Five Things: Why I Love the Yankees
Weekends in Spring & Summer make me think of two things: new movies and baseball. Right now we find ourselves two weeks into the season and my Yankees are in 1st place in the division.
Yes, I live in Phoenix, could walk to D-Backs games, but I love the Yankees.
(here’s why, after the jump)
1.) Dedication to Excellence
The Yankees have won more championships than any other franchise in American sports. Period. This is of course why the Yanks are called “the Evil Empire” by fans of other teams, but the reality is that Steinbrener and co. are doing what every fan wishes their owner/gm would do; get the best players to be able to compete every year.
Last year Anie & I made a pilgrimage of sorts, and traveled to New York primarily to be able to attend a game at the new Yankee Stadium. Besides the memory of the place, the game itself was filled with excitement. An Inside-the-Park Home-Run, heated arguments, extra-innings and walk-off heroics.
In comparison, I attended six D-Backs games, and all combined was not half as happy. The crowds were lack-luster, the games were dull, and by the All-Star break, the team had given up on the season and decided to start bringing up minor leaguers for experience.
Seriously, one time they let the opposing pitcher steal second base. Uncontested. (insert /facepalm here)
13-games out with 80 games left to go and the D-Back had quit on me. Oh yeah, the Wild Card last year, the Rockies, were 20-games back at the point but rallied and made the play-offs.
If I’m going to give my dollar and dedication to a team, they damn well better never give up on me.
2.) The Babe
The “Sultan of Swat”, the “Great Bambino”, the “Colossus of Clout”.
To tell the truth, I wasn’t much of a Babe fan when I first saw The Sandlot. He seemed too generic and I was too much like Smalls to think I could identify.
But then when in my teens, I saw “The Babe”, yeah, the one with John Goodman as Babe Ruth, and I realized that this man who’d gone on to set so many records had started out from nothing, and had gotten where he was primarily by ignoring people who told him he was no good.
Unlike many power hitters, Ruth also hit for average: his .342 lifetime batting is tenth highest in baseball history, and in one season (1923) he hit .393, a Yankee record. His .690 career slugging percentage and 1.164 career on-base plus slugging (OPS) remain the major league records. Ruth dominated in the era in which he played. He led the league in home runs during a season twelve times, slugging percentage and OPS thirteen times each, runs scored eight times, and runs batted in (RBIs) six times.
Did I mention that he also once started both games of a double-header as a pitcher, and hit over .300 while winning 23 games one year?
Yes, Babe Ruth set the single-season and career Home-Run records on a steady diet of hotdogs, dames & beers, and if I tried hard enough, I could do the same. (Well, not exactly the same, but you get the idea)
I am always entralled by two nebulous ideas; “greatness” and “brevity”. This led me to read Hemingway & Camus, to love photography, and to always strive to do what others couldn’t and to get it done more efficiently than anyone else would try. This is also what reinforced my love of the Yankees.
Well, this and Mariano’s cutter.
I once read that a Pitcher is the only player in major sports who can win an entire game on his own. Of course, we often think of pitchers are losing close games, or solidly dominating the entire time. But as one becomes a more consistent fan of the game, you start to pick-up the nuance, the strategy.
There is nothing more nuanced, and yet more pure, than watching Mariano Rivera close out a game.
He comes up in the 9th inning, calm as can be, a veritable James Bond in pin-stripes, and does what he’s been doing for 16 years. He only owns 3 pitches, and only really uses 1 effectively, so when you face him, you know what you’re going to get. He’s going to take a little piece of rubber wrapped up in leather, and throw it at you, and use it to break that piece of wood in your hand.
When there’s no subterfuge, there’s no gimmick, or hidden meaning, or secrets, and success still comes, that’s greatness. And every 9th inning, greatness stands 60′ 6″ from Home Plate and he gets the job done.
In a sport full of cheaters, drug-users, bloated contracts, greedy owners and ripped-off fans, seeing a man keep his promise and get the job done has to speak to you.
4.) Yankees as Metaphor for America
Yes, once upon a time the Yankees were an expansion team, new to New York, looked down upon by the other teams that were already there, and in 1905, the Giants even refused to play in the World Series because they saw the Yanks as inferior.
But isn’t that the story of all of us? Isn’t the classic American story that someone came to place where they weren’t wanted, and through hard-work and dedication they survived, thrived, and changed the way things were done?
We all watch sports because we want to catch a glimpse of greatness. Whether we’re hoping to vicariously recapture a piece of our youth, or simply looking for a metaphor to attach ourselves to, sports is supposed to bring out the pure and noble aspects of humanity, all while watching people perform feats that a normal human can’t.
I can’t think of a better metaphor to cling to than the classic American success story.
(See how I snuck in support for one of my 3/50 spots?)