The Agony Of Defeat

agonyofdefeat1231873153One of the classic expressions in sports broadcast TV came from ABC’s Wide World of Sports, with a phrase in the show’s opening, “The Thrill of Victory, The Agony of Defeat”. I remember viewing the fallen skier (shown here) along with those memorable words.

As Strumings readers know well (some say too well), I am an avid lifelong Yankees fan and now have that dull ache of a season which ended short of the goal—a World Championship. Given that I live in Southern New Jersey among the Phillies phaithful, that sometimes makes me a local pariah, but Phillies fans and I now share similar angst from their team which fell short of its goal.

I have been a Yankees fan since 1960, when as an 8-year old I learned the “agony of defeat” at the hands of the Pirates Bill Mazeroski. That pain, and the pain of 2001, was deeper and more sudden than all others. There’s nothing more crushing that a single final swing ending the season. Nonetheless, seasons which end before the World Series, or merely as a pennant winner, are still painful. Though the Yankees have succeeded in winning 27 Championships, far more than any other team, they have also lost in the World Series 13 times (more than any team has even won). Additionally, since the wild card era began in 1995, Yankees playoff teams have fallen short of reaching the World Series an additional nine times. My point in this is that even for the Yankees, their seasons more often than not fall short of their Championship goal.

2011 was an interesting season for me. In January I briefly met Brian Cashman at a WFAN event (The Higher The Tree The Monkey Climbs, The More You See Of His Ass) and heard him forthrightly answer a question that at that point the Red Sox had a stronger overall team given their stronger rotation (guess he was wrong, glad he was).

But as the season began, I had the feeling early on that this might not even be a playoff team. Their rotation was patch work and furthermore Phil Hughes, an 18-game winner in 2010, had a poor start and went on the DL in mid-April for 2+ months. But the Yankees played well, and I was hooked regardless. I saw more Yankees games live this year than any other season. I attended 2 spring training games–one in Tampa and one “away” in Clearwater–and  then 13 regular season games, and one game in the ALDS.  I shared this experience with our daughter, Carolyn, a young sports marketing professional, whose passion for the Yankees is as strong as mine, maybe more so. It’s a wonderful thing to share memorable experiences with one’s child.

The Yankees surprised their fans by strong consistent play throughout the year, and given the Red Sox collapse, they clinched their division with a week to play and had the best record in the American League. Obviously Jeter and Rivera milestones were part of made 2011 special. There was reason for hope, and just a week ago in the Struming, The 2011 MLB Playoffs, I was hopeful that they might prevail, but I recognized the strong possibility that the season could end with the first series with Detroit. Ugh, it did.  Falling just short in the ALDS was particularly painful, much as it was for the local fans of the Phillies, who also harbored hope that a Series Championship could be theirs. 

I’ve been asked why I am so fanatical about the Yankees. Obviously I love baseball and appreciate and respect the Yankees goal of winning a Championship every year. But my passion is far deeper. When I attend a game at Yankee Stadium I can remember seeing games as a child, albeit across the street in the old Stadium. I remember going with my dad and hoping for extra innings so I could be at the Stadium longer. When I go to games today, I carry those memories and feel the history of the Yankees even in the new Stadium, which was built to celebrate Yankees history and not merely provide the modern conveniences of carving stations and dining clubs, which every new stadium enjoys. I feel like I am going to Cooperstown each time I go to the Bronx. Moreover, sharing those experiences with my daughter makes the 2 hour drive to and from each game, $35 parking, $5 water, and all the various hassles worthwhile. I am fortunate to be able to orchestrate my business and personal life to be able to see a game live roughly once every other week.

The 2011 season is over. To make things worse, it pains me to see on my ESPN ScoreCenter app under “My Teams” the listing of April 6, Yankees vs. Rays, as the next game. That pain will subside later this month when the Series is over.

Looking ahead to 2012, changes lie ahead as with every new season. Jorge Posada’s departure is highly likely. He’s been a cornerstone of Yankees teams for 15 years, and if it’s goodbye, he will be missed. Obviously Mo and Jeter are aging but will return. But even as they depart in future years, and future stars arrive, my passion for the Yankees will not subside. Players change, even Hall of Famers, but pinstripes, history and my passion remains.

 #28 in 2012.

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