I saw the documentary Nine Innings from Ground Zero on HBO the other night, and I think it was very well done. It was a nice document of how baseball helped New Yorkers bear the pain of 9/11. A good chronicle of an overlooked sub-event in the backdrop of mass chaos and uncertainty. There was, however, one major and nearly fatal flaw: Everyone in the United States did not want the Yankees to win the 2001 World Series.
Take me for example: red-blooded American boy of 25 years at the time, living in the state of New York, four hours away from the site where cowardly fanatics did the unthinkable. In fact, I had been at that very site less than two months earlier. I am also a Yankee hater of the highest degree. I hate everything about the team. I hate the owner, I hate their players, I hate their fans. I hate the sense of entitlement they've carried around since their first world title (in a few years anyway) in 1996. I hate the way their fans call players by their first names (Tino, Jorge, Mariano, El Duque).
Now this isn't to say I hold any ill will toward the people of New York City. Quite the contrary, I've never felt more of a part of the metropolis. While it's a bit presumptuous to say "We were all New Yorkers that day," it's not an exaggeration to say we took the attacks personally outside of New York as well.
But to say this would somehow translate to a desire to see the bane of my sports spectating existence is preposterous. It wasn't just New Yorkers who were suffering, remember. People from Boston and Baltimore and Oakland and Seattle and Phoenix were suffering too. This was not just an attack on New Yorkers, it was truly an attack on all Americans, it just happened to be in the high profile of NYC.
Former Yankee 3rd baseman Scott Brosius was quoted as saying (and I'm paraphrasing), "It's not fair. If there were ever a year that the Yankees should win the World Series, it was this year." Let's put aside the fact that the Yankees didn't deserve to win that World Series, as Games Five and Six were pulled from the team's collective anus in the late innings. But why would it be "fair" for the Yankees to win the World Series? I didn't hear any Diamondbacks saying that. Is it because Brosius played for the Yankees that he felt this way. Mmm, I think so. Was it "unfair" that the San Francisco Giants didn't win the World Series after the 1989 Earthquake? Was America rooting for Will Clark and Kevin Mitchell to uplift the city? Was it unfair that the L.A. Lakers didn't win the 1992 Finals? I mean, it was right after the Rodney King riots. Wouldn't that have brought the city together? Wasn't it "unfair" that Loyola Marymount University didn't win the NCAA basketball championship the year Hank Gathers passed away? (That was actually a sports-related tragedy.) I realize 9/11 is a catastrophe on a much more complex and tragic scale, but the logic of championing a sports team after its city had a disaster does not hold.
Besides, would Brosius give up the Jeffrey Maier home run in the '96 playoffs? Or would he have had Roger Clemens ejected from the Mets/Yankees World Series in 2000? After all, the Yankees didn't "deserve" those breaks.
I, for one, have never been happier at the outcome of a baseball game as I was when Luis Gonzalez hit that bloop single to end the 2001 World Series. I jumped so high that I literally almost hit my head on the ceiling. (And I'm not a tall man.) I was happy -- yes, happy -- that Yankee fans felt the sting of World Series defeat for the first time in years. It is my right and my duty to hate the Yankees. A Yankee win would not have erased the hurt that New Yorkers felt, just as the Diamondbacks' victory did not take away the hurt of wounded Arizonans. The documentary seemed to intimate that the country was united against the hated Diamondbacks, who were trying to deprive the Pinstripes from their rightful crown. Not true.
If I had rooted on the Yankees in that World Series, the terrorists would have won.