I Am A Great Yankee: Honest Ramblings of New York Fan

Columns, Featured — By on May 14, 2010 6:30 pm

billofrights_rev1

My wife and I have a long standing debate.  A bone of contention.  A ruffle in our respective panties.  She takes issue with the fact that I use the term “we” when referring to something the New York Yankees have done, will do, can do, should do, or won’t do.

You are not on the team!”, she says in her righteous tone, with the conviction of someone that thinks they actually know what they’re talking about.  “Oh really, you and the Yankees won last night?  You and the Yankees have an important home stand this week?  You and the Yankees are going to F-word the S-word out of the F-ing Redsox up the F-ing A-word?“, she says with a look that implies that I’m either delusional and/or dangerously perverted.  Yet I have explained to her time and time again, the fans are an integral part of any team dichotomy.  Like UK football hooligans, the fans are an extension of their team and play a vital role of support, appreciation, and motivation for their beloved team.  Without fans there would be no teams.  And so I stand by the claim fact that I am an integral member of the New York Yankees.

When I was a kid I wanted to be a baseball player.  I didn’t care what position…I honestly hadn’t given it much thought, knowing full well that the probability of this happening was on the same level of me winning a gold medal with the U.S. Women’s Gymnastic team.  (Not that I don’t look great in a leotard, but I’ve just never gotten past my tragic floor routine accident…back when I was a 12 year old asian girl).  In my youthful delusion of fancy I wouldn’t play for any other team than the New York Yankees.  Selfishly refusing the rest of the baseball watching public the chance to watch my legendary home runs, unless they were arching dramatically against the backdrop of the NYC skyline (yes, I am aware that home plate faces east, opposite of Manhattan…but I’m in the middle of a charming reflection, so shut up).  For me, to play for any other team would have been a compromise of my integrity as a fan, and that wasn’t an option.  At some point today’s ball players were fans too.  They had teams that they lived and died for.  They had unbreakable alliances.  But then somewhere along the way, things got complicated.

The irony is, baseball players are the worst fans in the game.  Their alliance shifts with every contract year.  Whoever is willing to pay them the most money is where they’re going to hang their officially licensed MLB hat.  Or they will demand a trade if their basement-dwelling team or less than luxuriant host city fails to warrant their high-priced presence, or doesn’t sufficiently stroke their ego.  And this hypocrisy doesn’t land solely on the players shoulders, clearly it’s the nature of the business.  The individual organizations are as much at fault as the players.  To their credit, they’ve created an environment that demands production and, at the very least, consistency.  Which is the right way to run a business and the appropriate standards to expect from your employees.  However, they’ve also set strict loyalty embargoes with their players.  Short contracts and a ‘what have you done for me lately’ attitude hardly lend themselves to a comfortable, stress-free and productive work environment.  When you can look over your shoulder as a player and see young upstarts being preened and fawned over by ownership and the media, it doesn’t take long to realize that your commemorative bobblehead is quickly becoming a collector’s item.  Not that I feel bad for the players, per se, because their inflated salaries and demands have led to this era of moneyball, and ownership has foolishly allowed agents and player reps to take so much of their power away that you have to wonder who is really running the league.

But year after year, contract after contract, winning season or losing season, you can always rely on the fans being there for the long haul.  A fact that most organizations take advantage of.  They know that these tens of thousands of unpaid team members are the ones buying merchandise, tickets, concessions and collectibles.  So they jack up the prices and begin offering every conceivable type of branded apparel (batting practice hats, spring training wristbands, workout jerseys, retro hats, and this….really?).  If I didn’t know better, I’d say these teams cared more about money than their fans.  Can you believe that?  A company that cares more about their bottom line than their employees, clients, partners, and supporters?  In America?!?!

By definition, a team is made up of individuals.  Those individuals have a responsibility to collectively represent the ideals, history, and pride of a team.  The luxury and honor that comes with the opportunity to play baseball for a living is something that nobody can overlook.  Everyone is  going to be on their best behavior and recognize and respect this unique and envious opportunity…right?

