Yankee Stadium is located about 170 crow-flying miles from Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles. It also sits about 190 direct miles from Fenway Park, home of the rival Boston Red Sox.
Yet if you were to ask a hardcore Yankees fan which stadium is closer to the Bronx, a study by New York University psychologists says that he or she will routinely tell you the correct answer is Fenway.
A difference of 20 miles seems awfully negligible — and the disparity actually narrows once you account for highway travel — but the NYU researchers claim the routine identification of Fenway having a closer proximity reveals something about the way humans perceive threats.
To conduct their study, they set up outside Yankee Stadium on a day in June 2010 when the Yankees were in first place, the Red Sox second and the Orioles in the AL East basement. Fans were asked to identify themselves as Yankee fans or "non-Yankee" fans and then shown a picture of the Northeastern United States with a 500-mile radius drawn around New York City.
From the study on EurekaAlert.org:
Non-Yankees fans correctly estimated that Fenway Park was marginally farther than Camden Yards; in contrast, Yankees fans estimated that Fenway Park, the home stadium of a threatening group, was marginally closer than Camden Yards, the home stadium of a non-threatening group. Therefore, the relative difference in distance estimations to the two stadiums (Fenway Park and Camden Yards) differed as a function of the perceivers' baseball identity — being a fan of the Yankees or not.
Before you go off to make a joke about the relative intelligence of your typical Yankee fan, the researchers claimed that they accounted for "participants' geographical expertise" (which we hope was more than just a test asking which subway lines they'd need to get back to Canarsie.)
Now if you want to go ahead and accuse the researchers of conducting a ridiculous study, we won't hold it against you. While this apparently has something to do with enforcing the old saying of "keeping your enemies closer," we think it seems a lot more like an excuse to leave the classroom and get out to Yankee Stadium for a day.
Get back to us when fans start claiming that St. Petersburg is a quick trip down the D train.
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