This column originally appeared in the Inquirer op-ed.
The old saying is that rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for General Motors. But wait a second – these days, aren’t we all pulling for the bankrupt GM and its endangered autoworkers?
Make it Goldman Sachs: Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for corrupt millionaires.
Which is why this year’s World Series is not merely an opportunity for the Phillies to avenge their loss to the Yankees in the 1950 championship. Most of us don’t remember or care about that.
No, this is our chance to finally defeat the enemy of our democracy: greed.
Scan the $2,625-a-game premium seats at Yankee Stadium, and you’ll see Wall Street traders, fresh from looting the American financial system, smoking cigars wrapped in $100 bills while cheering performance-enhanced prima donnas in a billion-dollar stadium subsidized by taxpayers.
The Yankees have long corrupted the sanctity of America’s pastime with their lousy dollars. They bought their way to their first championship with Babe Ruth in 1921, and they’re trying to do it again in 2009. They spent more than $200 million this year on player contracts – nearly three times the major-league average. Their lineup boasts the highest-paid player at six different positions.
And they cheat. No team has had more players publicly linked to the use of performance-enhancing drugs than the Yankees. Rodriguez, Clemens, Giambi, Sheffield, Knoblauch, Justice, Brown – the list just goes on.
In the past, Yankee apologists might have swayed the majority by arguing that that’s the American way, that success and wealth at any cost – not fair play and the common good – are what made this nation great. That was back when capitalism had a better reputation.
In those days, the Yankees ruled the world as if they were the Chosen Ones. Each game day, they’d walk to the dugout in the old Yankee Stadium beneath a sign reminding them of that famous line of Joe DiMaggio’s:
I want to thank the good Lord for making me a Yankee.
Never mind that I’m fairly certain no one – not even Vince DiMaggio – ever said, “I want to thank the good Lord for making me a Phillie. ” The quote just stinks of shameless hubris, as if no less a being than God Almighty Himself penciled in the day’s lineup.
This sense of smug entitlement has only been abetted by a jock-sniffing news media. Grinning TV hacks wear NY hats on camera as if they were suiting up for the big game. ESPN tracks the various dalliances of A-Rod.
Over the years, the best we have been able to hope for has been to pick up the New York papers after one of the city’s teams got jobbed out of inevitable victory to read – and laugh at – the sob stories.
I know, good sportsmanship says you shouldn’t kick a guy when he’s down. But the exception is when he’s a New Yorker. Who among us, for example, wasn’t rooting for Pedro Martinez during the 2003 American League playoffs when he decked 73-year-old Yankee coach Don Zimmer?
America, despite its fixation with the holy dollar, has always recognized the Yankees for what they are. Chicago newspaperman Mike Royko wrote that “hating the Yankees is as American as pizza pie, unwed mothers, and cheating on your income tax. “
Though Philadelphia has only ever faced the Yankees once when it mattered, it has always held particular enmity for the team. We’ve spat at its success and booed its stars. Living in the shadow of the Big Apple will do that to you.
Down here in Philly, we know losing better than anyone else on planet Earth. Which means that, in a world where we’ve finally witnessed the comeuppance of greed, no team is better suited to vanquish the common enemy than the Phillies.
Look, I’m not saying money is the root of all evil. I’m saying the Yankees are.