Somewhere along the way, the baseball-loving public's hatred of the New York Yankees morphed from coy laughter into something more sinister.
The derision has always made sense. Fair or not, the categorization of the Yankees "buying championships" was hard to shake during an era where bloated payrolls towered over the rest of the league, and that stereotype remains shiny, even as Hal Steinbrenner intentionally decreases the team's purchasing power (payroll's still pretty fat, though). When a rich team and traditional winner fails, be it the Cowboys, Lakers, or our beloved Yankees (some people love all three, ha ha that's so funny, too!!!), it's completely natural for the rest of the sports world to point, laugh, and be thankful for a few months that no one noticed their underdog team failed, too.
But how do you handle yourself when the juggernaut stops being the juggernaut? The Yankees, without a title since 2009, their recent history littered with high-profile playoff failures, have been much more embarrassment than riches over the past 14 years. That different variety of suffering will never be enough for some people, and that's well within their right to feel that way (though, also ... grow up).
As the Yankees reach .500 this deep into the season for the first time since 1995, and threaten to finish under .500 for the first time since 1992, something many living fans have never seen, the discourse has turned bizarrely dehumanizing. Many Yankee despisers are no longer laughing. Instead, they're lecturing, telling you how grateful you should be for what you've already seen, while also acting like it couldn't be possible that the bad baseball, hamstrung future, and myriad postseason disappointments could be weighing on you. They're saying you're not allowed to be sad that your long-held identity is crumbling in little bits, likely to get worse before it gets better. They get so much joy out of mentally conjuring Yankee fans and telling them how to feel that they never stopped to think that maybe you are real.
No, Yankees fans should not be "thankful" for 1993 team as future looks bleak. What?
It's perfectly alright for the rest of the sporting world not to care about Yankee fans. I do not care about Red Sox fans. They have more than enough, but always demand more. They are the mental image they've built of Yankee fans, staring back at the monster they despise every time they look in a mirror.
But as the (again, hilarious!) Yankees/Lakers/Cowboys imagery begins to fester, so too does the categorically laughable assertion that disappointed Yankee fans should behave the way no human ever has.
Have other franchises "had it worse" than the Yankees since 2009? That depends on how you define pain. Would you rather be semi-irrelevant every season so that bursts of sustained joy feel memorable, or would you rather be held on the sport's pedestal, making otherwise joyful events feel like intense failures? Would you rather celebrate the 20th anniversary of a 103-win team that valiantly clawed to the ALCS, or would you like to be scorned for attempting to care? Imagine the outcry in other cities if the Yankees started to celebrate non-champions! Would you rather grow up appreciating the little things, or grow up embracing the villain role while serving as the sport's gold standard, only to see that foundation eroded (somewhat intentionally by management) over time? Would you rather a free agent savior arrive, or 35 different free agents age 15 years overnight immediately after putting pen to pinstriped paper?
Am I supposed to be thankful for finishing 85-77, 84-78, 87-75, and 84-78 again from 2013-2016 with one of the sport's highest payrolls? At the time, I was told that was embarrassing. Should I be grateful for supposedly entering an exciting era fueled by generational young talents in 2017, only to be eliminated in the postseason by a succession of rivals in the Astros (cheating), the Red Sox (likely cheating), the Astros again, the Rays, the Red Sox again, and the Astros a third time? Again, while all that was happening, I was told repeatedly such choking was shameful. Now, I'm supposed to be wistful about it? The Yankees have only beaten two non-AL Central teams in the postseason since 2001: Baltimore in the 2012 ALDS, and Oakland in a one-game playoff in 2018. Since Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS, the Yankees are 1-8 in playoff games against their arch rival Sox. Oh, boy, am I ever wistful for that! Please, oh arbiter of my own discontent, tell me what I'm allowed to dislike!
I didn't devalue the Yankees' regular seasons during this streak of playoff pain. You did. And now, once it's too late, it's become the mob's job to scold me for not valuing them enough?
Going 70-92 every once in a while in exchange for a summer without baseball-related anxiety, better young talent, and the occasional title wouldn't have been so bad. That's what Boston's done! But God forbid the faceless mass of seething humanity ever consider someone might prefer that over never sinking low enough to benefit, but never rising high enough to gloat.
I see Red Sox fans as spoiled. The world doesn't see Yankee fans at all. They devalue an entire region. They pretend that no dad could pass down the pinstripes to a son or daughter. They pretend no grandfather could've seen Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, because no such grandfather exists. They pretend a puddle spawned in 1995, grew legs and arms, regenerated millions of times, and birthed a faceless mob that should simultaneously be grateful every day for the 1999 World Series and shut the f*** up about the 27 rings they never witnessed.
Hate us all you want, but spare me the lecture as I hope against hope that someday the Yankees do something worth despising again.