First and foremost, he was a fan.
He would always thwack his pan loudly. His signs always bore encouraging messages and helpful tips.
For every Yankee fan, Freddy Schuman, better known as “Freddy Sez,” was a New York Yankee legend.
Since 1988, when he began walking around Yankee Stadium with his spoon and pan-sign combination, Freddy was the closest thing the Stadium had to a cheerleader. He banged on his rusty pan and brought his encouraging signs with him, rooting on the Yankees through good times and bad. He was as much of a staple at Yankee Stadium as hot dogs and beer.
Sadly, this past Sunday, Freddy Sez passed away at the age of 85 after suffering a heart attack.
Freddy’s death signifies much more than another loss for the Yankees this season—iconic owner George Steinbrenner and Stadium P.A. announcer Bob Sheppard both passed earlier this year. It signifies the loss of the die-hard fan.
I’m defining a die-hard fan as someone who puts his or her favorite team above anything else in his life except basic necessities like food, water, and air. With that said, it’s plainly evident that people aren’t as passionate about teams as they used to be.
Freddy Sez was a die-hard Yankees fan since 1988, and probably for a long time before that. But from 1988 through 1995, the Yankees never once made the playoffs. They were still one of the most storied franchises of all time, but Freddy found his fanaticism in the middle of the longest Yankee World Series drought since 1923.
He was no front-runner. He was no bandwagon fan. He was a die-hard fan.
Nowadays, the majority of sports fans that I know root for individual players or “their” fantasy players, or feel a tenuous connection to a team they claim to like. Die-hards—while they do exist—are few and far between. Unfortunately, they are a dying breed.
Look at the student attendance for the Georgetown’s men’s basketball team. You have Hoya Blue, students who dedicate their lives to attending Georgetown athletic events, and in games against Villanova, Syracuse, and Duke, the Verizon Center is packed, the crowd is rocking, and the Hoyas have a true home court advantage.
But what about games against Rutgers, Seton Hall, and Jacksonville? The student section is barely full. It’s not that the students do not care. They do. But they have more important things going on and they can’t go to all the games.
In general, today’s fan isn’t a Hoya fan, a Yankee fan, or most importantly, a die-hard fan. The idea of the fan has changed dramatically, for the worse.
The demise of the die-hard changes the spectrum of fandom in sports. The average fan is more educated about a wide range of sports, teams, and players. But he’s also less passionate, less dedicated, and less fun.
The death of Freddy Sez is a loss. The death of the die-hard is a bigger one.