[Business Day One] Can’t Have It Both Ways


Yankees fans are an interesting breed. Every fanbase has a particular culture, sculpted by everything from the team’s winning (or losing) tradition to the regional cuisine and availability of parking at the stadium. The New York Yankees play in the most culturally and economically influential city in the world, and have been putting a consistently good product on the field for a century. These factors combine to create a team that celebrities, rappers, and even certain breeds of cats think is cool to root for. This unbridled popularity creates a sense of arrogance and entitlement that is despised not only by their neighbors to the north, but by countless small market teams regardless of whether or not those teams even play baseball. And Yankees fans bask in it. They, or should I say ‘we,’ gain power from it. The hate is like our yellow sun. Hearing “Yankees Suck” chants empower us, even in years like this when the team actually does suck.

There is really one single element that caused Yankees fans to become what we’ve become. It’s not the World Series rings or the House That Ruth Built or the location in the world’s capital, though those things certainly set the table for the ‘element’ to dine at. The factor that made us what we are is our owner, George Steinbrenner. The reason why we demand a championship every year and demand instant accountability when we don’t get it is because of that man. He is why his team, and their fans, are hated. That said, I wouldn’t trade him for anything. And other Yankees fans should realize how lucky we are to have him.

Yankees fans have never questioned the Boss’s desire to win. That is a luxury that we’ve grown used to over the past three and a half decades, but we need to remember how rare it is in sports to have the ownership that wants to win for winning’s sake. Granted, almost every team (pretty much all teams except the Florida Marlins, really) want to win. But winning is easy to market, and creates the buzz that sells tickets and makes it stylish to wear the merch. Fans that feel ‘let down’ aren’t likely to continue filling the seats, and most sports management understands this and wants to win for that reason. But George is a different animal. He’s obsessed with winning, even if it means operating at a loss. Even now, in his supposed twilight years, he’s still giving Brian Cashman blank checks in the off-season and threatening to fire the manager in fits of win-withdrawal rage.

But that’s what it takes to field a team like this in today’s baseball market. A fanbase brought up on 26 championships is voracious for more, both this season and in every season following for the foreseeable future. And to be competitive like that, you can’t mortgage the present at the benefit of the future or vice versa. We can’t have it both ways. Not in New York City. Steinbrenner understands perfectly because he feels the same way. And so the $200 million dollar payrolls are paid out each year, and Torre’s job is on the line with every losing streak, and the greatest player of the last 30 years got boo’ed for an entire season.

Yankees fans want to win every year, and George Steinbrenner told us it was possible. In fact, he told us that it would happen. Can you blame us for how we behave?