On May 25th thousands of fans flocked to Yankee Stadium, but they did not sport pinstripes or baseball caps. Instead, scarves and tight-fit jerseys clothed sports fans, as they attended the house that Steinbrenner built. No Yankees vs. Red Sox. No Eminem-Jay Z concert. Not even the NCAA's forgettable Pinstripe Bowl. The event? Manchester City taking on Chelsea.
Two of the largest soccer power-houses in the world (this match is being played in the United States, so for this purpose we shall call it soccer, not football) went head to head at one of the most famous stadiums in the world. Manchester City breezed through the game in a 5-3 win.
While this exhibition match means nothing in the standings, its circumstances mean far more. Soccer represents the new American sports focus, while my beloved baseball seems more and more antiquated. Playing a soccer match at one of the shrines of baseball on 161st street fifty years ago would have been far from conventional. (Several matches were at Yankee Stadium starting in 1931.) But, my friends, much to the chagrin of John McCain, things are changing.
The New York Yankees in the post-Steinbrenner era are far from purists and are far from the monumental spenders that they were when the Boss was still alive. It seems that Hal Steinbrenner is far more concerned with creating a Yankee luxury image than producing winning teams. The unimaginable is happening to the Bombers who are in the midst of a sharp payroll cut under Hal's orders. So will there ever be an owner that throws money at a team like George Steinbrenner did? The simple answer is yes. And he is an active owner today. His name is Sheik Mansour. And it just so happens that his Manchester City squad played on Steinbrenner's field.
The Boss was always famous and feared for his drive to win at all costs; and for most of his reign, the costs were extremely high. In this early years with the Yanks, Steinbrenner did not shy away from spending millions on baseball superstars like Dave Winfield, Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson. In contrast, Mansour purchased legendary Brazilian forward, Robinho, within 24 hours of his purchase of the Manchester club. His spending tirade was not cut short there, as Mansour spent millions of pounds on the world's greatest talent. Even players, Samir Nasri and Edin Džeko, who frequently grace the City bench cost upwards of £50 million combined. Imagine if Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira were all on the bench now... oh wait...
Early in the summer, City let go of their manager of four years, Roberto Mancini. Under his reign, the Italian manager, along with a blank check, transformed the team from the New York Mets of the Premier League to the New York Yankees.
Year after year, the Manchester City Blues were covered in the shadow of the world-famous Manchester United.
But, in his third year as manager, Mancini not only defeated United twice in triumphant fashion, but also ended Manchester City's 45-year title drought with the most exciting end to a Premiere League season ever. The magic to end the 2011-2012 season is Hollywood worthy. In fact, this return to glory reminds us quite a bit of the Bronx is Burning. While, no case can be made that the life in the streets of 2012 Manchester is more fascinating than what occurred in New York in 1977, the similarities go beyond two club owners with a burning passion to take home a championship trophy.
Both Mancini and Billy Martin were ousted just a year after their championship seasons. Both teams' owners demand the same high standard of excessive excellence and because of this, these two franchises are teaming up.
In 2015, New York Football Club (NYFC) will be introduced into the MLS with co-ownership by management of both Manchester City and the New York Yankees. While on paper it would look as though two of the world's most successful sports franchises' coming together would be an equation for success, the numbers do not quite add up. Both teams spend several hundred million dollars each year in order to maintain their payrolls and the MLS salary cap is a mere $2.95 million. While there are three player slots that count as off-budget players, we will all have to see if the success of sports merely lies within the deep pockets of management or if either the Yankees or Man City are truly something special.
As for my prediction, NYFC will be successful. Success runs in the veins. Confidence runs in the veins. Two grand franchises should be able to have a favorable child together.