*Please note that this examination of The New York Yankees as a metaphor for the downfall of our country and consciousness should in no way be taken as a criticism of said team’s longtime shortstop, Derek Jeter. Derek Jeter is a splendid individual, the last of a dying breed of sportsmen that happened to come to prominence within the framework of an organization that strives to obliterate what he represents. In most instances, complicity is equatable to guilt, but if rules don’t apply to anyone, it’s Derek Jeter. I mean, who dumps Minka Kelly, who does that?*
“Hating the Yankees is as American as pizza pie, unwed mothers, and cheating on your income tax.”
-Mike Royko, The Chicago Tribune
The New York Yankees have won their way into professional sports’ most selective post-season for sixteen consecutive years. Beyond debate, they are the most competitively and financially successful team in baseball’s history. Up until the early 90’s, the Yankees operated as a baseball team, riskily navigating the tempestuous waters of the MLB Draft, mining their farm system for talent, traversing relatively longer periods of success (1935-1960) and short-lived periods of failure (1981-1996), the essential trajectory of most large market teams in major sports. In 1996, that changed. Through what was irrefutably inspired management and cultivation of talent, the Yankees came into possession of the most cohesive and successful team in modern baseball’s history, and, in classic American fashion, purity and inventiveness were leveraged to build a corporation.
Liking the Yankees today is akin to declaring that Walmart is your favorite place to shop. What’s disheartening about this isn’t that the Yankees provide a fan more validation than any other team, or that Walmart saves people more money than any other retailer possibly can, it’s that the Yankees, like Walmart, undermine the tenants of the very system they publicly promote, and that that undermining is contagious (see: The Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, and the analogous Target and Best Buy). As anyone that has stood in a Walmart before will attest, it is not an experience one wants to revisit. Yet, that is an experience endured by most due to economic necessity, whereas going to a baseball is predicated on pure enjoyment, leisure, and that’s what makes the Yankees all the more despicable.
As I am wont to admit, this is writing a song to the deaf. Yankees fans have, over the past two decades, grown accustomed to the torrents of naysaying. Like most everyone, their ways are set and any error seen in them is resultant of jealousy or illogic. One would imagine the rebuttal being, “AY-OH comeah tawk tah me when ya got 27 rings.” The sadness stemming here not from the caricatured New York accent, but the caricatured New Yorker’s love of gaudy rings. What underlies these counter-arguments-and the attached quotation-is that not liking The Yankees is anti-baseball, crass, and, most of all, un-American.
To analyze this, let us look at the precepts of the modern New York Yankees:
1. Win at any cost.
2. We deserve to win at any cost.
3. Spend money recklessly because we deserve to win at any cost.
4. Since rules do not apply to us, spend money recklessly to win at any cost.
5. Consume the heart of our system from the inside out, replace with ironclad heart of business.
Now, see how those precepts differ from the precepts of the United States. Then, see how those precepts don’t differ at all. Then, pray that something heavier than you falls on you.
If hearts should go out anywhere, it should be to the Yankee fans born before 1980, who actually watched a team, and not a business or image, take the field 162 times a year, and rooted for them as genuinely as they root today for the latter. They, like so many Americans, were forsaken. Yet, at the same time, they promote it what has forsook them. Winning is wonderful. Winning constantly maybe less so, but, if losing is the alternative, who is going to pick that? Who is going to walk out on the system? To move to Canada or begin rooting for the Kansas City Royals? Would I?
Yup! I fucking hate The New York Yankees and everything they represent. I root for every team that struggles to defeat them, however futile and fleeting that victory may be, because The Yankees, whether they win or lose, have already won. The war is over, and the battles being fought are recreations of battles of days’ past, and the true enemy (UFC, China) lies in wait to enact our final undoing. But at least we’ll have twenty-seven ridiculous rings to wear to our funeral.