Thank God the Twins finally beat the Yankees yesterday, snapping their nine game losing streak to the bombers, and salvaging The Common Man’s weekend. Before yesterday, The Common Man was starting to think irrational thoughts about the Yankees being in the Twins’ heads and was starting to buy the notion of the Yankee mystique. Now, he feels much better about the world and the Twins’ place in it.
In honor of his return to rationality, The Common Man thought this would be an opportune time to objectively review the Yankees’ nickname. After all, TCM isn’t mad or upset anymore and feels like he can give it a fair appraisal. So what do we know?
Name: New York
Characteristics: unclear, that’s pretty vague. It's a big country.
Best thing about being a Yankee: U-S-A! U-S-A! Seriously, the team is basically called the New York Americans (in fact, that’s how it was popularly referred to while they shared the city with the Giants (who were the New York Nationals). As “Yank” was a popular shortening of “American” at the turn of the century, New York papers adopted it. As an American, The Common Man assures you that it’s pretty cool.
Worst thing about being a Yankee: Arrogance. Look, the United States is basically the most remarkable country in the history of the world, and TCM is mighty glad he lives there. That said, there are many legitimate (and many illegitimate) reasons that some people don’t like it and us. One of those reasons is the extreme arrogance of America and Americans abroad. TCM isn’t saying that America doesn’t have a reason to be arrogant, but he’s also traveled in non-English speaking countries with Americans who get upset when citizens of the country they are visiting have the gall to not speak English well or at all. Likewise, The Common Man has been horribly embarrassed by Americans at other tables who complain about the food or culture of the places they are choosing to visit.
In 2008, The Common Man visited Egypt with The Uncommon Wife. Cairo is a massive city of almost 18 million people. There, the lack of enforceable building codes has led to several problems. People build homes and simply keep adding levels to them when their family outgrows the one they are on. The streets are forced to wind through old neighborhoods, and are jammed with more cars than they were designed to accommodate. City sanitation cannot pick up all of the garbage and waste, as many dwellings are erected without a permit, and do not exist on a city registry. People build apartments atop mausoleums in cemeteries. It’s a mess. But if he had a nickel for every time someone on their tour (seriously, don’t go unless you’re with a reputable tour) complained that the city was laid out poorly and that the population just needs to “get serious” or “get smarter”, The Common Man would have bought several more pashminas for The Uncommon Wife. Dudes, this city predates the concept of urban planning. It’s laid out like Boston, if Boston had been around for 1800 years before someone decided to build highways. Plus, you can’t go two feet without tripping over a landmark or an archaeological dig of immense importance. Try constructing a city around that, The Common Man dares you.
Seriously, try and find a fanbase who feels more obnoxiously entitled than the Yankees'. If they aren't in the playoffs every damn year, it's a travesty. Heads need to roll. If a pitcher has a bad game, or a hitter is slumping, scorn comes raining down from the stands. It's like they expect the team to go 162-0, and sweep through the playoffs. Plus, they openly covet other teams' players and bray about how certain players "deserve" to be Yankees. That Yankees simply are better (though it's nice to know that some of you feel differently).
More good news: Baseball is the American Pastime and, by definition, the Yankees are America’s team, in many ways they are baseball. America has the highest gross domestic product in the world, so it’s the richest country out there. Obviously, that comes in handy when free agent season rolls around. Plus, Americans have proved to be among the most industrious, ingenious, and innovative people in the history of civilization, which is mirrored in the intelligence of the club's front office and in much of the non-obnoxious wing of the team's fanbase. Americans also still boast the strongest, best trained, and most well-equipped fighting force of all time making them a formidable opponent. Indeed, that's a good group to have around, if you need to go into battle 162 times a year.
On the other hand: America may have invented Jazz, but it also has spawned Ke$ha. Karma sucks, people. Also, while the Polio vaccine rocks, the atomic bomb has proven troublesome. Finally, the concept of the "Yankee" is pretty vague. What, after all, is an American? There are more than 300 million of them, of various ethnicities, political allegiances, and socio-economic statuses. Hell, some of them don't even like baseball (what the hell is wrong with them?). So when you call a team "the Yankees," it's impossible to really divine what that refers to. It's a definition without a lot of actual substance behind it.
The Common Man is inclined to give the Yankees a good grade. After all, he thinks that being an American kicks all kinds of ass. That said, you would probably get a similar answer from Russians, Germans, Indians, Japanese, South Africans, and Venezuelans; by and large, people seem predisposed to internalize nationalism. Also, the vagueness of the term is troubling. What is a Yankee? And how do we resolve that with the fact that many members of the team (Robinson Cano, Francisco Cervelli, Ramiro Pena, Chan Ho Park) are not technically Yankees. That seems like an internal contradiction. And then, of course, comes the baggage associated with being a Yankee. You are hated and reviled by many. Envied by others. You may sew a Canadian flag to your backpack, and just pretend to be a Blue Jay to avoid trouble. But ultimately, most Yankees accept this criticism, and still associate with the name proudly. After all, America is a pretty great place, warts and all, and its people deserve all the credit they can get for giving the world the light bulb, the motion picture industry, the ice cream cone, and, yes, baseball (suck it, England). A-
(Other nickname reviews are up for the Cardinals, Blue Jays, Mets, and Diamondbacks.)