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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Joel Sherman sez The Boss only did good things to get into heaven

I'm surprised there hasn't been more outrage in Yankeeland over columnist Joel Sherman's nasty little screed about George Steinbrenner that ran in Wednesday's New York Post. Sherman is annoyed that there were too many positive things written about Steinbrenner on the day he died. And he even suggests that The Boss had ulterior motives behind the good things he did:
Life today would be easier to mindlessly accept the myth and ignore decades of reporting that show Steinbrenner was hardly the family man or friend refashioned in recent years. Who wants to write the truth on the day of a man’s death, that Steinbrenner’s life was not all champagne, parades and genius accompanied by the background music of a "Yankeeography?"
Oh, please. Nobody out there is saying Steinbrenner was perfect. But there is a big difference between acknowledging his flaws, and making his biography all about those flaws. Besides, most people have the sense to know that it doesn't come off very well to talk too poorly about the deceased on the day that they died. Heck, even Michael Jackson got a pass on such matters right after he passed away.

And Sherman, of all people, complaining about perspective? This is the guy who wrote after 2009's Opening Day that CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeria got "money for nothing." Who suggested that the 2009 World Series feels "over" because the Yankees lost Game 1. And who, in a time of two wars and double-digit unemployment, complained about Joe Torre's "plight" with the Dodgers. Now he's going to lecture the rest of us on how to feel about Steinbrenner? C'mon now.

And what's even more offensive is that the writer claims to know what was in Steinbrenner's heart, writing:
Yes, he would often — with the passing of time — try to ameliorate heartlessness with charity, as if that made the balance sheet even in the human-being department. He used his checkbook to make the Yankees a powerhouse and to try to get into heaven by correcting wrongs.
Give me a break. Is the Post writer not just a baseball columnist, but a theologian, too?

Steinbrenner did many good things for thousands of people over the years - make that decades. It's obnoxious that Sherman not just discounts that, but questions his reasons for doing so.

And it's funny how Joel is lecturing the rest of us about having a one-sided portrayal of The Boss, but his perspective of Steinbrenner is just as one-sided, in the opposite way. George was a complicated man, with many sides to him, but Sherman is the one who wants to ignore all the good in him, and insinuate that even his most charitable efforts had an ulterior motive. How insulting.

The writer also claims:
"As Steinbrenner completed a cycle from character to caricature to ghost, his family and the organization used his public silence to go into rewrite: To turn his twilight reputation into benevolent elder statesman. And to whitewash a past of cruelty, bluster and rule-breaking. The Yankees owner was a winner, instead, and winners sometimes commit minor transgressions in order to win." However, the transgressions were often far from minor, unless — for example — owning the record for being thrown out of your sport (twice) is minor.
That's not what happened at all. Sherman is the one who's being the myth-maker here, wanting us to believe that Steinbrenner stayed the same as he was in 1978, and it was only his minions who changed his reputation. Did he even pay attention to anything The Boss did from the mid-1990s on? Because we could see with our own eyes that Steinbrenner had mellowed. Had made amends for his wrongdoing. Had even learned a little from his mistakes.

Remember how fans serenaded Steinbrenner with the "Thank you, George" and "We love you, George" chants on 2004's Opening Day? That wasn't the family rewriting his reputation - it was fans seeing on their own what Steinbrenner had done for them - and appreciating him for it.

And contrary to Sherman's opinion, I don't think The Boss' minions had anything to do with all the people coming forward now with stories about how good Steinbrenner was to them. It's just the opposite - time after time, we read, like in Sherman's own New York Post, about how George would do something kind for somebody, and ask them to keep it quiet.

Maybe the worst thing about Sherman's piece is that he's so self-righteous in spitting on Steinbrenner's grave, claiming "it is more disrespectful now to Steinbrenner’s legacy to offer a sanitized version of his story." Spare me the sanctimony, dude.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

1 comment:

Uncle Mike said...

When Sherman wrote "Birth of a Dynasty," about the 1996 Yankees, he wrote like one of the classic baseball writers, like Red Smith or Roger Kahn. When he writes anything else, he writes like a New York Post employee. And I don't mean Jimmy Cannon, an example of the former, because Cannon died before Rupert Murdoch turned the Post from the people's paper into the crazy people's paper.

Are we not supposed to go to a library because it was endowed by Andrew Carnegie, who authorized the cold-blooded murder of unionized employees at his mines and mills? Are we not supposed to go to a museum because it was endowed by John D. Rockefeller, who did the same?

Lots of people have done a lot more wrong, and far worse things, than George Steinbrenner did. Most of his wrongs were less "How dare you?" and more "What were you thinking?"

We're not talking about Walter O'Malley here. What did he ever do for kids, or sick people, or old acquaintances in trouble? And anything he ever did that helped the game of baseball, he did it first, foremost, and often only because it was going to help himself. Face it, if he thought he could make more money in Japan than in Los Angeles, the Yankees would have played some World Series against the Tokyo Dodgers.

George Steinbrenner could have taken the Cornelius Vanderbilt attitude of "The public be damned." Instead, he took the Carnegie attitude of "I have to make amends." Even if we don't like him -- and no one is required to like him -- we should at least respect his willingness to change for the better, and to act on that change. No, he was no saint. But show me one person who ever owned a sports team who was.