Getting what you deserve
"Mr. Steinbrenner deserves another championship," Joe Girardi said last week
Steinbrenner has won six World Series in his 27 years of owning the Yankees
"Mr. Steinbrenner deserves another championship."
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 Ronald Reagan and Ted Kennedy. It is this way with aging bank robbers and sports stars and rock stars and hit men and saloon singers. Age is the great equalizer.
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 Derek Jeter). He is venerable now. He is a grand old man of baseball now. He is esteemed. And Mr. Steinbrenner deserves another championship.
Deserves. Think how much of a national joke that verb would have been had Girardi said that about Mr. Steinbrenner even five years ago. Deserves. George Steinbrenner has won six World Series championships in his 27 years of owning the Yankees -- twice as many as any other team since he took over in 1973. The six championships admittedly is more than the two suspensions he received from Major League Baseball -- one for making illegal contributions to the Nixon campaign and the other for paying someone to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield* -- but it is also significantly less than the 24 managers he has had run the Yankees.
*That someone is Howard Spira, who, it seems, is ALWAYS labeled as a "small-time gambler." It's always "Small-time gambler Howard Spira," or "Steinbrenner gave $40,000 to a small-time gambler named Howard Spira." Was this really his job? Did he have a business card with "Small Time Gambler" on it?
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 Seinfeld. So you wouldn't expect a verb like deserve to follow Steinbrenner around at the end of his life. But he has gotten old and sick, and nostalgia sweetens the old wars and takes the edge off the old grudges. It's one of our better traits as people, I think.
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. Napoleon wanted to win badly.
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.
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