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If You’re A Yankee Fan You Must Be a Republican

Posted by sdrury on November 5, 2009

Picking a sports team is a lot like choosing political parties. Both allegiances will test your loyalty and tempt you into abandoning them forever, but ultimately you stick with them because this is the group with which you’ve cast your lot, and for better or worse, they reflect your ideals. It’s an alchemy of the heart and head that makes disappointments and accomplishments especially acute. Democrats especially understand this. The party that roots for the underdog, challenges the status quo, demands a more just society, knows that change takes time. It was almost a century from the time slavery ended to the time of the first major civil rights legislation. They know the emptiness of the 1960s, having had their finest leaders vanish like a cloud of dust around second base. They have slogged through the politics of personal destruction of the last two decades. To be a baseball fan is to have suffered. To be a Democrat is to have suffered. It’s why if you’re a Democrat, you can’t possibly be a fan of the New York Yankees.

Baseball, at its leisurely pace magnifies our loyalties. Other team sports, with their time outs and quarters and huddles create their drama in clumps of spastic action; oversized bodies crash into each other on ice, gridirons and courts. Whereas baseball players are laid bare. When getting a hit 30% of the time make you an accomplished player, failure is the norm in baseball rather than rule. Democrats understand this. Ask a Yankee fan to recall a time when one of his heroes failed on a grand scale. They can’t. When the Yankees have lost it’s due to the heroics of an opposing player (like this ) rather than a mistake from one of their own. For every other team the opposite seems to be to be true, certainly for the Cubs and, my favorite team, the Red Sox

Rooting for the Yankees is not a struggle. They don’t require patience or persistence. They don’t break your heart. The longest gap between World Series championships is fifteen years (1962-1977). Think about that. The Red Sox went 86 years between rings. The Cubs? A full century. Proud franchises like Cleveland and the Giants have waited over half a century. The Tigers, Orioles and Pirates, all historic franchises, are on droughts of 25 years or more. And consider, there is not a Ranger or Padre fan alive who knows what it means to have been a champ. Would a Yankee fan have stuck by their club over a comparable drought? Being that many of them were apoplectic at their most recent spell, now broken, of eight years, I doubt it.

For as much as they might not like to admit it, Yankees fans, as with the owner of the team, George Steinbrenner, can be like petulant children at the grocery store, causing a scene and creating mayhem until they get their way, irrespective of the expense that may incurred, financial or emotional. The fans wear their boorishness like a badge of honor. Whenever a new player joins the team, the question that immediately follows, “Is he any good?” will be “Is he tough enough for New York?” Callers queue up on radio talk shows to boast how they “tell it like is” or “demand a winner” which are merely excuses for behaving like obnoxious simpletons.

Like many Republicans, they have no issue compromising their morals for the sake of victory. In the early 1990s Steinbrenner acquired Steve Howe, a relief pitcher who had been suspended seven, yes, seven times from baseball for drug use. In their most recent dynastic stretch, from 1996-2000, Steinbrenner brought in criminals like Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, if only to humiliate their former team, the cross-town Mets. They were cheered with a gusto later reproduced with the “Drill, Baby Drill” chant from the 2008 GOP convention. Yankee fans have that very same sense of entitlement. That somehow they deserve to be in every World Series and that the Fall Classic is diminished by their absence.

It’s never been enough for the Yankees to just win, they feel compelled to pummel any potential roadblocks into submission. In their three straight world championships from 1998-2000 they permitted the other teams to win a combine total of one game. Bloodlettings, in the truest sense of the word.

But Steinbrenner has never been much for equanimity. He’s the only owner to have been suspended twice by the commissioner of baseball. In 1974, Bowie Kuhn banned him for two years after he was convicted of making an illegal contribution to Richard Nixon. Then in 1990 he was barred for three more years by Fay Vincent after it was discovered that Steinbrenner, in a conceit that would make Karl Rove proud, paid a small-time gambler $40,000 to dig up dirt and embarrass on one of his players, the Hall of Famer Dave Winfield. The reason? Steinbrenner wanted to avoid paying Winfield’s charitable foundation the money it was contractually owed.

This came as little surprise to anyone, because Steinbrenner had made a habit of belittling his employees in a public forum. He even insulted the amiable Yogi Berra. Perhaps he felt he was justified in this sort of conduct since he so often overpaid his players after plucking them from anonymity and presenting them to the biggest stage in all of baseball.

Much as Republicans have long preyed on the gentility of Democrats, the Yankees history of preying on the haplessness of others is a long one. Prior to the free agent era, the Yankees raided other teams for the likes of Roger Maris, Johnny Mize and Enos Slaughter. And of course, in their early years, the Yankees took advantage of Harry Frazee, owner of the Boston Red Sox, to acquire Babe Ruth and launch their dynasty. Frazee, was a man in love at the time, who needed money to produce a musical starring his betrothed and the Yankees were more than happy to oblige. They felt that exploiting love was worth baseball championships.

