It's a wonderful town
But relentless media, fans don't let up on N.Y. teams
Posted: Wednesday February 28, 2007 2:26PM; Updated: Wednesday February 28, 2007 2:26PM
It's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to play there.
No matter how much larger the country grows and how much of the population moves to cactus-and-cotton-land, New York remains the epicenter of American sport.
Understand, it's a myth that New York teams have to win for a league to succeed. They don't. They just have to call attention to themselves. The NBA is doing just fine even though the Knicks are such a glorious Feydeau farce, where the rich little owner has replaced the aging bull, George Steinbrenner, as the No. 1 villain in town. Train wrecks are spectator sports, too. Look at the Rangers. What they need more than the playoffs is a good scandal.
Of course, this doesn't stop the conspiracy theorists from standing on street corners and talking out of the sides of their mouths, whispering that the fix is always in for Noo Yawk. Sensible, god-fearing citizens who otherwise accept that there was no gunman on the grassy knoll and who laugh at the notion that the CIA murdered Princess Di, will nonetheless still assure you that the NBA fixed it to get Patrick Ewing into a Knick's uniform 22 years ago. Hey, you dummy, don't you know the commissioner loaded the ping-pong balls in the draft bucket?
Of course, a large part of New York's prominence in sports is simply that it's chockfull of media looking for stuff. Would the question of the quality of the friendship between Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriquez, which last week reached gossip levels not seen since Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were first caught canoodling -- would that have even gotten off the ground if they played for Houston or Seattle or even the champion St. Louis Cardinals? Nooo.
Last week I was in Tampa, the road show springtime home of the Bronx Zoo. There were so many writers and photographers chasing the Yankees it looked like Academy Award night without the red carpet. And I'm not even counting the four or five dozen Japanese media there waiting to report that Hideki Matsui had actually played catch.
No wonder some of sports' biggest stars simply can't play in Gotham. The pressure on the field is easy. It's the pressure off the field that tells the tale in New York. Hey, if you can take it there, you can take it anywhere.
I think a large part of New York's special status in sports is also because it's simply so big and has so many teams that it doesn't possess any false sense that its teams are civic treasure. Hey, Jets fans hate the Giants. So what the Giants are New York, too? You don't have to treat your players with kid gloves just because your city's name is on their uniform chest. Also, New York doesn't give a hoot for college sports, except to bet on them. It looks upon publicized athletes for what they're supposed to be -- grown-ups.
Listen, hinterlanders, this is very healthy. A guy making big money screws up, boo the bum. Even if he is your own bum. Hey, at the Metropolitan Opera last December, New Yorkers booed Placido Domingo. So Stephon Marbury and Eli Manning and A-Rod and all you other heroes, you blow it, you're in good company. Be big boys.
And, as for you fans in the rest of America: take a lesson from New York, learn to boo your bums when they play like bums. Believe me, you'll feel better.