a tear that continued to the end of the season. And the better he got, the better the Yankees played. Is it any wonder that the Yanks posted the best second-half record in the majors with Fake Michael Kay for inspiration?
"Hey fans! Anyone want to hear how I'd call Dale Earnhardt's death? Track, wall, see ya! My canned lines work everywhere!"
"Hey fans! Also having a hard time getting my Italian restaurant off the ground. The signature dish? Pasta Diving Jeter! OHHHHHH!!!!!"
"Hey fans! Suicide watch back on! Mariano's shoulder hurts! Time to kill myself with a stapler from WB Mason. Who But WB Mason?! See ya!"
The Yankees stayed hot all the way through the postseason, and so did Fake M.K., from the Division Series with the Twins ("Hey fans! What a terrible broadcast by TBS! Nearly one inning in the books, and not one mention of the pitch count") and the ALCS with the Angels ("Hey fans! Now, those were great swings by Tex. Now, I haven't seen balls hit that hard since I went through my S&M phase in '02") to the final game of the World Series, which climaxed in a most eloquent "Hey fans! OHHHH!!!!! OHHHH!!! OHHH!!!!! OHHH! WHO BUT! WHO BUT! OHHHH!!!!"
Throughout this unforgettable season, Fake Michael Kay fans knew that he'd always come through in the clutch. But one thing we never found out was his true identity. The day after the season ended and the champagne was still drying on the Yankee Stadium clubhouse carpet, he Tweeted the link to what may or may not be a clue -- or at least some idea of what he does when he isn't making fun of Yankees broadcasters.
I thought about putting leather to pavement and uncovering the man (or woman) behind the myth, but I decided not to. Not just because I'm lazy, but because finding out who writes Fake Michael Kay's Tweets is like trying to put names to the anonymous geniuses who built the great cathedrals of Europe. In the end, it's the art, not the artist, that's important.
But if the real Fake Michael Kay happens to be reading this, I want to tell him that he made being a Yankees fan even more fun this year than it would have been otherwise. And I hope that, come April, I and all your other followers will get to "SEE YA!" again.