Nonplussed: The LIRR Drunk Train & Why Trae Young Is No Villain

Photo Courtesy of Aleksandr Burzinskij

“Don’t criticize what you can’t understand” – Bob Dylan

It’s around 2 AM on a Saturday in 2008 and I am taking the Babylon LIRR train back home to my parent’s house. This isn’t uncommon when you’re from LI—nearly every post-college grad moves back home for a year or so after school. 

The adjustment wasn’t easy for me, I hated being out of the city / the long commute. During this particularly awful train ride filled with the usual loud, drunk, rude, and aggressive passengers not one but THREE girls threw up on themselves. Three. In one car. Despite being broke, I quickly moved back to Brooklyn after this. This was the final straw, the LIRR drunk train had finally broken me.

three people sitting inside a train. Two of them are women and are looking at the camera.

Last week, Amy Schumer posted a delightful picture of herself pouring cocktails on the LIRR. This picture made me think of that train ride and I commented about it. Unsurprisingly, many people liked it and replied —they have all been there.

You see, these late-night trains are infamous for this kind of behavior, this wasn’t an unusual occurrence (although extra gross this time). Any trains past midnight on the LIRR, or as my friend Peter calls them “the bad boy trains,” are essentially a 40+ minute of inebriated Long Islander torture. 

How I Met Your Mother did a whole episode based on these train rides, that’s how much of a thing it is.

I found this little blog post that perfectly summed up the history of these train rides. One line completely resonated with me: “non-Long Island New Yorkers don’t understand what Long Island is like.”

It’s April 21st, 2021 and I am attending my first ever Knicks game. While I am a huge Nets fan, I am also a fan of the NBA in general and happy to attend any game. 

The Knicks are playing against the Hawks tonight. During the game, my friend Ben is asking who the “funky little dude” is. This, of course, is one of my favorite players, Trae Young. Decked out in dayglo sneakers, sports goggles, and his usual eccentric hairstyle — a look we love. 

During the game I am shocked —there is extensive heckling and bullying/booing. It’s loud and nonstop. This is even more surprising as the venue is operating at only 10% capacity. It’s a completely different experience than a Nets game. Then it dawns on me on why it’s so different: a large portion of these fans are from Long Island.

To be from LI and a Nets fan is uncommon, especially since they moved to Brooklyn in the last decade. MSG is directly above Penn Station, home to the LIRR and drunk train riders — which is a pretty large representation of the LI population’s behavior. 

Trae Young injures his ankle during the third quarter and is out. The crowd is horribly ecstatic. They are thrilled by his misfortune in their favor and letting you know which is very Long Island.

Long Islanders are an interesting breed. Being overly polite is not a thing where we are from. People are loud, funny, direct, and honest. Confrontational, aggressive. They tend to not take themselves too seriously (or you). Tempers flare. Jackie Tohn, an actress who went to my high school, talked a lot about south shore LI on Marc Maron’s podcast. She addresses the “anger.” She gives a very realistic look at what south shore Long Island life is like. 

At the same time, for all the intense personality traits, your friend from Long Island will probably be the first person to stick up for you in a fight, be there for you in an emergency and show up and support you in whatever endeavor you pursue and proudly / loudly spread the word. 

Now while my personality tends to skew in a very different direction than the typical Long Islander, I still am a product of my upbringing and environment. This really only comes out when crossed.  One thing you should know about dealing with a Long Islander is do not pick a fight with us. You will not win and insults generally do not hurt us but will fuel us to fire back —big time. 

Once at a party a particularly unsavory drunk friend(ish) tried to pick a fight with me which did not go well for her. I was telling a childhood friend about this, she started laughing “LJ who does this girl think she is trying to bully you at a party -—has she even met you? Why on earth did she think you’d sit back and take it? Doesn’t she know you’re from South Shore Amy Fisher Long Island? These people think Long Island is all like the fucking Great Gatsby and the Hamptons

During the playoffs, a myriad of baity headlines calling Trae Young a “villain” emerged. This was due to his playing to the crowd at MSG, seeming to feed off their hatred. Now at nearly full capacity the booing, insults, and loud boisterous disdain towards Trae was louder than ever. They chanted that he’s balding, a particularly disgusting trash person spit on him. They were relentless and out of line. Eventually —he shushed them.

When I saw these headlines I paused. This is bullshit. For people to be calling him a villain does not understand the strength of the verbal venom of a Long Island sports fan. They do not understand Long Islanders.

I’ve been watching all the Hawks games in the playoffs and I see an insanely talented, hard-working locked-in player. I see a Jordan-level of confidence and focus which is rare and exciting. I see a kid who is short for a basketball player and pushed forward anyway, who literally will not let the haters get him down.

If you’ve never experienced a room full of drunk Long Islanders yelling at you, by all means, take the drunk train. I guarantee by the end of it you’ll be shushing people too.

Good for Trae Young for doing exactly what any Long Islander would have done in his position. I’ll be cheering him on and calling him what he really is— an unbelievable star player with a big future.