Saturday, April 5, 2008

Bastardly Sports: The Boys of Shitty Summers

In the not too distant past, there was a ruthless billionaire who ruled the most widely recognized sports franchise in history with an iron fist. Like all Greatmen, he has slowed down with age. The team spends millions to win, yet doesn’t win the championship (eight years in New York is feeling like 20). Every spring, “it’s going to be different.” This year, the son of a ruthless billionaire takes over the reigns as vocal asshole. Yet, it’s coming off in hilarious fashion, like Tommy Boy taking over for Big Tom Callahan. The ending was happy, so I’ll remain optimistic for this road trip we are on of a season called 2008 New York Yankees baseball. With Mr. April A-Rod back, Yankee Stadium being torn down, and the Mets looking good, I do have one question, what the hell has happened?

I grew up being a fan of the New York Yankees. I love that team. From the House That Ruth Built, the logo, the colors, from the Curse of the Bambino, to Legends Field, to Don Mattingly, from the fence, the late 90s dynasty, and look, the smell (of the grass anyway), and the presence of Yankee Stadium…its’ hard not to respect the traditions growing up where I have. I’ve been a proud man about this for a long time, but the tables have changed and we all have to except it. As a child, the Reggie Jackson-era Yanks won those World Series about five years before I was born. Then came the 80s. The Summer of Sam was over, the World Series titles were over, and the only murders involved season ticket holders. Irrational decisions from an irrational billionare (George Steinbrenner) and the many firings and rehirings of Billy Martin, all the while Donnie Baseball is struggling to keep his sanity on mediocre teams and putting up MVP numbers comprised my Yankees from 1983-1995. In 1996, Mattinngly retired, Joe Torre (a National League guy who recently was fired from the Cardinals) was hired, and the Yankees were a mix of seasoned veterans, unknown young players (Rivera, Jeter). I didn’t have much hope. Then it happened, they won the World Series. I treated this as I did the NY Giants Superbowl this year, an impromptu miracle season that likely wouldn’t be duplicated. Not only was it duplicated, but starting in 1998 the Yanks won three more. It was a great time to be a Yankees fan. Johnnyboy on this very column proudly sported an offical Yankee jacket; the very same one Joe Torre would smugly slump on the bench on for the next seven years. That jacket was a sign of things to come. Johnnyboy almost got into a pretty big bruhaha over that piece of cloth and nylon and it was one of the earliest instances of people disliking not just the Yankees, but anyone that had anything to do with them (it’s not like we live in Boston) in the dominant era of the franchise. The Yankees struck fear in the heart of their victims and as much as I loved the ruthless aggression the Yanks showed, I knew they became the evil empire along the way.

Slowly, yet surely I sensed the danger looming ahead. September 11, 2001 was the biggest tragedy I have witnessed in my lifetime. The Yanks were in the Series that year. “Let do it for New York! Let’s do it for America! Let’s do it for Jonny (me, not that Melnikov asshole in the photo)!!!” They didn’t. They lost to a team in Arizona. Arizona?!?!? They were only an expansion team three years before and Arizona is where old people go to die. All I know is that I am still rather enthusiastic about this year’s team. Maybe Torre’s way was running old, maybe the Curse of the Don is erased (sorry, Mr. Mattingly, sir), maybe Hank will rule with a successful fist. Maybe Redsox fans have done the same thing (that being faked optimism) year after year until 2004. God, this bizzaro world has got to stop. Go Yanks!!!

P.S. Sending me Yankee cheers on Facebook won’t necessarily make the team win, so screw off.

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