Rod Dreher

When I was a kid in the 1970s, I followed professional baseball. George Steinbrenner was the personification of baseball evil to me: rich, arrogant as hell, and from New York. I lost interest in baseball as a teenager, and with that lost my attitude about the Yankees. Years later, when I lived in New York City, I was thrilled to see the Yankees win, but I didn’t really care. Yet so intense was my childhood loathing for Steinbrenner that I could hardly see his name without a twinge.
He died today. I’m in no real position to judge, but what Ross Douthat wrote about Steinbrenner strikes me as probably close to the truth, especially this:

We’ll remember the buffoonish Steinbrenner of “Seinfeld” fame and the triumphant Steinbrenner of the 1996-2001 Yankee dynasty, instead of recalling the Yankee tycoon for what he really was: An empire-builder, yes, but also a bully who wrecked as many great teams as he built, and made countless employees miserable along the way.
In the end, if we don’t go in for airbrushing, the best thing to be said about Steinbrenner is this: His worst impulses were always the honest impulses of a fan, rather than the cynical impulses of a businessman. He understood, in a way too many owners and too many players (ahem, LeBron James) do not, that his entire sporting empire depended on the irrational passion of millions upon millions of Yankee-lovers, and he catered to those passions at every opportunity. He ran the team the way the average fan might, if they were suddenly handed the reins of their favorite franchise — with his heart on his sleeve, his foot in his mouth, and his knee jerking with every change of fortune on the field.

UPDATE: From reader La Dolce Vita, in the combox thread:

One of my work colleagues, a noted Yankees-hater, uttered this precious one-liner upon hearing the news, then rushed off to post it on his blog. “Steinbrenner didn’t die. He just fired his heart.”

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus