By William Deresiewicz
I’m a New York Yankees fan. That’s right, deal with it. I come by it honestly, so I have no intention of apologizing. I grew up in New Jersey, and I rooted for the team when there wasn’t any money in it, back in the bad old days of Gene Michael (.224 the year I turned seven) and Horace Clark (two home runs the year I turned nine). But I can see why fans of other teams hate mine so much. What I can’t abide is how self-righteous they are about it—especially the boosters of two other teams in particular.
People hate the Yankees, of course, because they’re rich: the highest payroll in the major leagues, by a wide margin, for the last 10 years. But the most sanctimonious Yankee-haters are the fans of their two closest rivals, their longtime divisional rivals, the Boston Red Sox, and their crosstown rivals, the New York Mets. Well, guess what? The Red Sox and Mets have been the second and third richest teams in baseball over the last few years. The Mets slipped a few places on the payroll list the last couple of years, but they were No. 2 or 3 for each of the three years before that. The Red Sox, meanwhile, No. 3 this year, were No. 2 in 2010 for the sixth time in the last 10 years. The Yankees payroll is $202 million this year, 25 percent higher than that of the Red Sox. But the Red Sox’ $161 million is 347 percent higher than that of the Kansas City Royals ($36 million), dead last out of the 30 major league teams, and more than twice as high as that of nearly half the other teams below them on the list.
There’s a beautiful analogy here to global politics. Everyone resents the United States because it’s so rich, but the people who resent it most, and with the most aggrieved sense of moral outrage, are the Europeans. That is, the second richest people in the world. The Yankees play the same role for Red Sox Nation (a real term) and the Mets’ loyalists that the United States does for the bien-pensant liberals of Britain, France, Germany, and so forth, assuaging their guilt by deflecting their attention from their own position of enormous privilege relative to the Royals or Somalias of the world. How lucky for them, really, that they have us to look down on.
The name of my favorite team could not be more apt. “Yankees,” after all, has two meanings: in America, those rich creeps who play in the Bronx; in the rest of the world, America. Within the global arena—where it isn’t just a game—we are all of us, no matter which group of overpaid athletes we root for, Yankees.
William Deresiewicz is an essayist and critic. His book Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life, which will be published in August, is based in part on his essays “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education” and “Solitude and Leadership.” To read all the posts from his weekly blog, “All Points,” click here.