Like many non-New Yorkers, I root against the Yankees. It’s been a losing proposition in recent years – last season was the first time they missed the playoffs since the 20th century.
So now that the pinstripes are in the playoffs again, it gives the postseason more meaning. Because you root against the Yankees harder in October than you do the other 11 months.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:
I love New York; I hate New York sports.
New York, at any given moment, is the greatest city in America. Best walking city. Best street beat. Best music. Best theater. Best nightlife. Best mass transit. Best newspaper. Best centrally located park. Best scaffolding. Best knish. Best pastrami. Best bagels. Best pizza. Best roasted nuts. Best Italian food. Best food period. Best of almost everything.
You can find the worst of many things in New York, none greater than its myopic, provincial win-it-all-or-else compulsion with its professional sports franchises. The town goes on tilt any time its title-contending teams don’t win the title.
Because of work, I live in New York three months a year – late summer through early autumn. My time in the city intersects with the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Knicks, Nets and, I believe, the Rangers, Islanders and Devils, though I am never sure when the NHL is in-season or not. In the distance, at any given time of day or night, I can hear the baying of the disgruntled New Yorker.
Meet Gabe Honig.
He is one of the many talented producers with whom I work on ESPN’s World Series of Poker telecasts. He’s young, smart, happily married, baby on the way, with a bright future – if he wasn’t walking around every day with the angst of knowing that no matter how many games the Yankees win, if they don’t win the last one they play in October, his year is devastated.
If you asked Gabe if he would give up two years of his life for every time the Yankees won the World Series, he would offer to give up three.
Many of his friends fret about the threat of another terrorist attack; Gabe worries about Joe Girardi’s handling of the bullpen. If there were a fire at Yankee Stadium, Gabe would push women and children out of the way to ensure Mariano Rivera’s safety.
(Actually, I used to think Gabe was otherwise well-adjusted until he mentioned that he tailgates before Giants home games. He says the Porta-Potty situation is “unspeakable” but still thoroughly enjoys getting to Giants Stadium several hours before kickoff and stuffing his battered body with five-figure calorie counts of burgers, brats, beer and booze.)
Gabe is proud is be one of many Yankees fans who helped exile Joe Torre a couple of years back. Torre had just managed the team into the postseason for the 12th consecutive season, but, alas, the Yankees had not won it all since 2000. Gabe, I believe, led candlelight vigils in Times Square sticking pins into Joe Torre voodoo dolls until the disgraced skipper fled town.
Anyway, I don’t begrudge the Yankees their ogre-like ownership. I don’t begrudge them the biggest payroll in baseball. I don’t begrudge them the fact that they go out and sign all-stars every off-season with the ease that you and I go out and pick up a carton of milk. I don’t even begrudge them – or the Red Sox – the fact that their players were more chemically induced than most teams in the steroid era.
Rather, I am emboldened by the reality that, in recent years, the best team usually doesn’t win it all in baseball. With an extra layer of postseason, it’s harder to survive. So even if the Tigers or Twins don’t upend the Yankees, the Angels might. And even if the Yankees get to the World Series, there’s still the prospect of the biggest Bronx nightmare of all: They lose to the Dodgers – and Joe Torre.
That would please me and, in all likelihood, take a year off Gabe’s life.
Ask The Slouch
Q. UFL. Why? (Michael Dixon; Spokane)
A. America was built on a foundation of liberty and freedom, but nowadays it’s pretty much about football.
Q. Are you the best sports comedian that money can buy? (Brad Gravitt; Corning, Calif.)
A. You must remember that a dollar doesn’t stretch as far as it used to.
Q. If Eric Mangini is from the Bill Belichick tree, would you consider him the sap? (Ken Kula; Independence, Ohio)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.