Confessions of a Wayward New York Yankees Fan
As 2012 draws to a close with the promise of a better 2013, I have been doing a bit of reflecting. Not on the year that will be concluding shortly but on what it is to be a fan or in my case a fan of the New York Yankees. Perhaps it was a wonderful column written by Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel that triggered these feelings. In it, he describes a recently deceased fan of the Orlando Magic and how much this man was dedicated to his team. The last words this fan heard was that the Magic defeated the Los Angeles Lakers, the first game ex-Magic player Dwight Howard had played against his former team. I also realized that though I am a bigger fan of baseball than football, my emotions are much stronger with the Dallas Cowboys than they are with the Yankees. There are a few reasons for this.
The biggest factor as to why I don’t have the same passion for the Bronx Bombers as I did even a decade ago is the fact Yankee Stadium was torn down. This was baseball’s cathedral, a place unmatched in baseball history as well the stage for other huge sporting events and even non-sports related historical happenings. Three Popes celebrated Mass there and Nelson Mandela held a rally that drew at least 80,000 people. The Stadium hosted a “Prayer for America”, 12 days after the attacks on September 11th featuring celebrants of all faiths as our country struggled to come to grips with the terrorist attacks. In football, there was the epic 1958 Giants-Colts game which for the first time made the country notice the NFL in a big way. Boxing had staged numerous big fights in the Bronx, none as important as the 1938 Joe Louis-Max Schmeling rematch.
But it was baseball and its main tenants the Yankees that made the Stadium. This was a house that saw 26 World Series Championships, a total of 40 American League pennants and enough memories to fill Webster’s Dictionary. Every time I would drive by the place whether I was 8 or I was 28 (and even while driving a car) I would stare at the outside and wonder what would that building say if its walls could talk. All of those memories, all of that history blown up and literally sold brick by brick because there weren’t enough luxury suites. On top of that, the capacity was reduced by at least 5,000 seats. Even as I write this my heart still aches even though the last ball was thrown there was four years ago. I don’t know whether to laugh or frown whenever I see those empty seats behind home plate and along the first and third base lines.
Although the demolition of the Stadium was indeed the final straw and biggest factor in my disenchantment with the Yanks, seeds had been planted earlier in the 2000′s. I suppose it started with the signing of Jason Giambi. While I had nothing against Giambi as he was a great player at the time and seemed to be a good guy, this was a ridiculous contract, one that seemed to start to chip away from the 1995-2001 era of championship baseball. It also marked the beginning of the team outspending almost every other franchise in the game and could have threatened to crush fan interest in other cities. The bookend of this was in 2007 with the Alex Rodriguez fiasco. Again, I had nothing against him and thought he unfairly took the brunt of New York playoff losses. However, he told the world through Scott Boras his agent that he was opting out of his current contract. It was no big deal except that it happened to be announced during Game 4 of the 2007 World Series . This should have been a slam dunk to Yankee ownership not to re-sign him. However, the Steinbrenners (pick one) thought the idea of A-Rod breaking the home record in Pinstripes would be a cash cow for the organization so they signed him to an obscene deal that haunts the franchise to this day.
In 2009, the first year at the new stadium, the Yankees won the World Series, their first since 2000. It was helped in part by three huge contracts doled out to CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and A.J. Burnett. I understand why the club made these signings and even understood the overpayments of Sabathia and Teixeira. The contract to Burnett was mind-boggling. He was basically a .500 pitcher before the Yanks agreed to pay him over $17 million dollars per year. Nothing personal against Burnett and he was obviously smart enough to opt out of his deal with the Toronto Blue Jays but that was pure gluttony by the team. I suppose it doesn’t matter to most fans of the Yankees but I thought the spending was out of control. Honestly, I don’t recall if I even stayed awake to watch the last out of the Series, something that rarely does not happen to me. That is how disinterested I had become in the team. I would never root against them but I wouldn’t celebrate a championship of theirs like I would if Dallas won the Super Bowl.
So as 2013 dawns, will I allow myself to be come more emotionally invested in the New York Yankees? I haven’t been to the new ballpark since it has been open and won’t make an effort to get there this season. I am not sure if I will ever get over the tearing down of Yankee Stadium. However, I like what the team has done in the offseason and may become more attached simply because so many people think they are headed for a fall. It may be a long time before I truly will be invested in the team like I was for so many years. But I do detect some mending of the fences in my own mind. As the year goes on and if I let out a great big cheer as Mariano Rivera locks down another game, I will have reached a turning point.
Happy New Year to all and lots of love and luck in 2013.
Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com