There are some players who have proven themselves to be solid human beings, giving contributors to the community, charitable benefactors to those in need, and pillars of society and respectability.  Current players like Jeter, Mauer, Granderson, and some of the all-time greats like Clemente, Ripken, and Winfield have done so much for their communities and championed so many charitable causes that they have come to be known for their class as much as for their ability.  However, a larger percentage of players are ambassadors of greed, avarice, and inflated pride.  Hardly the people you want as representatives of what your team stands for.

At some point money compromised their integrity.  Soon after, indiscretions of the flesh, drugs, gambling, violence, dog fighting, wife killing, gun toting, ear biting, and rape enter the picture…and that’s just Lawrence Taylor (I’ll be here all week folks…don’t forget to tip your waitress).  And before long your players are known more for their press conferences than they are for their on-field accomplishments.

I am a great Yankee because I have never negatively compromised the Yankee brand with these public embarrassments.  I have never been caught with a prostitute, and to answer my wife’s predictable follow-up question: No, I have never visited a prostitute either.  When it comes to gambling, I have never walked away from a casino with more money than I entered with…but I’ve also never left more than $250 lighter.  I don’t like gambling because I don’t win — So I just don’t do it.  As far as drugs are concerned, let me just say this…..I have never visited a prostitute.

What I’m trying to say is, money being the route of all evil is corny and cliche, but not wrong. It can hardly be a coincidence that so many multi-millionaires have such a shady and corrupted life, including sports stars, celebrities, and let’s face it, even your rich friend’s dad that has an apartment in the city because he works late 4 nights a week….he’s not working.

There was a time when being a ball player was enough.  It wasn’t the money, the endorsements, or the women…..well, ok, it was probably always about the women.  But the money was not the motivating factor.  Yogi and Rizzuto ran a bowling alley in Clifton, NJ in the off season to make extra cash.  They played for the love of the game, not for the elevated income bracket.

I’m not saying the players are wrong for taking the bags of money that are offered.  I’m not saying that ownership is wrong for turning the game into a high-priced entertainment industry.  What I’m saying is, money has compromised the integrity and limited the commitment a player has to a team, and the team to a player.  But what lasts beyond the scope of capital gains is the undying commitment a fan has to their team.

Sure, players get the stats, the recognition, the benefits and gains, but there are intangibles that the fans provide that are as important as the contributions of the players.

  • Home Field Advantage:  Is it an advantage because the grass is cut differently; Do the dimensions of the outfield and foul territory favor one team over another; Do some yahoo’s dressed like sausages racing around the field in Milwaukee give the Brewers added depth?  No.  And if you know me, you know that I will always defend bratwurst in any argument.  But the truth is, home field advantage points clearly and directly to the importance and energy that the fans bring to a stadium.   The not-so-silent silent partner.  The heart and soul of the home team.
  • Roll Call:  I know that Derek Jeter has more hits than any Yankee.  I know that Yogi Berra has more World Championship rings than any other player.  I know that Mariano Rivera has more post-season saves than any pitcher.  But what I don’t know is, who is the guy that started roll call?  For those of you who don’t know what ‘roll call’ is, why are you on this website?  Please go away.  Personally, I think roll call is the best fan tradition of any sport for any team.  From throwing back the opposing team’s home run ball at Wrigley (which has been adopted all over), to throwing octopus on the ice in Detroit (which I’ve never understood….but it’s still kinda cool), to fans in Buffalo, NY wearing a #32 jersey and killing their wives, nothing compares to the unifying energy of roll call.  Roll call immediately bonds the entire stadium, makes you smile when you see the honest and often humorous reaction of the players addressing their name being called, and actually, if  only temporarily, makes you wish you were sitting in the bleachers.  The origins of this great tradition are a mystery to me, yet it remains one of the things I love most about going to a Yankee game.  I don’t necessarily agree that box seats suck, as The Creatures roll call coda will have you believe…but I appreciate the typical polarity that comes when real New Yorkers converge: “Hey, you a Yankee fan?  Me too….Go F yourself”.
  • We will always be there:  Whether you win or lose, choke or triumph, ascend or plummet, the fans will always defend, rejoice, support, and mourn with you.  You may get on our bad side, you may need a wake-up call with some boo’s or groans from time to time. But as long as you respect the game and respect the team, and respect your fans, you will always have a few thousand people in your corner.  In much the same way that Deadheads were part of the mystique and persona of The Grateful Dead, so too are the dedicated (no pun intended) and emotionally invested fans of their chosen team.  The only difference is, I don’t wear Birkenstocks, a room doesn’t smell like patchouli for 30 minutes after I leave it, I bathe, and I don’t like crappy music.

