Friday, April 10, 2009

Well, Isn't It?

Sure, playing baseball (or any sport, for that matter) in New York is great. Playing in the Big Apple means a gigantic, over-market contract, a potential trip down the Canyon of Heroes, endorsements up the wazoo, models on your arm and all the fame and fortune you could handle.

The down side of playing baseball in New York, is...well, if you were in New York City this week, you couldn't have missed it. It was all over and unavoidable. The hyperbole. The nonsense and the panic and the general insanity fomented by the newspapers, radio and the spotlight big and bright enough to illuminate New York City Sports.

The Yankees lost two games this week—not the way you want to start a season, but by no means an all-out catastrophe. Well isn' it? says the New York sports media. In fact, it's the worst week in New York City sports history.

Thursday's New York Newsday called the 3rd Yankee game of the season a "Must Win." Really? Newsday writer Wallace Matthews writes:

Allow me. The Yankees absolutely, positively have to win today.... There it is. I've been patient long enough, and so have you....After the acquisitions of Sabathia, Burnett and Mark Teixeira and the return to health of Wang and Jorge Posada, I thought this Yankee team was loaded. But maybe only I was.

Mr. Matthews is not alone in his hysteria. The Daily News' Tim Smith writes that yes, while "There's no need to panic...A.J. Burnett better throw lightning bolts or the Yankees will be looking foolish before they get back to their new billion dollar palace...." Mr. Smith continues: "Let's see now: Two aces, eight innings pitched, 13 runs, 17 hits and no strikeouts. Priceless."

The New York Post writes with almost barely-contained relish: "...the rotation that was supposed to make us remember the dynasty years instead is making us recall Kei Igawa....Yes, the 1998 Yankees opened 0-3 and went on to win 114 games. But that was one of the great teams ever in the middle of a dynasty, a team we would come to learn was among the toughest mentally in history. Does anyone believe we will come to think the same way of this group? Does anyone have faith that Girardi can navigate through tension as well as Torre?"

And so on. Mind you, these are only 3 small examples of the panic-button-pressing, alarm-ringing, overstatements. Aside from the tabloids, radio, television and the Internet all sounded off with glee at the Yankees 2 losses sprinkled liberally with "I-Told-You" smugness dripping off the sides. No extra charge.

And remember, these were written before the third, count it, third game of the season. Through the dog days and into the pennant races, the media in New York gets even more into a rabid, foamy-mouthed frenzy. Each loss is "devastating." Each player's twinge is a full-blown career threatening injury. And...ask A-Rod...every non PC life choice is scrutinized until all perspective is lost and all meaning becomes meaningless. Honestly, do you think Alex Rodriguez ever wishes he played and lived in Kansas City or Milwaukee?

Speaking of middle America and hysteria...Yankee pitcher Joba Chamberlain got arrested in Nebraska last winter for a DUI charge. In the police video he is taped talking about the difference between driving in Nebraska and in New York:

"The biggest thing that I've noticed driving here and there is if you let somebody in, they open the window and say thank you. In New York, they might hit you. Yeah, it's a joke....It wasn't like Nebraska where you can go and open a door and say please and thank you."

Needless to say, the New York media lost their minds. Chamberlain was vilified as a traitor, his mugshot splashed on the back—as well as front page—of the papers and so on and so forth with the radio and local news channels. This despite the fact that, on any other day, any one of these writers or radio personalities themselves might be making cracks about New York City drivers and rudeness—and be proud of those facts. Chamberlain then goes on to say that the best thing about being a Yankee was the proximity to Hall of Famer Berra.

"Yogi comes in every couple of days. No B.S. He might not be as tall as the front of your car."

Now let's get one thing straight. This is not to defend Joba Chamberlain. On the contrary, Chamberlain did something incredibly stupid. Drinking whiskey while driving is up there with the big time idiot moves a person can make in life—ask Nick Adenhart's family. And isn't it nice what the sports writers choose to emphasize? The outrage of making jokes at New York's expense, and not the driving while unable to walk straight. Good set of priorities.

But that's sports writing in New York. Damn all reason, all perspective, all common sense. Sure a discussion about the benefits of Phil Hughes adding a circle change to his repertoire, or moving Brett Gardner up to 1st in the order might be interesting, but hell, A-Rod walking into a nightclub with a brunette is more sports-news worthy, no? Doesn't sports celebrity and sensationalism drive the market today? Isn't that what people want to see?

Well, isn't it?

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