Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Boss

An era came to an end this morning, as longtime New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner died.

I wasn't so lucky to have seen the totality of his time as owner. And even when I first started paying attention to baseball, I was more focused on players and teams than owners. I saw them as peripheral parts of the equation, but Steinbrenner was anything but. His impact on the Yankees, and on baseball, was profound and far-reaching.

It's important on a day like today to realize that history should and will recognize Steinbrenner as a hero. In a time when baseball needed help after the strike that canceled the 1994 World Series (and ruined any hope the Montreal Expos ever had of a title), Steinbrenner was as important as the chase for 61 in revitalizing the sport. Think about your favorite stories, and you'll find they've all got a villain.

Steinbrenner was happy to be a villain for baseball fans in every other city by pouring his heart, soul, and money into the Yankees. My favorite recent memory in baseball is the 2001 World Series between the Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks. I wasn't much of a D'Backs fan, but because of the Yankees' dominance for a decade, I rooted for whoever opposed them. The drama of blown saves, seven games, and two of the most dominant starting pitchers of our time in Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson was great, but everything was accentuated by the fact that it was the Yankees.

As I've come to appreciate baseball, and as the Yankees have encountered more regular disappointment in October, my disdain for them has waned. I've also come to appreciate that the world needs villains. The Celtics need the Lakers, the Colts need the Patriots, the Capitals need the Penguins. Without adversity to overcome, sports is just a bunch of guys running around.

Thank you, George Steinbrenner, for helping baseball when it needed you. Rest in peace, Boss.

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