Wednesday, October 28, 2009
The Yankees White House Stimulus
The championship round of the national pastime should be a moment of unity. Save for supporters of the teams playing in the Fall Classic, the country should come together and celebrate a sport as American as apple pie.
Alas, this year's World Series carries with it serious built in conflicts. As The New York Times pointed out Tuesday, poor New York Mets fans are torn between hating their division rival Philadelphia Phillies and their crosstown rival Yankees.
With such hate to go around, there is no joy in Flushing this week. (And, come to think of it, in Cleveland either, considering their Cy Young award winning pitchers of the two previous seasons -- the since-traded CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee -- are the respective Game 1 pitchers for the Yankees and the Phillies).
But if you think that's bad, consider the plight of an even more overlooked group with conflicted loyalties. I speak of the Republican Yankee fan. Based on stereotypes, one would think that Yankees and Republicanism go together like hot dogs and mustard. The Yanks are baseball royalty and have long had the biggest player payroll in the sport. They're the one that has to pay a painful luxury "tax" -- punishing them for making and spending the most money. The similarities with the Republican Party is obvious.
However, let's go back a few years: As we've mentioned in this space before, in an otherwise criminally- overlooked article six years ago, the New York Observer's Jonathan Rosenthal pointed out that, since George Steinbrenner became principal owner of the Bronx Bombers in 1973, they've never won the World Series when a Republican has been in the White House.
A cursory look seemed to bear him out: Yankees made the W.S. in 1976 (Gerald Ford) but were swept by the Reds. They won the next two (Jimmy Carter). They then made it back in '81 (Ronald Reagan) -- only to lose to the same Dodgers team they beat in their two previous appearances.
The Yankees wouldn't make it back to the Fall Classic for fifteen years -- covering three GOP administrations. In '96 (Clinton), they
won and proceeded to win three more times over Clinton's second term. They made it back in 2001, but oops! George W. Bush was now in office: Despite playing in one of the most exciting series in recent memory, the Yankees lost to the Arizonna Diamondbacks.
Rosenthal called this strange pattern "the curse of Nixon," pointing to Steinbrenner being suspended from baseball in 1974 because of illegal contributions to Nixon's re-election campaign.
But still, even with all that evidence, when Rosenthal's article appeared, the Yanks had just concluded their sixth Series appearance in eight years. Surely, they would win at least one Series in the Bush years -- even assuming he won re-election, right?
Nope. Since then, Rosenthal's analysis/prediction has held true -- and then some. Adding insult to injury, one year later, not only didn't the Yankees win the World Series, they didn't make it -- and their long-suffering arch-enemies, the Boston Red Sox, finally "reversed the Curse" (of the Babe -- not Tricky Dick) and won their own world championship for the first time in 86. Oh, and George W. Bush won re-election a few days after that. In the next four years, the Yankees wouldn't even make it to the league championship series -- and completely missed the playoffs in 2008.
Now, obviously, having a Democrat in the White House doesn't guarantee Yankee success in the Series (they made the postseason in both '95 and '97, but didn't go all the way). But, it sure as heck seems to enhance their chances.
So, now consider what it must be like to be Republican Yankee fan. Democrat Barack Obama is now president of the United States -- a fact you probably don't like. However, the Yankees are back in World Series -- with one of their strongest-looking teams in years. Even Alex Rodriguez is hitting in the playoffs -- something he never did during the Bush years. Is it possible that Barack Obama really is 'The One" (not to be confused with "The Natural")?
Does the Republican Yankee fan silently thank the Fates that there is a Democrat president somehow being a good luck charm for the most storied franchise in history? Is just Obama's presence providing -- gasp!! -- a "stimulus" of the sort that Goldman Sachs would just die for? Talk about the rich getting richer!!! What ultimately is the Republican Yankee fan to do -- switch teams? Switch parties? Just mark it down to some bizarre coincidence?
And, goodness knows, there's at least three -- and possibly, seven -- more years when this horrible conflict could raise its infernal head!!!
Oh, the horror!!!
Oh well, in the meantime: Go Yankees!!! (I'm thinking in six games.)