Will Hawkes: New York, New York, not so good in the name of the son
View From The Sofa: The House of Steinbrenner, ESPN
Monday 11 October 2010
Thank god. Unfurl the banners ("Thanks but no Yanks" – brilliant) and ring the bells at both cathedrals: it looks like Liverpool FC has been saved. Those evil American rotters who've been ruining the club and making the players play really, really badly are on their way out, at long last. A brave new dawn is, er, dawning over Anfield, courtesy of a saviour from the land of the free and the home of the brave (well, the former home of the Braves).
Which is a little strange, given that Liverpool's historic links with the US would suggest an alliance with New York rather than its chippy New England cousin. Unfortunately, the best man for the rescue job died earlier this year. George Steinbrenner ("The Boss") was Mr New York Yankees, running the club from 1972 until 2008, when he ceded control to his son Hal. And for all that John W Henry revived the Red Sox, winning two World Series, his record rather pales in comparison to George, who presided over seven world championships during his rollercoaster tenure in the Bronx.
People in England get a bit excited about Ken Bates but in terms of success, charisma and downright ruthlessness the Leeds chairman has nothing on Steinbrenner. This is the man who made illegal contributions to Richard Nixon's re-election campaign in 1972, who insisted Yankees players had no facial hair (except for moustaches), and who paid a gambler to dig up dirt on a batter he felt wasn't performing well enough, for which he was banned from day-to-day management but not ownership.
Inevitably, he wasn't always popular but at least he was interesting, which is more than can be said for his son, Hal. "The House of Steinbrenner", which is part of ESPN's 30 for 30 series to celebrate the channel's 30th anniversary, suffered one fatal flaw: too much Hal, not enough George. Hal, a nervous, preppy dweeb in an ill-fitting suit, could not be less like his bullying bear of a father.
"I find the business side of [controlling the Yankees] enjoyable," Hal says. "I'm a numbers guy... finance is my background. I enjoy things other people might find boring." Too right you do, Hal: the maker of this film, Barbara Kopple, must have been praying for him to be a bit more like George, to sack a manager or publicly humiliate one of his players. But no luck.
It's easy to surmise that Hal's actually rather touching dullness is a result of being the son of a hugely overbearing father. At one point he talks about his passion for flying, and how he took his father up on a beautiful day in Florida. "I love to fly – it's peaceful and no one can get me," he says. "When I took my dad up, he was out of his element. He did not know what to do." As this memory returns, a flicker of a smile spreads across Hal's face.
The back story to the documentary was the club's move from Yankee Stadium Mark 1 ("The House that Ruth built") to a new Yankee Stadium 100 yards away ("The House that George built"). The new building doesn't have as many seats as the old one, but it does have a lot more corporate gubbins, a Hard Rock Cafe and a sushi bar. Oh, and you can't see all of the field from the cheap seats. "I just spent $100 on four sandwiches and four drinks," reveals one dazed fan to Kopple on opening day. Now, about that new stadium for Liverpool...
Latest in Sport
Kevin Garside: Manchester United may have history and tradition but, as David Moyes never realised, a big-time manager always bends such things to his will
F1 Hungarian Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton disobeys orders and closes gap to Nico Rosberg in title race
Manchester United latest: Juan Mata emerges as Louis van Gaal's favoured No 10 as prospect of signing Angel Di Maria fails to improve
Arsenal: Arrival of Calum Chambers and David Ospina puts Arsène Wenger's spending past £50m
Tour de France 2014: Vincenzo Nibali confirmed as champion as he puts Italy back on the map with triumph
- 1 Secret Cinema interview: Why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
- 2 Christians: The world's most persecuted people
- 3 Israel-Gaza conflict: The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
- 4 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 5 Iraq crisis: End 'very near' for Christianity after Isis takeover, says Bishop
Israel-Gaza conflict: The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia