An interesting piece was in the Times yesterday regarding some fans who were not in favor of George Steinbrenner. Here’s a snip:
The death of Mr. Steinbrenner on Tuesday has elicited fond remembrances and effusive tributes from Yankees fans outside the gates of the team’s stadium in the Bronx and throughout the region. The man known as the Boss was praised for bringing the struggling Yankees back to life in the 1970s and for rebuilding what has become one of the richest and most successful franchises in all of sports.
But Mr. Steinbrenner’s death has sparked more complex emotions among a smaller, less visible demographic: Yankees fans who loved the team but hated Mr. Steinbrenner. Their outrage over his braggadocio, management style and even his politics drove them away from the team, and now that he is gone, they are looking at the Yankees in a new light and considering becoming fans once more.
Life — as in baseball, as in death — is complicated, and though no one likes to speak ill of the dead, some of the people who came close to making exceptions this week in the case of Mr. Steinbrenner have been these Yankees fans, or former fans, or formerly former fans.
New York and New Jersey residents’ relationships with their sports teams can be as nuanced and as perplexing as their relationships with their spouses, or former spouses for that matter. Lapsed Yankees fans coming to terms with Mr. Steinbrenner’s death are, as a result, an emotional, mixed-up lot. They talk of rushing home as children to turn on the television to watch Don Larsen pitch a perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series, yet they have no problem rattling off Mr. Steinbrenner’s sins as well as any Red Sox fan might.
Each had a personal “last straw.” For some, it was political: they were disgusted that Mr. Steinbrenner pleaded guilty in August 1974 to having made illegal contributions to the 1972 campaign of President Richard M. Nixon.
For others, it was about Yankee Stadium: they said Mr. Steinbrenner was wrong to push for tearing down the old ballpark to build a new $1.5 billion stadium with public subsidies, and they hated his publicly articulated argument that the largely Latino neighborhood around the stadium was too dangerous for people to come to.
Others said it was about baseball: they blamed him for trading players they loved, like pitcher David Wells, and never forgave him for firing Mr. Berra.
“I would rather watch a team that struggles and gets to the World Series once in a while so that it means something, rather than feel like, ‘Well, we won because we bought all the best players,’ ” said Neil DeMause, 44, a former Yankees fan who lives in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn.
I fully understand what DeMause is saying here. And, it is much, much, sweeter – at least to me – when a team like the ’76 Yankees reaches the World Series or when a team like the ’96 Yankees wins a World Series than it is when a team like the 2009 Yankees wins a World Series. And, while I still love going to Yankees games, I’m not in love with the present “experience” has become in attending games at the new Yankee Stadium – in terms of cost and having to witness the seating élitism that is practiced there now.
And, in the past, during the ’70′s and ’80′s, I found myself – at times – not being pleased with Steinbrenner’s antics.
So, I “get” what some are saying in this feature. But, times change. Steinbrenner changed a bit as he got older too. And, I am mourning his passing. I suppose some others just have a hard time of letting certain things go. And, that’s fine. I also have my own persistent feelings of resentment towards some things. We all do, don’t we?
How about you? What’s your take on Yankees fans who were not fans of George Steinbrenner and who allowed that to influence how they thought about the team and how they now feel about his passing?