Friday, April 6, 2012

NYY: Today (finally) it counts

     This is one of the best days in sports: Opening Day for the New York Yankees. Today it counts. Today I pay attention.
      Yes, I know there have been some Opening Day games already. But today the only team that matters to me will play.
      Hopefully, in late October, Mariano Rivera will register the last out of the baseball season and the Yankees' 28th World Series championship will be a reality. (And it's likely to be the last pitch of Mariano's brilliant career.)
     The off-season has been too long because last season ended too soon.
      I am not a spring training guy. I know it's traditional and it's charming, and the complexes in Arizona and Florida are nice. But I don't care at all about spring-training game results; I rarely look at the records or stats. I do look at the Yankees' web site or read the sports wire, but only for news about the camp. And if someone talks to me about what's going on, I dismiss them with ... talk to me on [Opening Day] April 6.
     But today the suffering begins, and the daily analysis. There will be almost everyday e-mails with my Yankees friends. There will be up-to-the-second checks on what's going on with the team. There will be ups and downs, and mood swings ... maybe there will be close to 173 wins and no losses.
     I think there's nothing in sports like following a baseball team over the seven-month grind.
     Anyone that knows me knows that I am a Yankees fan, and that I have the arrogant, smug, selfish, sense-of-entitlement true Yankees fans have. It goes with the territory. It goes with the magic numbers -- 40 (American League pennants) and 27 (World Series titles).
       I recite those numbers often because right now -- with the Texas Rangers as two-time defending AL champions -- history is all we have.
One more World Series trophy would
 be nice for Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.
      I don't root for any other team, but I do like that my many friends who are Rangers fans are having a great time with their truly outstanding team. If the Yankees can't win the AL, the Rangers winning it is fine with me. We follow them daily, being in the D-FW market.
     And if I had to pick a team in the National League, it would be the Houston Astros. Regional  bias.
       I jumped on the Yankees' bandwagon in 1956 -- my first year in the United States and Mickey Mantle's greatest season. I've never changed teams -- not even through some really poor seasons -- and I never will.        
      Honestly, when I picked the Yankees to root for back then, I had no idea about their history (remember, '56 was the heart of The Dynasty years -- 15 pennants in 18 years, 14 in 16 years, nine World Series titles.)  No, I had no knowledge of baseball history.
      But I saw the pictures in the paper and, when we got our first TV set, I saw them on TV -- and I liked the uniforms. I liked watching Mantle, the pure athlete. I liked that their catcher was named Yogi and they had a pitcher named Whitey and a first baseman named Moose and a manager named Casey. Oh, and they seemd to win a lot.
      And I liked looking at majestic Yankee Stadium. I still do ... the third version of it.
      I did find out quickly in 1956 that in Shreveport, there were many Yankees haters.
      And while I believe this is the greatest franchise in American professional sports -- by far -- and we have millions of fans everywhere, we also still have millions of haters.       
       But I always thought the Yankees had class, and I still think that. Yes, we've had our "bad guys" and our cheaters, and controversies, and an owner and manager that were nuts, but the uniform still looks sharp (no pullover colored tops -- always the pinstripes at home, the classy blue-and-gray on the road), the players look sharp and most of them -- but not all -- play the game the right way.
      When they win, they act like they've been there before. Many of them have.
       I don't have enough room for a list of my favorite Yankees players or teams or moments, but obviously I think Derek Jeter and Mo Rivera are two of the greatest and classiest players we've ever had.
      And from today until late October, I'll be pulling for those guys and their teammates as much as I ever have. Let's play ball.

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