This past Friday I attended my first baseball playoff game, Yankees vs Twins at the new Yankee Stadium, game 2 of the NLDS. Nick Blackburn started for the Twins, A.J. Burnett, one of their big off-season acquisitions, went for the Yanks. It was a pitcher’s duel till the ninth, when a two run blast by Alex Rodriguez scored he and Mark Texeira, tying the score at three. The game went into extra innings, and was eventually won by Texeira, on a walk off bullet to the left field corner. I almost lost my voice from screaming so much, and I’ve never had so many high fives from strangers. I got back, all excited from the victory, and posted about it on Facebook…and I’ve been catching nothing but flack for it ever since.
People hate the Yankees. Not just dislike, hate. Why is that? The typical response I get is that they’re a store bought team. The Steinbrenner’s pay exorbitant contracts, like the $275 million to A-Rod over ten years, or the big money deals to Sabathia, Burnett, and Texeira this past off-season. Their detractors say they’re trying to buy world championships. They’re making the so called “small market teams,” the ones who are trying to create the next big stars through their farm systems, seem like Mom and Pop stores competing with WalMart. All of that may be true. But keep this in mind. Just because a team has a huge payroll, that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily going to be successful. Just look at the Yanks postseason woes of the past five years, since losing to the Marlins in the ’03 World Series. They’ve been unable to advance past the first round. Just because you get a lot of good individual players together, that doesn’t mean they’re going to play as a cohesive unit. They still need to come together and play as a team, and put their egos on the shelf. I’ve been watching this team all year, even before I moved back to New York at the end of June. I’ve seen the looseness in the clubhouse that’s been lacking from all those other teams. A-Rod being clutch here in the postseason has been an indication that they’re finally ready to draw together. And there are always going to be people who, because of the size of their payroll, and because they’re the big, bad Empire, are going to discount the great playing they’ve done all year and boo them.
Well, I don’t care what anybody says. Being from Cincinnati, the Reds remain my National League team, and living in New York, the Yankees remain my American League team. When you reduce sports down to their lowest common denominator, they’re about a squad representing a city or geographical area, and its people. Controversial, vilified, and slandered, that’s what the Yankees, and New York City, are all about. Love it or leave it, and I, myself, love it…and the Yankees. My squad. Friday night, my first trip to the new Yankee Stadium and first playoff game, though far from my last, was an unforgettable experience that I will cherish, always. The high price of the ticket was well worth it. I would have paid double that. I was among my people, and it was another in a series of cultural events that is gradually tying me more firmly to this, my new city. The people here can be gruff, sometimes, rude. But get them under the bright lights in October, in pinstripes, and you see what New York is all about: multicultural, united, proud, strong. And I can’t wait for the next round, when the Yankees clobber the Angels and advance to the World Series. I promise, you’re going to hear all about it on Facebook.