A look at the least important things in life

Famous Dead Person of the Week: George Steinbrenner

Name: George M. Steinbrenner III

Life: July 4, 1930 – July 13, 2010

Occupation: Owner, pardoned felon

Claim to Fame: Owned the New York Yankees for 37 years, becoming the first man to buy seven World Series titles.

Fun Fact: Parodied (excellently, might I add) in some of the best Seinfeld episodes. “Costanza! This is gonna be BIG!”

I am a lifelong Braves fan. George M. Steinbrenner represents everything I hated about the Yankees, the American League and baseball in general. The gross overspending. The DH. The insufferable pinstripes, the Yankee mystique, the New York media, the Quarter-Billion Dollar Fraud (Alex Rodriguez)… I could go on. The pretentious asshole bugged everyone.

And yet with all that said, July 13 2010 was one of the saddest days I had that year precisely because of Steinbrenner’s passing.

What can I say? Baseball was more fun with the Boss around. Everything needs a villain and Steinbrenner, with his penchant for bombastic behavior and ill-timed outbursts, was the perfect foil for baseball fans everywhere. I always found immense satisfaction when he would twist the knife on Red Sox fans (take this quote in the third paragraph after he beat Boston management in the race for A-Rod); even though I would always support the Sox over the Yanks – sometimes you just have to make choices in life and that was one of mine – I was always excited when someone would bait the Boss into making some snarky, anti-Boston comments.

The son of a shipping magnate (you know young George was just like every bratty trust-fund snob you’ve ever met), he was an Air Force lieutenant and an assistant football coach before turning his attention to the family business. After successfully becoming a rich bastard in his own right, George used his money to purchase the Yankees in 1973.

Steinbrenner’s Yankee tenure included the following: Seven World Series titles, 11 American League pennants, two year-long suspensions (the only owner to be banned from baseball on two separate occasions), notable personalities (Billy Martin, Reggie Jackson, Roger Clemens), notable feuds (Martin, Jackson, Hideki Irabu) and George’s infamous spending sprees that escalated player salaries to the point of mass hysteria they’ve climbed to now. It can even  be argued that the Boss’ willingness to throw cash around like Pac-Man Jones at Anthony’s Showplace led to salaries escalating in all sports, not just baseball. So you can go ahead and blame George M. Steinbrenner the next time you have to pay $77 for a crappy obstructed-view ticket and $9 for a watered-down, lukewarm beer.

When George started slipping in his declining years (fainting at NFL great Otto Graham’s funeral, giving rambling press conference answers, displaying restraint when the Yanks struggled), it wasn’t much fun for fans — even Sox fans — to watch. Understand: for the entire time he owned the Yankees, it seemed as though George went out of his way to belittle and degrade employees, poke fun at the general public and behave like the egotistical, rich jack-hole that he was (he played that role beautifully, by the way). People couldn’t believe someone of George’s stature and grandiloquence could be human; he had created an air of invincibility.

Love him or hate him, having King George around was good for the game and good for entertainment. Regardless of how you feel about the Yankees (and good people the world over hate the Yanks, with good reason), George’s larger-than-life specter provided fans with a lightning rod for discussion and deep down, I’d say the Boss loved every minute of it. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but he is missed.

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