October 26th, 2000.
That was the night that Bernie Williams recorded the last out of the last championship the New York Yankees won. And on that evening it seemed like the Yankees would never lose another World Series for the next 10 years. Bernie was just 31, Jeter just 26, Posada and Andy Pettitte only 28, Mariano had just turned 30, and Tino Martinez & Paul O’Neill still seemingly had gas in the tank.
At that moment in time, winning a championship seemed like a birth right for Yankee fans, a passage of right. Four out of five-it didn’t seem that hard to do then as it does now. And in that era, without anyone knowing it the Stienbrenner Doctorate was founded, “Anything less that a World Championship is a failure”.
A year later the Yankees would lose in one of the greatest World Series of all-time, a loss that was as difficult to stomach as any a sports fan will every experience. Game 7, 2 outs, one pitch away. A city struggling to find something to root for in the wake of 9/11, got all the thrills that come with watching sports and yet all the heartbreak as well. That was the last time the New York Yankees would come that close to the mountain top. Yet the sense of entitlement from Yankee fans still ragged on.
“You’ll do better this year Joe”, was always a comment that Joe Torre seemed to come back to in the wake of him stepping away from the team. He received that remark from a fan in the stands at Spring Training 2002.”Game 7, one out away from a World Championship and you’re saying we’ll do better this year?”, Joe would say with a smile. It captured the general attitude of the fans at the time.
Year after year, from then on out the New York Yankees would enter the playoffs as the perennial favorites, only to disappoint time and time again. There was two losses in Anaheim, an element of shock when the over-achieving Marlins team took them for a ride, And then there was 2004, when the Yankees suffered the worst collapse in sports history to their hated rival, the Boston Red Sox . There was upsets from the hands of two AL Central Teams that never even gave us a shot to compete (The Tigers in ’06 and The Indians in ’07), and then last year. A season that was suppose to tie all the history of the Yankees together with the closing of The Old Lady–what was suppose to be a season of celebration for the vast history of the team, turned into the first time in thirteen-years that Yankee fans didn’t have to deal with the anxiety attacks of rooting for you favorite baseball team in the playoffs.
And with every season past, a personal sense of shame hit me and I assume hit other Yankee fans.
Why didn’t I enjoy those good ole days more? Why did I take all that winning for granted? Who was I to think it would last forever?
Well tonight and every night this winter, enjoy this moment. Cause for a baseball fan this is as good as it gets. For a Yankee fan, the Kings of New York are back.
For the New York Yankees, a team who I grew up rooting for. The always constant thread between my father and brothers, no matter how large the age difference is, no matter how long it had been since we spoke. The team with a history that is as rich as the history of our country’s over the course of the franchises’ existence, are for the 27th time, World Champions of Baseball.
I urge all Yankees’ fans, young and old, new and fair-weather to enjoy the moment, because there’s millions of baseball fans out there that never experience the thrill of their team, the guys they root for, winning a World Championship.
The Kings of New York are back.
And suddenly, this winter just got much much shorter, than the last 9 winters.