For a Midwesterner, it’s as if the New York Yankees are a guilty pleasure. They’re up there with celebrity gossip, cookie dough ice cream and the occasional romantic comedy. You don’t want to let people on to the fact that deep down, you actually like them.
I’m not speaking about myself, but at least a handful of people have expressed the following to me this postseason:
“You know, normally I’m not a Yankees fan, but I wouldn’t mind seeing them win it this year.”
The first reaction, of course, is to be repulsed. People who root for the Yankees are the same ones who root for the Empire in the “Star Wars” movies. They same who pull for Johnny Lawrence in “The Karate Kid.”
But, as we stand on the precipice of what would be the twenty-seventh World Series victory for the Yankees, is it possible that this version of the pinstriped gang is more palatable?
Alex Rodriguez, easily the most vilified of all, has broken with his October tradition of disappearing by rapping out clutch hit after clutch hit. Say what you want about steroids, Kate Hudson and centuars — it’s hard not to respect his performance of late.
Johnny Damon, once of the archnemesis Boston Red Sox, is stealing two bases at once and flairing ball after ball into shallow right field. Watching a guy with a herky-jerky swing and no throwing arm succeed is just as compelling now as it was in 2004, even if not as shaggy.
Mariano Rivera is defying science, getting better as he gets older and solidifying his title of Greatest Postseason Pitcher Ever — if that is a real thing.
To be fair, there are still many sticking points.
King of the intangible Derek Jeter has parlayed his limited defensive range into heaping praise from Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.
Former White Sox outfielder Nick Swisher’s mohawk.
A.J. Burnett’s tattoos.
And the unavoidable feeling that they bought it. That they outspent everyone and bullied their way to the title.
So, perhaps I’ve just surrounded myself with fickle people who have no backbone. Or perhaps they’re indicitive of a public that’s grown more — gulp — accepting of the evil empire.