Recently, I had a debate with a Canadian friend about sports merchandizing. Let me explain:
I mentioned that I was flummoxed by the plethora of New York Yankees clothing here, namely caps and team jackets. I mentioned that their “NY” icon even appeared on sweatshirts that say “NEW YORK” on them but otherwise have nothing to do with the baseball team.
My reasoning was that the Yankees should have some pride in themselves – as if possessing World Series championships – by not internationally marketing themselves like a corporate franchise. After all, in the 1950s, the slur against the Yankees was “Who can love U.S. Steel?” To this day, the Yankees remain no less a corporate entity.
My Canadian friend was taken aback. How, he argued, as a conservative, can you argue against the exercise of capitalism like that? The point, he asserted, behind a sports franchise is to market itself and the Yankees have obviously done an excellent job of that. So why are you complaining? Why don’t you salute them instead?
I was horrified that he interpreted my rant that way. I highly respect the Yankees’ entrepreneurship. I don’t have a problem with that at all. Long live capitalism indeed! Now, I admit, my argument is tainted by virtue of being a Boston fan. However, I told him, as a Red Sox fan I would be dismayed if Red Sox attire became the de rigueur fashion statement of hep-cats everywhere. In fact, if I knew someone was wearing a BoSox cap simply for the fashion of it, I’d demand they take it off. “You’re not qualified to wear that,” I’d fume. “You never invested your heart and soul in that team’s fate. You didn’t suffer for two decades waiting and hoping for them to win it all the way I did!”
It’s gotten to the point now that, here in England, and elsewhere across the globe, you cannot tell a genuine Yankees fan from somebody simply trying to look like a New Yorker. For the Yankees to capitalize on the international New York City-based orgy, I feel, demeans the team and its true fans. Can the average Yankees cap-and-jacket wearer tell me who the Yankees’ shortstop is? Do they even know what a shortstop is?!
And, if my theory about this universal infatuation with New York City is correct, what about the Mets? They too are a legitimate and fairly successful New York baseball team. But the fact is, when I see someone walking these London streets with a Mets cap on, I know the likelihood that he is from New York City and an authentic fan of that team is pretty high.
Lots of Americans would love to visit London. But that doesn’t mean they throw on Arsenal, Chelsea, Millwall or other local soccer colors simply to look like a Londoner. Another point: Manchester United is one of the most successful soccer teams on the planet, world-renowned by “footie” fans everywhere, regardless of whether they love the team or not. But their success does not translate into American megabucks. Americans aren’t into soccer, so Man U clothing would not shift from Stateside shelves (though, oddly enough, an American – Malcolm Glazer – now owns the team; and Man U fans have a right to be skeptical).
Genuine Yankees fans should be aghast at the idea that millions of people worldwide who don’t follow the Yankees’ fortunes, nor even know the slightest damn thing about the game of baseball, don team-oriented attire. I repeat, I tip my hat to the Yankees for their ability to capitalize on all their past success. They have made an entirely worthy name for themselves. But isn’t it just right that if you buy and wear a Yankees cap that you should know something about the team and the game they play so that you can at least resemble a fan?Powered by Sidelines