And since they acquired the Babe, the Yankees have represented the status quo. They are the men in pinstripes, standing guard against hippies and minorities and agents of social change. Rooting for the Yankees was once compared to rooting for U.S. Steel, a polluting, anti-trust breaking, union-shattering monolith. The Yankees have never been a team of the people, for the people or by the people. They are the WASPs at the country clubbers who mock the working-class kids wiping off their golf clubs. They are the Matt Damon character in School Ties , they are Johnny Lawrence, and any other bully whoever prowled a schoolyard.

Recent years have only accentuated the Yankees belief in wealth and privilege over hard work and decency. In the middle of a recession, the Yankees constructed a $1.5 Billion Stadium/Monument to Self-Glory, much of which came courtesy of the tax dollars of the very fans they supposedly love. The fans overlook this detail, even as the best seats in the very stadium they helped pay for run as high as $5,000 per ticket, effectively pricing the overwhelming majority of them out.

Should we be surprised the Yankees ignore this manner of excessiveness? Of course not. The Yankees have retired fifteen different numbers (the Red Sox and the Cardinals combined have fourteen). One, Reggie Jackson’s 44, was only worn by him for five years. Others belonged to solid if unspectacular players like Ron Guidry, Elston Howard and Don Mattingly. There’s no such thing as too much in the Bronx, where the plushest seats are occupied by many of the Wall Street bankers, who, having had their houses in the Hamptons saved by taxpayers, giggled at the gullibility of the proletariat yet again to the tune of billions in bonuses.

This matters little, to average Yankees fans as they invoke tradition and excellence—in the same way Republicans call back to the glory days of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, when the rich got richer while the rest of the economy plummeted and the term “homeless” entered the vernacular. Yankee fans blindingly subscribe to the Yankees propaganda arm, the YES (Yankee Entertainment and Sports) Network because they it’s the only place to watch games on television. I’ll ignore the spectacular bias of the games’ broadcasters who often look at the opposing team as an inconvenience.

It’s impossible to discuss the New York Yankees without discussing their payroll. In 2009, their payroll was $201 million, a full 50 million ahead of their nearest competitor. The recently defeated Phillies, a formidable but undermanned squad, checked in at $113 million. Here I’ll admit to being squeamish about the Red Sox free-spending ($120 million). I find much of it redundant and their thrashing of the Colorado Rockies in the 2007 World Series in four straight was too Yankee-like for me. I confess to having missed the last out, because their victory, much like the Yankees’ this year was a fait accompli from the early summer. It’s true that spending money is no guarantee of success, but it helps. The Yankees occasional missteps in recent years were more a testament to the complexities and genius of baseball rather than a condemnation of an open market. I wonder what Kansas City Royals and Cincinnati Reds fans must think as they struggle to simply have a winning record while they are outspent in triplicate and, as if that’s not demoralizing enough, many of the best teams’ best players use steroids.

Which brings us, finally, to the present team. They have three players who will certainly be inducted into the Hall of Fame (Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Alex Rodriguez) and two more (Mark Teixera, C.C. Sabathia) whose career path points in that direction. Not to mention Messrs. Pettitte, Posada, Burnett, Matsui, Damon and Cano who were or will be All-Star caliber players. It would be an upset if they hadn’t won the World Series. This doesn’t make their victory any more upsetting. What is disarming is the team’s resemblance to contemporary Republican figures.

Jeter, the Obama-like figure, at the center of the team is a red herring. His imperious manner and elegance is admirable bur one can’t help but wonder how this modern post-racial player ended up working for George Steinbrenner. Rivera is the Cheney figure–at least the in office version. He conveys an introspection that might be aloof at times. He appears out of nowhere at the end of a game to save the day without anyone being really sure how he does it. Teixera, the Mormon-ish first baseman, could pass as Mitt Romney. A.J. Burnett, the pitcher and Arkansas native, would undoubtedly have made Mike Huckabee proud when, upon signing an 82.5 million dollar contract, he added yet another trailer-trash tattoo (As did Sabathia). Then Damon, the Joe Lieberman of the team, having come over from the other side (the Red Sox) to return the team to glory. And the preening, strutting, narcissistic A-Rod makes the perfect male counterpart to Sarah Palin. Would it be a stretch to imagine him winking into a camera in a critical spot?

Lastly, I can’t help but look at Joe Girardi, the Yankees manager and see George W. Bush—they both fell into control of this powerful machine and are just trying not to screw it up. Indeed, the only thing that made presidency of George W. Bush tolerable was the fact that the Yankees were shut out of World Series rings during his reign of error. That said, I’ll trade eight years of Obama for eight years of Yankee victories. Some things are worth the sacrifice.

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2 Responses to “If You’re A Yankee Fan You Must Be a Republican”

  1. CT Yankee said

    *Sniffle*

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