Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Super Spy Steinbrenner fascinating even in death

George Steinbrenner: Super Spy! Who knew?

Just kidding. I’m not at all surprised by the extent of Steinbrenner's willingness to cooperate with government investigations. Steinbrenner, born on the 4th of July, held himself out as the ultimate patriot, starting the tradition of singing God Bless America during the 7th inning stretch at Yankee Stadium after the 9/11 attacks, a tradition that continues at the new ballpark.

It comes as no shock to me that he would jump at the chance to demonstrate his patriotism, particularly since it helped grease the wheels for his eventual pardon by President Ronald Reagan for making illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon’s re-election effort.

It is also no surprise that Steinbrenner blamed his conviction on bad legal advice. Steinbrenner was always eager to get credit when things went well on the baseball field, but quick to assign blame to others for any screw-ups, real or imagined. It’s easy to understand why he would do the same to explain away the legal mess he had gotten himself into. But Bill Madden's biography details how Steinbrenner really had no one to blame but himself, not just because he was breaking the law, but because he disregarded advice on how to avoid getting caught, namely keeping his contributions under the level that would trigger scrutiny.

Federal authorities were wise to use Steinbrenner in their efforts, not just because he was a willing partner, but because Steinbrenner was an excellent liar, which in many ways made him perfect for these types of undercover operations.

These documents just reiterate the great paradox that is the late owner of the New York Yankees. He could be generous, helpful and patriotic just as easily as he could be manipulative, disingenuous or dishonest. That’s part of what makes him such a fascinating figure, even in death.

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