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Lee Schneider

Lee Schneider

Posted: October 23, 2009 11:20 AM

Why I Hate the New York Yankees

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Derek Jeter is actually Superman, right? Even better if he wore a cape to games, but then he might trip over it on the way to receiving his friggin' World Series trophy.

When I say I hate the Yankees, I know I am in good company. A quick check of Twitter reveals many thoughtful critiques of the team, usually involving locker room language that can't be printed here.

I'm just going to turn off the computer and lie down on a psychoanalyst's couch, preferably one made of soft baseball glove leather, and sort out my Yankee feelings. Hand me that baseball autographed by Sandy Koufax, will you? Thanks. Let me turn it over in my hands and think about this.

Reason #1. Steinbrenner fired Yogi Berra in 1985. Yogi once said, "That restaurant is so crowded nobody goes there anymore." It wasn't right to fire a linguist like that. But, yeah, I forgot -- it's all about winning.

Reason #2. The new Yankee stadium cost $1.5 billion including financing, the most expensive sports venue in America. Want to go online to snag a seat at Thursday's game? How's $3,000 sound?

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"It's always George's philosophy: This is the Yankees, everything has to be done first-rate. We wanted ... to create a stadium that, when you go in, there's a 'wow' factor."
-- Randy Levine, Yankees president


How about, "wow," why does Steinbrenner have his hand down my pants? Oh, sorry, he's just reaching for my wallet.

The Yankees did put up most of the bucks to build their palace, so somehow they have to pay for it. But does that mean I have to get a loan at Citigroup to afford a friggin' ticket? Just cut out the mayo in your sandwich, you might be able to afford a cheap seat on StubHub.com. Makes you want to scream.

Reason #3. But wait, screaming at people is Steinbrenner's job. Oh, you say, "It's good to scream at people -- gets them motivated!" Not true.

In the 1960s, a psychologist named Daniel Kahneman listened to some Israeli air force flight instructors talk about how they got their students to fly maneuvers.

"I've often praised people warmly for beautifully executed maneuvers, and the next time they always do worse," said one flight instructor. "And I've screamed at people for badly executed maneuvers, and by and large the next time they improve."

The instructor was wrong. Kahneman and a scientist named Amos Tversky studied patterns of human behavior and learned that screaming is not a powerful educational tool. As Leonard Mlodinow put it in his book "The Drunkard's Walk":

The answer lies in a phenomenon called regression toward the mean. That is, in any series of random events an extraordinary event is most likely followed, due purely to chance, by a more ordinary one.

As you practice anything, catching a baseball, flying fighter planes, your skill improves slowly and is not always noticeable from one day to the next. Your good days and bad days are mostly a matter of luck. A Steinbrenner will not necessarily have any effect on your performance. It's not about the yelling, or the praise, but about the practice. Next time somebody's screaming at you, just cite Kahneman and Tversky's research.

In 2002, Kahneman was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics. How many Nobel Prizes has Steinbrenner won? I can tell you without pausing to look it up: Zero. Why? Because he yells at people and he fired Yogi Berra in 1985.

Don't ask me about the Mets.

Follow Lee Schneider on Twitter: www.twitter.com/docuguy