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COLUMN

Those Damn Yankees

Vivek Rao

Every October and, this year, November, along with changing leaves and falling temperatures, comes the baseball playoffs. And almost inevitably, it seems, another championship run for the New York Yankees. Yet as successful as the Bronx Bombers may be from a purely win-loss perspective, there can be no doubt in any self-respecting Bostonian’s mind that the Yankees truly and completely suck.

Since I was a young lad growing up just miles from Boston, I have rooted consistently for the Red Sox to win, but even more passionately for the Yankees to lose. Hatred for those blue pinstripes is practically in the air around here. Maybe it was Boston’s sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees for a paltry sum that did it, or perhaps it was Bucky Dent’s devastating home run in a 1978 playoff game, or the fact that since the Red Sox last won a World Series, the Yankees have won more than twenty. Still, while the hatred may have been born out of pure bitterness and, dare I say it, jealousy, it continues today for good reason, for the Yankees are certainly a team deserving of our wrath.

In the money-driven sports world of today, there is probably no better example of a team benefitting from finances than the Yankees. It is a multi-million dollar organization that, due to television contracts and market shares, is far more profitable and wealthy than any other baseball team, and probably any other American professional sports franchise. Major League Baseball, unlike some other leagues, has no salary cap, and as a result, big market teams like the Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers are able to go out and spend the money it takes to attract top-caliber players. The result has been an increasing gap between the rich and poor of baseball, forcing teams like the Minnesota Twins and the Montreal Expos into dire straits. Meanwhile, the Yankees and their irritatingly pompous owner George Steinbrenner have the wallet to pursue any free agent they want.

Just as frustrating as the Yankees’ deep pockets is their overexposure in the national media. Like the Dallas Cowboys in football, the Yankees are often billed as America’s team, but does anybody actually believe that’s true? Ask people in the northwest who they like, and they’ll tell you the Mariners, people in the midwest love their Cubs and Cardinals, and people around here would die for a Red Sox championship. To be sure, the Yankees have their own fan base, but to hail them as America’s team is foolish. Yet major networks like NBC, FOX, and ESPN continue to focus their attention on the Yankees, often neglecting other more interesting and intriguing matchups. This year, the New York-Oakland divisional series dominated prime time, while other series were left in relative anonymity in the late afternoon slots.

To listen to announcers call a Yankees game is torture as well. Alleged experts at analyzing baseball, they will almost always focus on New York’s players and, even more so, manager Joe Torre. Often, they will acknowledge a great play by an opposing player with merely a passing word, only to give us their mindnumbing praise for Derek Jeter’s latest “clutch” hit or Paul O’Neill’s “intensity.” Never was bias for one team more apparent, with the possible exception of NBC’s coverage of the Chicago Bulls during Michael Jordan’s glory days. It is this nauseating and unrelenting complementing of the Yankees that makes them even more irritating.

Perhaps the most irritating aspect of the Yankees is their fans. One of my most lasting memories of baseball is staring disbelievingly at my television after a drunken Yankees fan fell onto the backstop from the balcony seating, and just sat there while the crowd cheered him on. Now, while that is probably not your typical New York fan, one thing that does unite most, or even all of them, is their arrogance and overconfidence. Just because their team wins championships doesn’t make them loyal and knowledgeable fans. When the Yankees go on their next unsuccessful patch of years, which I predict will begin next year when the Red Sox finally take the title, I have no doubt that their fans will turn away from the team and bide their time until Steinbrenner buys his way back into contention.

The Yankees are a talented baseball team, no doubt, yet they are too wealthy, too showcased, too confident and arrogant to be at all likeable. They are like the Big Brother of Major League baseball, using their unfair advantages to make their way into the spotlight and win championships. Maybe if you institute a salary cap and initiate revenue sharing, that would level the playing field. Maybe if you ensure that all teams get as much exposure as the Yankees, maybe then if the Yankees are still as successful and “popular” as they are now, I’ll give them their just credit, but until that day, all I can say is that the Yankees suck.