With the utter and definitive sweep that the Detroit Tigers have just finished doing to the New York Yankees, now is as good a time as any to finally post this, which has been in the works in one form or another since Game 3 of the ALDS.
In The Dark Knight Rises, Bane, during one of his beat-downs of Batman, declares this to the Caped Crusader:
Peace has cost you your strength! Victory has defeated you!
In context, it makes sense: a ruse by Batman and Commissioner Gordon had allowed Gotham to, seemingly, become free of the crime and corruption that had been long plaguing the city. But once a true threat emerged once again, the city, and the since-retired Batman, were not prepared to face it, having grown complacent and overconfident over the years. Only after being defeated do Batman and Gordon become the people they must be in order to rid Gotham of Bane’s threat.
The same can be said for the New York Yankees. It was once said that rooting for the Yankees was like rooting for U.S. Steel, but, as Jim Caple noted in his seminal The Devil Wears Pinstripes, even U.S. Steel isn’t what it once was, but the Yankees have kept winning. Now, rooting for the Yankees must be like rooting for Wal-Mart, or, as Michael Rosenberg wrote, Goldman Sachs. There is no question whether they will be successful, the question is only whether they will be successful enough by their standards. “Their standards” are now a zero-sum game: they must win the World Series or their season- no matter what happened in it- will be a failure. They have won so much that they have changed their meaning for winning. They’ve won so much that they have their own definition of winning.
However, this seemingly-driving philosophy of a title or bust has, ironically, led to a complacency amongst both the team and their fans. They have seemingly decided that, since they are the Yankees, they should just be expected to make it to the World Series, as if putting on the pinstripes will cause their opponents to forfeit the regular season and first few rounds of the playoffs. The fans, judging by how many empty seats were present in the playoffs this year, feel the same way. Of course, this also is partly because of the complacency that the Yankees have acquired over the years as they’ve gotten drunk on success: they have become even more corporate, uncaring about the average fan. Once, back at the old stadium, it was a place for the people. Oh, sure, there were plenty of expensive seats that only hedgefund managers, rock stars, actors and politicians could afford, but there were also plenty of places for the common man, whether high up or deep in the bleachers. Then new stadium, however, dropped all pretense: the most expensive seats were literally separated from the rest by a moat of concrete walkways, and the number of upper-deck seats- traditionally the cheapest seats- were decreased.
The Yankees, no doubt, figured that their success would mean that people would pay any price for their ticket. They were wrong.
So now, the most successful franchise in baseball (but not sports) must look deep into it’s soul. It has been beaten and embarrassed. But will they rise, or will they continue with their old ways, ignoring the fans and their own history while sacrificing their happiness and soul?
Given the fact that the old ways bring lots of money, I’d doubt it. But, hey, you never know.