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It's Not Easy Being a Yankee Fan

  

 

When Aaron Boone's leadoff blast in the bottom of the eleventh landed in the left field stands, giving the Yankees a come from behind 6-5 victory over the Boston Red Sox and a trip to the World Series, there was something oh so familiar about it, something almost predictable about the uncanny way in which the Yankees snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, while the ill-fated Red Sox managed to blow yet another one. In 1949, 1978, 1999, the Yankees advanced to the World Series at the expense of the Red Sox, so why should 2003 be any different? Thus it came to pass, but not until the eighth inning when a tired Martinez was left in too long. The curse of the Bambino? Or just bad managing. The Yanks went on to score three runs, tying it at 5-5. The rest, as they say, was history.

But non-Yankee fans should not be deluded. It's not easy being a Yankee fan. Because when they lose, I can tell you, it's a bitter pill to swallow. We Yankee fans are accustomed to victory - which, of course, makes defeat much more excruciating. Non-Yankee fans should understand a few things before judging the Yankees (and their fans) too harshly. First, there are other teams that spend money like water - and don't win (when was the last time you saw the Texas Rangers playing in October). And something else: the Yankees have had their lean years. I know the Yankees have made 39 trips to the World Series since 1921 and have won 26 World Series championships. And I understand that other fans may tire of seeing them. But there were lean years when Yankee fans suffered greatly.

Between 1949 and 1964, the Bombers appeared in the World Series 13 out of 15 seasons, capturing eight World Series flags, an amazing run. But following this stretch came the years of famine, arguably the most difficult years in Yankee history. In 1965, the mighty Yankees, after going to the World Series in 1964 (and losing to St. Louis) found themselves in sixth place - a catastrophe. The next year they plummeted to tenth place (last), which was apocalyptic. So unexpected was the Yankee collapse that Yankee fans were utterly flummoxed. The worst year of all was ‘69 when the hated cross-town Mets, an expansion team, won the World Series - an unforgettable humiliation. It would be 12 long years before the Yankees would assemble championship teams in ‘76 and again in ‘77.

Now we have the spectacle of the last eight years, in which the Yankees have returned to the World Series no less than six times, a revival, it would seem, of their former dominance. And while others may disagree, I would argue that a return of the great Yankee dynasty is good not just for baseball, but the country and, perhaps, even the world. For my point is that in the Yankees, we have a record of exceptional performance, a history of unprecedented success - in a word, the perfect sports symbol for America. As I have written elsewhere: "...Who better represents the nation, embodies our highest hopes and most noble ambitions, in the world of sports, than the Yankees? They are the standard of greatness against which all others are measured, a symbol of excellence that cannot be surpassed... More than symbols of America, they are metaphors for America, the Yankees as America: for in their primacy and dominance through the last century, we see the same primacy and dominance of our nation..."

At a time when America is under attack not just by terrorists, but the entire horde of anti-American hecklers around the world and within our borders, the nation can draw solace from the tradition of triumph the Yankees represent. There is in many quarters an irrational suspicion of the US if for no other reason than that our nation is so powerful, as if this were a flaw of some sort, something to be ashamed of. But as with the Yankees, greatness is not a defect but a legacy of superior execution to be emulated. The Yankees and America, indeed, go together and particularly so, I would say, after 9/11. The Yankees are America's team; and for those who love this country it would also be natural to regard with affection the Yankees. If I may borrow once more from words I have written elsewhere: "...We can embrace this eminently American team, do so unabashedly, even with patriotic fervor..."

And wait ‘till next year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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