Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ending the Decade On Top

It has been a couple days since the Yankees won the World Series. I have gathered myself enough so that I feel comfortable writing about it, though I still find myself smiling and whooping from time to time. If I had written even two days after the Yankees won, the comments would have been pretty inane, mostly just Woooooooooooo!!! and other celebratory phrases. Don’t get me wrong I still bust out a celebration every now and then but now I have enough self-control not to write them down. The reason every New York Yankees fan feels so strongly about this win, I think, is just how much has changed over the past decade.

In 2000, everything was going great. The Yankees had just come off their third straight World Series win and looked to be the team that would dominate the first decade of the new millennium. The baseball season was going great in 2001 until September 11th happened. The world changed and so did New York baseball. Anyone who watches the video of President Bush throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium barely weeks after 9/11 cannot help but feel an indescribable swell of emotion. Baseball helped distract Americans from the terrible events that had occurred. The Yankees made it to the World Series and fought for their city and made New York proud by reaching the World Series, serving a higher purpose simply by winning baseball games. Then a bloop hit ended the series but I did not think the coming years would go the way it did even after a crushing World Series loss. The Yankee’s decade went downhill from there.

Dominated in 2003 essentially just by Josh Beckett, the Yankees looked poised to return to form until the 2004 postseason and the historic collapse that I shudder to discuss any further. After 2004 things just didn’t feel right. The Yankees, always big spenders during the Steinbrenner era, spent gobs of money on free agents who never seemed to help the team in the ways that really matter. Postseason struggles continued until 2008 when the Yankees did not even make the playoffs during the final year at the old Yankee Stadium. Having all the Yankees on the field saying their goodbye’s to the old Yankee stadium and welcoming in the new ballpark before October ball had even started was painful, all the more so because of the discouraging years that came before 2008.

There is a reason this team got a ticker-tape parade. Too much has been made about Yankees fans complaining about not winning a title in 9 years, which is like a lifetime for other clubs. It is not about the length of time, it is about what happened during that period. The Yankees entered the decade as a dynasty and then, much like everyone else in New York, had their legs cut out from under them in 2001. After plodding around for 8 years of over-priced aging talent, epic postseason failures, petty clubhouse squabbles, tabloid reports, Joe Torre’s dysfunctional termination, the Boss’s declining health, the first missed postseason in 14 years coming in Joe Girardi’s first year, and being everyone’s favorite punching bag throughout the decade, the Yankees needed to win to close out the decade.

Throughout other teams' championship droughts or even postseason droughts, I doubt that their failures were as highly criticized or over-publicized as the Yankees were. The stress of growing up being a Yankee’s fan in this era has been great. Not only is the team losing, but they are still paying the most money and everyone continues to love to hate the Yankees. Being a Yankee fan when the Yankees are not winning, or even when they are, is difficult because you constantly are being forced to defend them from any number of worn-out attacks. Other teams are able to be bad quietly without much attention, the Yankees aren’t.

That is why it has been a long decade. But, now that the Yankees have won I can enjoy this victory with my friends and more importantly my family. I can enjoy this victory because of all the problems it washes away and how one season is able to change my outlook on an entire decade and because winning just feels great. It will be a memory that I will treasure for a long time. Some people say that the Yankees have won so many championships that the fans aren’t able to appreciate them as much as they should. I disagree.

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