I am a fan.  I am a contributor.  I am a great New York Yankee.

And to my wife I say, we have a big home stand this weekend, so you’re going to have to watch The Real Housewives of NJ in the other room.  My team needs me.

And so until next time, this has been another declaration of The Bill of Rights and Wrongs

For more nonsense and drivel, be sure to check out my website from time to time:
http://billschedler.weebly.com

Bill Schedler is a freelance writer.  Please visit his website to contact him for any potential projects and assignments.

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7 Comments

  1. Karen says:

    Hear! Hear! That’s why the New York Yankees vanity plate on my lil red sports car reads “MY NYY”. Fans are the customers… no fans, no team. Just ask the Montreal Expos.

    Hey, Bill, glad you’re with the Yankees. I’ll cheer for you every time you come up to bat.

  2. Jenn says:

    Awesome, awesome, awesome! As usual, I have nothing clever or witty to say, I just wanted to compliment you on a great piece of writing.

  3. Eh, gotta disagree with you here. For one thing, you’re not old enough for the “these kids today” spiel to really work! ;) My comments below on several points:

    “There was a time when being a ball player was enough. It wasn’t the money, the endorsements, or the women…..well, ok, it was probably always about the women. But the money was not the motivating factor. Yogi and Rizzuto ran a bowling alley in Clifton, NJ in the off season to make extra cash. They played for the love of the game, not for the elevated income bracket.”

    It’s not like Yogi and the Scooter said “geez, we’ll pass on making more money to keep it all about the love of the game.” It was that the owners were cheap, and the players had no alternative, thanks to the reserve clause. But even then, ballplayers still made more than a typical working-class fan. And they tried to get bigger contracts, even though they had little bargaining ability. For example, Joe DiMaggio once held out for money. Does that mean that he didn’t play for the love of the game?

    As for your wife’s point about “we,” I agree with her. While we may be paying their salaries, we didn’t make all the sacrifice that come with playing baseball. Even a future star can spend years living in poverty in the minor leagues, riding buses and eating cheap food. Isn’t that love of the game?

    “What I’m saying is, money has compromised the integrity and limited the commitment a player has to a team, and the team to a player.”

    Again, this is kind of a rose-colored glasses view of the good old days. Back then, very few players were treated very well by their teams when the ends of their careers was near. Babe Ruth got discarded several times, including by the Yankees. The Brooklyn Dodgers traded Jackie Robinson to the New York Giants, their most hated rivals, when he started aging (Robinson retired rather than play for the Giants – he had no alternative.) Back then, the loyalty of player to team was completely one-sided – players couldn’t move freely, but the ownership could dump them at any time, no matter how much loyalty the players showed. Not exactly the good old days.

    “However, a larger percentage of players are ambassadors of greed, avarice, and inflated pride. Hardly the people you want as representatives of what your team stands for. At some point money compromised their integrity.”

    Disagree. Money has nothing to do with character. All it does is make you more of what you are. It’s your choice as to what that “more” is. And actually, most players are solid citizens, just like society, where most people are good people.

    And yeah, tell your wife I agree with her on the “we” thing! Take care.

  4. Jason says:

    Mr. Bill, I am almost in tears after reading this. No, not from laughter or long-forgotten emotional ties to Jim Rice, Rich Gedman, Bruce Hurst or skinny Roger Clemens. Must be allergies from mowing the lawn. BUT, I agree with you 100% in regard to “our” importance to our teams. I know the Sox can win without me, but I also know deep down inside that they want me out there with them. Once the restraining order issue is resolved, I will be out there again. My energy, my passion, and wearing my Youkilis jersey while I watch at home is essential to the success and tradition of the team. We are part of our teams, and our teams are part of us. I know that you avoid prostitutes that Tiger has already had business with.

