About a week ago, I heard that Matthew Berry of ESPN was going to give a talk about his life in the sports world and how he made it there. Yesterday, Berry made the long trip from Bristol, Connecticut, to Boston to interact with a bunch of college students. I was excited to hear him talk about what it’s like to work at ESPN. And then he introduced himself.
“Hi, my name is Matthew Berry. Before I start, I just want to let everyone know that I hate the Yankees.”
The room exploded into applause. I suppose this is to be expected considering we’re at the heart of Red Sox Nation. I sat and looked down at the floor. My anti-Yankee buddies made it a point to clap especially hard. Ah, college.
For the next hour, he gave a very interesting talk about his struggles and successes in his life. He’s a funny guy, and he had some zingers that probably shouldn’t be repeated here. He then took questions. I was one of the first to ask a question.
“Why do you hate the Yankees?”
I’ve asked this question several times in my life. To friends. To family (my dad is a Red Sox fan. It’s horrible). But I had never asked this question to a guy who works for ESPN, so I was intrigued as to what his answer would be.
“Because they’re arrogant,” he immediately said. “They throw money at players and if they don’t succeed, then they just throw money at another player. Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright, Kei Igawa. No other team in their right mind would throw multi-year, $40 million contracts at these guys, but the Yankees do because they can. I just don’t like it.”
Ok, fair enough. I didn’t really like his answer, but I don’t think I would have liked any answer he gave. Plus, I wasn’t in a position to argue with the guy. So I asked a follow-up question. “Does baseball need a salary cap?”
“I think it does,” he said. “I think it’s unfair that the Yankees spend so much more than other teams. I think the game would be better off with a salary cap.”
And then he went on to the next question. For the next hour, he answered questions ranging from his favorite Sportscenter anchor (he likes the combination of Josh Elliot and Hannah Storm the best) to his opinion of Ian Kinsler (he’s overrated).
As this was going on, I was struggling with the idea of a salary cap in baseball. I’ve always been against a salary cap, and I suppose every Yankee fan is against a salary cap. But would the game be better off with a cap? Obviously, the Yankees wouldn’t. More teams would probably benefit. I didn’t want to admit that in my head. But perhaps it’s true.
I decided I needed to get more perspective on the issue. I talked to one of my dorm-mates about it. He’s a Twins fan. First, I asked him, “Are the Yankees arrogant?”
“Why? Give me an answer that doesn’t involve money.”
“Well, one of your best players of all time said that he wanted to thank the good Lord for making him a Yankee. I think that’s pretty arrogant.”
This quote has always stood as a symbol for the Yankees franchise. If anything, it has added to Joe DiMaggio’s legacy as one of the greatest Yankees of all time. I always thought it was appropriate that players touched the sign before games. But I never thought of the quote as arrogant.
My friend went on, “Joe DiMaggio – hell of a baseball player. But just an awful man.”
Then I asked about the salary cap. And as I expected, he complained that the Yankees spend too much money, which makes the game unfair. “The game that needs a salary cap the most doesn’t have one,” he said. “I hope the Yankees win the next five World Series. Then people will realize that something is wrong.”
A lot of our opinions were challenged yesterday, and I say “our” because I know that many of you agree with me that baseball does not need a salary cap. But I’d like to hear your thoughts on the issue. What would be the benefits of a salary cap? What would be the problems with one? Try to be objective and look at the game as a whole, not just from the perspective of a Yankee fan.
UPDATE: Mr. Berry actually responded to my question on ESPN.com. You can read his response here: