While desperately sucking water out of a fountain at the park today, I had time to ponder over my feelings on the ever-present, "Yankees Suck" cheer. (Or jeer, as it were). My first thought is that this cheer is simply the Sox version of New York's "1918!" gibes. It is rather base, annoying, and in the former epithet's case, clearly untrue. Today "Yankees Suck!" cheers went up all around me, and the scattered New York fans turned around to yell back "26! 1918!". Obviously the Yankees do not 'suck' in terms of championships or wins and losses.
However, there is another plane to this argument. What if, rather than talking simple championships, we were actually discussing the Yankees, their impact on the game of baseball, their fans, and the organization's overall implications in America, as one single entity? Could the seemingly stupid chant be a reflection of the worth of that entity's moral character?
The Yankees under the helm of Steinbrenner have won. And won. And won. Even when they went without a World Series for quite a while in the 80s, they still won more games than any other club in that decade. They did so and continue to do so with what many call "gold-plated bullying" as they spend far more than any other team in the league, shrugging off the luxury tax imposed on them for doing so. They drive the salaries of all players on all teams up because of their eagerness to outbid for free agents, often paying them far more than they're clearly worth, in order to sign them. Their 'baseball imperialism' is a major cause for the financial and competitive disparity in Major League Baseball. They clearly make a mark on the game financially, but is it a good one?
The Fans. There are plenty of good-hearted, baseball-loving fans that root for the Yankees and have for life because they're the team they grew up with in the immediate New York area. It just so happens that they are undeniably out-numbered by jackass, bandwagon-jumping, condescending, soulless, arrogant bastards from across the country that all seem to band together under the Yankee banner. Never have I met another group of people that take so much pleasure in the pain of others--between the emails, the patronizing 'pats on the back' and the burning of non-Yankee hats in the bleachers at The Stadium, they believe being associated with this team makes them better people than everyone else.
A woman who had grown up a Yankee fan because she had loose ties to New York, and felt it was fun to be associated with a winner, but who currently lives with her die-hard Sox fan husband in New England wrote this to Sports Guy after last year's ALCS game 7.
"Am I becoming a Sox fan? A turncoat? A bandwagon fan? Possibly... Only true love can break your heart, and I know that most people wearing Sox jerseys these days are busy taping their hearts back together. It's something to see, that's all I can say. It's incredible to know, and quite frankly, the passion makes a tad bit jealous. You might not have as many World Series rings as those who wear pinstripes, but you might just have something there in Beantown that the Yankees will never have. It can't be bought with George's stacks of green, and it cant be won over with a Frank Sinatra song ... it's just in you. And I am beginning to wish it were in me, too."
Winning does not automatically raise one's moral character. Indeed, it may be the opposite. Can rooting for a team simply because they always win impair one's moral character? I think so. Surely gloating at the pain and loss of others, getting off on it, does. Can always expecting to win, and 99 times out of 100 being right, be good for the soul? Doubtful.
Lastly, can the Yankee ethic be considered a positive influence on our culture? When someone is signed by George Steinbrenner, he forces them to cut and shave any distinctive hair, facial or otherwise. By doing this, he creates a team of players that look like they belong in Eisenhower's 50s to perpetuate the group-think, cookie-cutter mentality that defines the franchise.
They cheat. At home games, specifically during the playoffs, they wheel out mediocre tenor talent Ronan Tynan to sing an exceedingly drawn out and deliberately lengthy rendition of "God Bless America" in order to ice the opposition's starting pitcher after six innings. There have been complaints filed by multiple MLB teams because of the extra ten minutes between innings this charade is responsible for.
The Yankees, with few exceptions, get what they want. If a player is on the market (or in some cases not) they will use all their muscle to get him, no matter what it costs, stealing talented players from clubs that simply can't afford to pay them as much as New York. At a time in which America's actions abroad are questioned by many in the international community as well as by those at home, can this gratuitous and impulsive imperialism be a good thing to immerse our culture in? The only potential positives that the 'Yankee culture' has caused is the general hatred of them by almost every non-Yankee baseball fan, united together against such a corrupt juggernaut. Certainly causing hatred is not virtuous when character is concerned.
Wins and losses do not determine moral character. The Panzer General Erwin Rommel was a great tactician and leader. He won far more battles than he lost and left an undeniable imprint on WWII as it unfolded in Northern Africa. Despite all of this, the government he fought for, indeed the motivation for his successes, was an entity of little or no moral virtue.
I concede that 99.99% of the people chanting at the game today did not go through this thought process before they began their unified and altogether stupid chorus of ridiculousness. However, if we dig deeply into the issue, perhaps in the overall scheme of things they are right. The Yankees, as an entity, lack any virtuous moral character and could be said to...well...suck.
Disclaimer: Everything in this post was written after excessive exposure to the sun during a very long baseball game. Facts may indeed be false, and conclusions are surely flawed in places. I have no background in philosphy, nor do I contend to. I do, however, stand by my beliefs, despite the fact that I will never chant "Yankees Suck" for fear that it will be misconstrued as an ignorant, desperate scream in the face of history.