One of the kinder compulsions of human nature is to soften the edges of people at the end of their lives. We strain to see their good side. We make them sympathetic. It was this way on both sides of the aisle with
And so, one of the background songs of this World Series is that it would be heartwarming and emotional if the Yankees win another one for the Boss. Only nobody calls him the Boss anymore or King George or Lord Steinbrenner or convicted liar. He is Mr. Steinbrenner now (or the less formal "George" if you have known him as long as
Yes, Steinbrenner teams have won six World Series titles, and 11 pennants, and he has made hundreds of millions of dollars, and he has treated countless people like jerks -- so many that he was a regular character on
Of course, it can get silly, too. You hear this all the time now: All Mr. Steinbrenner ever wanted to do was win. This is the praise that pours in for Steinbrenner. He was about winning. He just wanted to win. He was like a fan ... winning was everything to him. So true. Of course, the same could be said of pretty much every successful person in history.
You hear this, too: Steinbrenner, unlike other owners, put his money back into the team to make them winners. This has truth in it, though there is a caveat: Steinbrenner (by virtue of owning the biggest team in the biggest city) had a lot more money to put back into his team. And, whether it was by design or simply a stroke of good fortune: The more the Yankees win, the more money the Yankees make. And Steinbrenner made plenty on the Yankees through the years. He didn't exactly put ALL of his money into the team. It ain't a charity.
I don't say this as an attack -- he's a baseball owner willing to spend a lot of money to get the best players, and that's really what fans want. Anyway, I like Steinbrenner and have for a long time. I like him because I like outsized sports characters and Steinbrenner has always been that. He has been excessively generous and excessively obnoxious and excessively successful and excessively flawed -- always to excess. It is said that Steinbrenner was a huge pro wrestling fan, and you could see how the rules of pro wrestling have marked his life. From my younger days as a wrestling fan, I believe the rules are as follows:
1. The only records that count are the ones involving bank accounts.
2. Never hit anyone with your hand when there's a metal chair within reach.
3. If the referee didn't see it, it didn't happen.
4. Winners win, losers cry and the only champion is the one with the belt.
5. Masked men never get the girl.
Steinbrenner ran the New York Yankees that way. If he could have hit a few players and managers with metal chairs, he would have done just that. The team won championships because of him, and the team derailed because of him. He was the force of will behind the tense Bronx Zoo teams of the 1970s, and he was the force of will behind the bloated Yankees teams of the late 1980s, and he was the force of will behind the dynasty Yankees of late 1990s*, and he was the force of will behind many of the overpriced Yankees teams this decade. He has paid the biggest contracts, and made the biggest demands, and thrown the biggest fits, and thrown the biggest champagne parties, too.
But it's that word:
It looks likely now that the Yankees will win. The Series is not over, and the Phillies are tough, and I do have this feeling that
Funny thing: I once saw a longtime professional wrestler in a restaurant, and we talked for a few minutes, and I asked whether he preferred being the good guy or the bad guy -- he had been both a baby and a heel many times over the years. He considered the question carefully. Good guy or bad guy. Baby or heel. Finally, he shrugged and said something like this: "What's the difference? It doesn't matter if the people love you or hate you. As long as they feel strongly."
George Steinbrenner has made people feel strongly. Does he DESERVE another championship? For that I think of another quote, this one from