    Take me out to the ballgame
    Usher me through the drunk crowd.
    Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack
    If my credit card’s refused, I’ll give it all back.
    For it’s root, root, root for the Red Sox.
    If they don’t win, throw some blame.
    For it’s one, two, three hundred bucks
    For a week-night-game.

    God bless you, Bill Schedler.

  5. Adam says:

    I wish I didn’t agree with “Lippy” Lisa…but I do. Lisa do you agree with Bill’s wife about the “we” thing? “We” get it.

  6. Lisa From Subway Squawkers

    Thanks for the comments. I’m all for a good debate.
    While I concede that there may be a bit of a rose-colored tone to my points, my points are no less valid…and your arguments are more than a bit off point.

    You mention that Yogi and Scooter didn’t pass on the opportunity to make more money, it just wasn’t offered because the teams were too “cheap”. Right…..so they still played even though they would have liked to be paid more. You’ve just described everybody working in America today. And while they did make more than the average Joe, it wasn’t to the obscene proportions it is today. So their love of the game is what got them through the long road trips and daily physical abuse. Not their ever growing stock portfolios. Again, I’m not blaming the players or the teams…it’s the nature of the business today. You’ll remember my point all along is that fans are the unsung component of the team dichotomy, and we are ever present without expecting so much as a buck. You also mention Joe DiMaggio holding out for more money. While I do think he played for the love of the game, he was also a notoriously bad teammate and a generally selfish and jaded guy (we’ve all heard his no-autograph stance). So he might not be the shining star to hitch your argument to. I’d say that if he were a happier guy with fewer demons, money wouldn’t have been such a motivating factor for him….and Marilyn wouldn’t have been quite so punch drunk in her later years. But boy, could she take a right cross.

    And you mention the sacrifices ball players make in the minors. Boo-hoo….we have to play baseball for a living. The average minor leaguer makes over $25k. It’s not a hell of a lot of money, I’ll grant you, but that’s what I was making at 2 years out of college. So please, let’s not cry poverty for these guys. Show me one guy who would prefer making that kind of money out of college by sitting in a cubicle instead of playing ball and traveling the country (in a bus that smells like feet and farts) and I’ll show you a guy that was in show choir. And you insinuate that I don’t think minor league players are playing for love of the game. Do me a favor and don’t assume my position on people or issues. Those are the guys that are playing with the MOST love of the game because they are grinding out their dreams on nothing more than talent and hope.

    You go on to mention players like Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson being traded in their twilight years. Of course they were. Old people are useless, everybody knows that. But to be traded in your declining years is expected. To leave a team in your prime due to salary negotiations is what I was talking about. Or organizations that can’t afford their rising stars is something that agents/reps make a living on. And, in support of the players, I was also saying that too often organizations offer only short contracts, minimizing their loyalty to the players. But again, to my point, we the fans are there year after year, line-up card after line-up card.

    And finally you mention that the majority of players are solid citizens and worthy role models (well ok, you didn’t say the ‘role model’ thing, but I decided to try my hand at assuming). And you say I’m looking through rose-colored glasses? I have a few friends and contacts who have worked on the fringes of the sports industry and have seen and heard lots of things about lots of players (the revered and reviled). To assume these millionaires are usually on their best behaviors on the road, and typically carry themselves with class and dignity, and don’t come off as privileged and assuming, well…I find your naivety adorable and hope you never lose it. **Spoiler Alert – There is no Santa**

    And finally, I was never asking anyone to agree with or oppose my use of the term “we”. I was simply explaining why I, and many other fans, use it. We are fans, we are part of the team (no, we haven’t made their sacrifices….nor have we made their millions), and we are part of the equation. If you’ve ever been to a college football or basketball game, it is abundantly clear how vital they are to team community. So is the case when real fans are dedicated to any team, college or professional.

    Thanks for the comments
    Bill

  7. Yomommasan says:

    Damn right, Bill!!! WTF does your wife know??? You sure you married the right woman?????

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