There are two types of people in the world, those who love the Yankees and those who hate the Yankees. For the most part, there is no gray area for how people feel about the American League ball club from New York. What always amazes me is just how many people don the blue cap and pinstripes and root whole heartedly for the team, even if they have never stepped foot in New York. Equally remarkable are those who hate the Yankees even if their team of choice never faces them during the season. This nation (if not world) wide passion is especially evident when seeing the Yankees perform in their away uniforms. No matter where I see the boys from the Bronx play, I am surrounded by throngs of fans and haters; forced to defend my loyalty for the team and explain why I am a Yankee fan.
These days, despite the amount of success the Yankees have experienced, it is actually difficult to be a Yankee fan. Try and be taken seriously when their very triumphs and victories become a source of content. First and foremost is the number of fair-weather fans success breeds. Yankee haters verbally attack fans by declaring their allegiance fake; one that jumped on the bandwagon sometime in the early to mid-90s, avoiding the heartbreak of the drought in the 1980s. As a lifelong fan, these people annoy me as well. Chances are they at one point rooted against the Yankees, softening up to the team after a few championship rings. These new fans cast a shadow on those who weathered the storm of failure and stuck with the team during the dark times; they make longtime Yankees fans appear less genuine. You are not a fan unless you survived verbal bashings in 1986 and were forced to root for the hated Boston Red Sox or a comet to hit the stadium and wipe out the teams, anything to avoid a Mets victory. To those who try to mock the length of my loyalty there is only one thing I say; “I am from the Bronx.” Amazing how 5 small words can get people to back off so quickly, like I am packing heat or carrying a crowbar.
Money, and the Yankees use of it, is definitely a major source of contention for Yankee haters. If I had a nickel for each time I heard someone complain about how much money the Yankees spend on their team, I could probably personally purchase the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The Yankees do spend a great deal of money for their team and I do not always agree with their business model of purchasing the “best” team rather then building it. Only the people who discover the cure for cancer, how to run a car on water or even the formula for world peace deserve the exorbitant amount of money made by baseball players. Money and greed, today’s centerpiece of professional sports, are ruining the pure joy of the game with the Yankees a focal point of the issue. With this being said money does help build a successful team, but is not the only part of the winning equation; just look at the Baltimore Orioles who spend a ton on their team with abysmal results. There are plenty examples of successful teams with small payrolls and terrible teams with huge payrolls; it takes more then just money to build a successful team. Additionally, teams from smaller markets now benefit from baseball’s revenue sharing model, allowing them larger operating budgets based upon the spending of larger market teams.
Each time the Yankees announce the trade/purchase/acquisition of a big-name player, I cringe. While the team was successful in the past with bringing on superstar players to win titles, there does come a tipping point when this managerial philosophy becomes catastrophic. Baseball is like any business where a team with a diverse range of talents, personalities and backgrounds is the recipe for long-term success. At some point having too many superstars in the boardroom leads to serious organizational issues where competition is no longer friendly and the goals of the team are superseded by the power of the individuals, leading to overall failure. The Yankees failure to appear in the World Series the past few years and win one since 2000 demonstrates that money does not necessarily buy happiness and too many cooks may have spoiled the Yankees proverbial broth.
The revolving door of players also brings difficulty to following professional sports. Baseball is just not the same without the ability to cling to a player for their career, following them from farm league to hall of fame. There is almost a need to keep players at “arms length,” developing distant relationships to avoid the heartbreak of their trade. On the flip side, the deep rooted hatred for opposing teams and their players, the keystone to any good rivalry, makes it quite difficult to embrace certain players when they are suddenly on your team. To me, Roger Clemens is still a Red Sox, no matter how many World Series rings he helps the Bronx Bombers win. It is hard to be truly passionate about a team like the Yankees when the roster is full of people who once were the object of distain.
Despite all my concern around the Yankees they are still my team. The Yankees have an amazing history filled with triumph and tragedy. True Yankee fans are among the nation’s best, with an unparalleled understanding of the game, the history, and fan etiquette. I was born in pinstripes, mere miles from the stadium affectionately known as “The Bronx Zoo.” I support and root for my favorite team, but acknowledge their role in forever changing baseball from an enjoyable game to a cut-throat business. History shows that dynasties topple without a balance of power, money, popularity and fair leadership; hopefully Yankees management, players and fans understand what it takes to maintain their position Major League Baseball’s greatest dynasty.