They’re Baaa-aaaack in the Bronx
Sometimes inspiration comes to me out of the blue. I did not have a Halloween themed puzzle ready to go for last weekend, in fact I was working on a completely different generic word puzzle when the idea of “poltergeists” hit me. In a fit of inspiration, I included the Yankees and I went from zero to timely in 48 hours. BTW, completely hard-core old school Yankee fans will note that I listed the former and current Yank in uniform number order. I also included WHITE, as in Roy White because I attended his baseball camp as a youth, and if he was too obscure for you, I apologize.
It is pretty heady times again for Yankee fans with the return of the Bombers to the World Series, and I find myself pulled back into interest. I was a huge Yankee fan as boy in the 70’s and I still follow the team and attend the odd game now and again. I drifted from full-time baseball nut and casual fan of just about everything else to full-time hockey nut and casual fan of just about everything else in the 80’s and hockey still holds the greatest interest for me.
Still though, I always find the Yankees fascinating. The decades of championships, the tradition, the striving for excellence, juxtaposed with the greed, the bully with the most money, and a nearly pathological need to win makes the Yankees the sports equivalent of a Rorschach test. Every sports fan can look at the ball club from the Bronx and take away their own conclusions. Oddly enough, just about any position you take on the Yankees is both debatable and defendable. That’s what makes the question, “What do the New York Yankees represent?” such a vexing one. Are the Yankees the example of excellence in professional sports franchises? Yep. Are they also the benefactor of a hugely non-level playing filed in the terms of resources? Hell, Yep.
Here’s one aspect of the Yankees franchise and its relevancy in, well, the world, that I find interesting. The Yankees are the only professional sports team from our fair city that can legitimately be used for a metaphor as New York City’s standing in both the USA and the world. New York holds a special place in US culture, commerce, and folklore and only the Yankees tap into that aspect of New York City. The Mets, Rangers, Jets, Giants, and Knicks are local teams. While these teams followings are spread out past the boundaries of the five boroughs due to New York’s reach across the world, but the Yankees are actually a part of that reach. Like Broadway. Like Wall Street. The Yankees have a global reach, and outside of the US they are as easily associated with the USA as NYC. You just can’t say that about the rest of the sports teams here.
The word guy in me thinks that it has something to do with the teams very name. When you name your team the Yankees, you are not thinking locally. Yanks are Americans. Remember the team started life as the Highlanders, ’cause they played on a hill. Well, what team would strive for 26 (perhaps 27) championships if they were a bunch of guys on a mound of dirt? If you area Yankee, you have to win. America doesn’t cotton to losers. All of the other teams in the New York have distinctly local roots in their nicknames. The Mets were named for Metropolitan New York. The Rangers were named to go with their original owner’s nickname of “Tex”. The “Knick”-name Knickerbocker came directly from New York’s mythology. One just has to look at the skyline of Manhattan to know how the nickname Giants stuck, and the when the Titans rang too much of a rip off of Giants, the team named themselves after the planes that flew over their heads from La Guardia. All locally flavored names. All invoke the symbols and myths of New York to a degree, but only the Yankees add the symbols and myths of America as well. The success of the team has added to an American legend as well as a New York story.
I’m not saying that luck, and vast amount of money didn’t contribute to the Yankees success. I am saying that words matter, and certain expectations come from a Yank. Personally, I prefer to root on a more locally flavored team (see Devils, New Jersey), but I do appreciate the Yankees and all that their name and their franchise has become.
The Real Great Annual Fall Sports Event in NYC
Yankee fans like to think that participating in the World Series is their teams birthright, but alas there have been more Fall Classics without Yankee participation than with. Sunday marked the true annual autumnal sporting event in New York and that was the New York City Marathon. Very recently, the marathon has come to hold a special place in my heart, and every November I go down to Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn to cheer on as many of the runners as I can.
The September 11th attack on New York was the hardest thing I have ever had to live through in my life to date. I will always remember walking home to Brooklyn from Midtown Manhattan that day, crossing the Brooklyn Bridge and seeing the impossibly large plume of smoke that had been the two towers of the World Trade Center just hours before. I remember the sorrow and the dread of the weeks that followed. The fear of losing my job because the field I worked in, Broadway tickets, was crippled in the first months after the attack. I remember attending the funeral of a fire fighter I knew and learning just what a brotherhood New York’s Bravest truly had. I remember attending the wake of a friend’s aunt who had died of old age a week after the attacks and how everyone admitted that they felt relieved to be attending a viewing of someone who had died naturally. I also remember how nothing felt normal, day after day after day.
I had never attended the Marathon before, but in 2001, I did. I didn’t want to attend, but I had a friend running that year and my friends and I were going to support him. It was one of those, “The terrorist have won if I don’t do this” moments that we all went through that fall. The day was sunny, the runners ran down Fourth Avenue and I cheered my friend and thousands of other runners without any reservations. That was the first time since the attacks that anything felt normal for me, and that felt good. Very good. All New Yorkers had their moment like this, when we learned to remember but without dread. To not just move on, but also move up. We realized that normal was going to be different, but also OK. There was a day for almost all of New York that we finally felt OK again, and that it was OK to feel OK. For me that day was 11/4/01 and it was the New York City Marathon that did it. I will always be grateful for that, and I haven’t missed a year since.