Pickens' Perspective: George Steinbrenner was influential
Every fan of a professional sports team would love to have his or her team owned by George Steinbrenner.
He cared, plain and simple. He didn't care about appeasing the Kansas City Royals or the Minnesota Twins. He cared about the business that he ran, and the business that he ran happened to be the New York Yankees.
Without a doubt, when Steinbrenner died on Tuesday morning, we lost a pretty influential sports person. We lost an icon.
Anyone can go on and talk about the seven titles that were won during his tenure as owner, or the 11 pennants or the number of fired managers and all. Sure, Steinbrenner was neurotic and obsessive about his ball club, but how much better is it to have someone care about the team, rather than treat it as a toy as many others have.
Steinbrenner had a huge impact on this region and on growing the Yankees as a whole. When he took over in 1973, the Yankees were still world famous, but some of the guild was off the lilly. Just three years later, they were in the World Series, and in the fourth they were the champions of the world.
As the Yankees grew, so did their enemies. And Steinbrenner was an easy target to hate. He was brash and boisterous. He said things like "Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing." He relished the fact that people who weren't Yankees fans hated him.
And those of us who were Yankees fans loved him. He was New York. He was "The Boss."
For some reason, he transcended sports, too. Steinbrenner hosted Saturday Night Live. He appeared on Seinfeld (both in a spoof and in actuality). People from all walks of life know who George Steinbrenner is, which is not the case for many sports owners.
But even the people who hated him were positively impacted by Steinbrenner. Do you think the Red Sox would've strived to be as good as they are now without Steinbrenner's successes and taunting?
The day the Yankees traded for Alex Rodriguez in 2004, he released a statement that said: "We understand that [Red Sox owner] John Henry must be embarrassed, frustrated and disappointed by his failure in this transaction ... Unlike the Yankees, he chose not to go the extra distance for his fans in Boston."
The more I hear Red Sox fans and Yankees fans around Fairfield in arguments about their teams, the more Steinbrenner's legacy will live on. The Red Sox and Yankees rivalry burns brightly all the time in all areas of the country, but no more than here. Without Steinbrenner's influence, on baseball who knows what we'd be talking about up here right now.
It was wonderful for Steinbrenner to have passion, but maybe also in his passing we can gain some perspective. As fans, we can love our team and dislike our rivals, but off the field, it's all relative.
Satirists and writers were mocking Steinbrenner yesterday for "going to hell." The man just died on Tuesday, and if you've heard any story from people who actually knew him, you'd know that he was a father, grandfather, and loving man to the people most important to him.
The most touching thing I saw to help gain this perspective was the statement from the Red Sox organization.
"George Steinbrenner was one of the most important people in the history of the game, and his impact touched all aspects of the business of baseball," Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino told MLB.com.
Love him or hate him, you've got to respect "The Boss."