You don’t have be a New York Yankees fan – or even follow baseball that closely – to know that George Steinbrenner was to ownership what so many of the players who have donned pinstripes in the Bronx have become: legends.
As a disclaimer, I am not a Yankees fan, but I do love baseball and not recognizing Steinbrenner’s influence on the game would be akin to not acknowledging the influence of FDR or Reagan on the presidency if you are of the opposite political persuasion.
Steinbrenner may have gone through managers like water and had the public perception of treating those around him harshly, but he understood at a base level what furious Cleveland Cavaliers fans had shoved in their face last week by LeBron James – professional sports is a business and the business is winning.
There are plenty of roads to go down here in terms of, say, the overemphasis on winning at the lowest levels of youth sports and how contemporary athletes are ultimately in it for me, myself and I. That, however, is an argument for another day.
Steinbrenner understood and had the resources to enforce his will to a degree and with bravado few other owners can emulate. As sports has clearly evolved into an extension of entertainment, Steinbrenner knew well the Yankees were more than a baseball team; they were a brand which signified excellence at an elite level, and it was brand he dedicated his professional life toward protecting.
Prayers should go out to the Steinbrenner family and there will undoubtedly be a tribute of some sort at this evening’s All-Star Game in Anaheim.