When anyone asks me what baseball team I root for, I tell that that the most accurate answer is that I root against the Yankees. For Halloween, I dressed as “anybody but the Yankees,” donning a Red Sox shirt, Phillies jacket and Dodgers hat. The Yankees got the last laugh that night, beating the Phillies 8-5 to win game three of the World Series.
The origins of my Yankee-hatred are complicated, involving rooting for the Braves in the ’90s, watching them lose the World Series to the Yankees twice and having a dad who has been an Orioles fan since his days at Johns Hopkins in the ’80s and instilled in me his own Yankee hatred.
But I don’t hate the Yankess because I grew up in the South and my dad lived in Baltimore. My abhorrence of the Yankees is rather unique in sports, where people support one team over another for no objective reasons involving the nature of the organizations. My hatred is rational.
The Yankees, or at least the modern incarnation of the team, represents everything wrong with American society. Yes, the Yankees have been successful, and some will say I just resent their success. I don’t resent their success; I resent their arrogance.
It begins at the top. George Steinbrenner is not a good person. He was convicted in 1974 of a felony for making illegal contributions to Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign. Ronald Reagan pardoned him as he was heading out of office. Think about that, Yankee fans. You are supporting a man who thinks he is above the law.
Steinbrenner’s tenure as Yankees owner has been no better. He has publicly humiliated players, including Dave Winfield in 1983, for not playing well and was banned from baseball for life in 1990 because he paid a gambler to dig up dirt on the outfielder, though he was reinstated in 1993. When anyone tries to tell me that the Yankees are classy, I say give me a break. Joe Torre is classy, but the Boss forced him out.
It is no secret that the Yankees have the highest payroll in baseball. They are able to field good teams because they can give the best players the most money. A third of the current Yankee lineup — Johnny Damon, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez — and their best pitcher, C.C. Sabathia, played in the All-Star Game before the Yankees signed them.
While signing these players is entirely within the rules, it contradicts everything we value about sports. The Yankees are good not because they develop players better, scout better or work harder. The Yankees are good because they play in a big market and have a rich owner. Is this the sort of achievement we value?
Additionally, there is a mentality among Yankees fans that they deserve to win because they spend more money than everybody else. In 2006, when they lost to the Tigers in the American League Division Series, my freshman-year roommate blasted A-Rod for not performing in the playoffs because, to paraphrase, he’s getting paid so much. As if paying a player a lot should guarantee good performance.
Steinbrenner shares this philosophy, saying about Joe Torre before the 2007 ALDS against the Indians, “He’s the highest-paid manager in baseball, so I don’t think we’d take him back if we don’t win this series.” It wasn’t “I think another manager would do a better job,” which is the usual reason for firing a manager. It was we’re paying him a lot so he owes us.
If the fact that the Yankees are good because they have money doesn’t make you think twice before rooting for them, consider where the money comes from (other than Steinbrenner). Ticket and merchandise revenue flows in from Yankee fans, many of whom work on Wall Street, many at the firms that took on too much risk, leading to a painful recession.
The next time you put on that Yankees hat, consider this. You are supporting an organization run by a convicted felon who disrespects his employees, whose fans expect to win because they spend so much money generated by the people most responsible for the worst economy since the Great Depression. Think about that as you celebrate your 27th World Series.
I’m not bitter, I promise.
Matthew Ellison is a senior in Branford College.