Jewish World Review August 2, 2010 / 22 Menachem-Av 5770
Yankees' George Steinbrenner is gone; his creation lives on
By Mitch Albom
Before there was a
Before The Owner became a sports caricature, alongside The Superstar or The Crazed Fan, there was
They won't just bury a man at Steinbrenner's funeral, they'll bury a mold. It may now be commonplace for owners to scream, wave money or fire coaches at will, but it wasn't always. It wasn't before Steinbrenner. He took petulance and gave it a face, took power and gave it a fist, took impatience and gave it a home:
Steinbrenner moved Behind The Scenes -- where owners used to operate -- to Front And Center. His business was front page news.
"When you're a shipbuilder, nobody pays any attention to you," he once famously said. "But when you own the
He loved it, all right. And he used it to create a stereotype. You see pieces of it in Jones of the
Oh, there were a few colorful owners before him.
Besides, sports history should be measured in pre-TV and post-TV divisions, and Steinbrenner bought the
And no one used TV better than The Boss.
THE COST NEVER MATTERED
TV was Steinbrenner's personal treasure chest. With revenues from
He used his money advantage constantly. He inflated free agency into a monster. He saw how buying a team was faster than developing one, and he pounced. His first World Series title, in 1977, came after he purchased
And like one of those vampires in "True Blood," a taste created an insatiable appetite. He would do it again and again.
Steinbrenner became the Joneses of baseball; nobody could keep up. This season, he was spending
Steinbrenner was the original wallet waver. The money-is-no-object guy. That new billionaire with the
Steinbrenner threw the switch.
THE VISIBLE FACE OF THE OWNER
And then there's the fame.
Maybe. But it doesn't mean you painted it. Still, this never stopped Steinbrenner from bullying into the spotlight. Owners didn't used to be the first guys interviewed. Steinbrenner changed that. He was a ring in the three-ring circus. Reporters would run to George to get a quote about a slumping player, then run to the player for his response, then run back to George. He used the media to invent his own brand. The nickname "The Boss" was created with a smirk, but Steinbrenner embraced it like a Christmas present.
At his height, he was in more commercials than most of his players (remember the Miller Lite beer argument with
This tendency can be seen in sports owners today. Cuban had a reality show.
"The L.A. Gold!" Ari gushed.
Naming the team after yourself? That's got Steinbrenner in it. Appearing on a TV show? Steinbrenner. Every sports movie with the angry, double-chinned boss? Steinbrenner. Too-fat contracts? Firing managers? Winning at all costs? Steinbrenner. He once said the only thing more important than winning was "breathing."
His last breath has been taken. But his legacy goes on -- and not just in
He did retain one quality unique to him: He bought the
That, in the end, is what other owners want to emulate the most.
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