Ah, what it is to root for the New York Yankees. Who was it, the old comedian Joe E. Lewis? Wasn’t he the one who said rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for U.S. steel?
It’s a common sentiment. Wilt Chamberlain famously noted that “nobody roots for Goliath.” And it’s true. Where’s the romance in it? If the invincible Goliath had actually defeated little old rock-tossing David back in Biblical times, would it have even been mentioned in the bible? Would it have been a story that anybody remembered at all? Nope. It would just be another instance of the juggernaut juggernauting; another example of life being unfair. Yawn. Well, that’s basically what it’s like when the Yankees win divisions, pennants, and the World Series.
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I must note, of course, that I am writing this from the point of view of a diehard, lifelong Yankee fan. Everyone in my family, even the ones acquired through marriage and divorce and second marriages, are Yankee fans. I am acutely aware of the existence of countless numbers of bandwagon Yankee fans (people who like wearing the hat more than anything else) and I realize they are just one annoyance out of many that Yankee haters have. For what it’s worth, I am not one of them. My pinstripe credentials are well intact. I know the history (Who doesn’t? It’s been shoved down everybody’s throats enough) and the present, from the days of low priced tickets to their current state of being a billion-dollar sports mammoth with an endless appetite for capital and success. I guess, in short, this article is half apology and half defense, from an objectively subjective (or is it subjectively objective?) Bronx Bomber aficionado.
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My passion for the Yankees is exactly on par with a devotee of, say, the Royals or the Twins or the Athletics or any other small-market team. And whenever I meet these folks and discuss sports the same thing always comes up with regard to the Yanks: they-have- all-the-money-and-it’s-just-not-fair. From that point of view, who can blame a Twins fan for being frustrated about it? Year after year Minnesota has to scratch and claw its way to the top with a budget a fraction of New York’s. They have virtually no room for spending error. And, to boot, the Yankees are usually the ones killing the Twinkies’ playoff dreams. It’s cruel. It really is.
But something often overlooked by the detractors is how much money a team like the Yankees generates for the whole of baseball. For starters, anytime the Yankees come to a stadium on the road they generate more revenue than any other visiting team’s games, oftentimes creating sellouts when there otherwise wouldn’t be one. And their front offices know this, jacking up normally low-priced tickets to take advantage of the Yankees’ draw.
A staggering fact to look at is that since the inception of the Luxury Tax, the Yankees have provided ninety-two percent of the money collected by all of the teams. Ninety-two. I italicized it twice for emphasis. For anybody that visits Yankee Stadium (more than likely failing to find cheap Yankees tickets) it is very apparent how much revenue there is to be shared. In general, the amount of revenue generated for low-market teams from high-market teams (Yankees, tickets, Mets, Cubs, etc.) as of 2009 was approximately $430 million dollars. Sure, there is no salary cap in major league baseball but that doesn’t necessarily mean there is an unfair distribution of wealth.
The Yankees can also be given credit for leading by example in business operations. Their venture with the YES television network has set the bar and created the mold for other franchises to follow, showing how to optimize income via local broadcasting deals. A great example is the Cleveland Indians, which, despite being in a limited-market city, had managed to start their own local network, Sports Time Ohio. This forced Fox Sports to pay the Indians a rights fee to air their games, creating additional profit for the club.
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Still, with all this being stated, millions of fans still probably prefer to live in a world in which the Yankees, along with all their trophies and riches, would just go away forever; like trying to kick the kid out of the sandbox that owns most of its sand. But if you want the truth, and if you don’t want it below face value, you have to look at the whole picture. Some of the Yankee anger is justifiable yet some of it is a product of, dare I say, sports jealousy. I know all about fan frustration, believe it or not: I am also a Knicks fan.