Occasionally one runs across a fellow who expresses this opinion: "Sports are entertainment." He compares athletes to movie and TV stars, and the games to an entertainment product. That person is, of course, an idiot. Sports aren't "entertainment" -- they're life and death. We've recently had the Mets play the Yankees, and during the whole month of May the Yanks and Mets were competing against one division rival after another. Entertainment? Ha! Even playing against a few subpar teams such as the locals did this week can produce much agita. Does watching a King of Queens rerun entice you to scream and curse at the TV? And throw the remote control through a plate-glass window? Does it send you into a melancholic downward spiral if the episode isn't any good? No, but the sight of lumberjack Corey Hart hitting home run after home run against the Mets can do that. And so can an umpire blowing a call to ruin a perfect game. When Johan Santana pitches 15 shutout innings over the course of two games and the team loses them both, you can go into a depression-filled tailspin for months -- no shaving, no bathing, surviving on one of those all-beer diets. Can Iron Man II pull that off?
Fans justify athletes taking steroids and owners justify skyrocketing ticket prices by comparing a game to a night out on Broadway. But sports are actual real life with legitimate competition while TV, plays and movies are fantasy (well, except for Gilligan's Island, of course -- that really happened, right?). Did you ever spend a boatload of cash to attend a play or musical only to see Matthew Broderick replaced halfway through the performance by Joba Chamberlain with The Producers going on to lose to the Cleveland Indians, 13-11? Athletes aren't acting -- unless you count Wade Redden pretending he's a hockey player. Sure, entertaining things may happen, such as John Maine getting pulled from his start after only five pitches and then yelling at his manager while his pitching coach calls him a "habitual liar" or Marcus Thames stepping on his own bat and spraining his ankle. But those things are real, not staged events to delight us. David Huff taking a line drive off the melon is real enough. Is being stuck in a constantly cranky mood because your team can't drive in a runner from third base with less than two outs "entertaining"? Is getting fired from your job because you're following every afternoon game on your computer instead of working on your TPS reports "entertaining"? Is having your wife and children leave you because you can't even remember their names anymore but you know that David Wright is on pace to strike out 211 times this season "entertaining"? Um, probably not. It's more like a disease or an affliction. So, on that note . . . back to the games.
Here are the top stories of the week in the world of New York sports (for the purposes of The New York Week That Was, the week starts on Friday and ends on Thursday, because . . . well, it's just easier for me).
A Grand Week: The Yankees wrapped six wins around "The Longest Game" on Saturday (starring CC Sabathia, Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin as the villains). Chamberlain bounced back nicely on Tuesday and Thursday, but if he doesn't get his act together long-term, how long will we have to wait until one of the Steinbrenners calls him a fat, puss-y toad? But that ugliness was just a blip on the radar screen for the Bombers, who took three out of four against Cleveland and swept Baltimore this week. There were grand slams galore (walking the bases loaded to get to Alex Rodriguez? As the Bumblebee Man would say: No es bueno), outstanding pitching performances (A.J. Burnett, Javier Vazquez, Phil Hughes twice), Mariano Rivera making one of the great, acrobatic plays of the year to end Sunday's game and, unfortunately, a line drive off a pitcher's head. Robinson Cano (17-game hitting streak, and he legally changed his middle name to "MVP Candidate" this week), Nick Swisher and A-Rod were the offensive stars this week, as the team piled up the runs (55 in seven games), and they lead the majors in that category, with 307. But do the Yanks have a controversy in the making? "I'm not a DH yet," said Jorge Posada. He's about the only one who feels that way, though.
The Road to Nowhere: The Mets look like a World Series contender at home but life on the road is another story. They transform into a different team when they leave Citi Field. They can lose 18-6 just as easily as 2-0. They can give up grand slams in the second inning or the 11th. Santana pitches 15 scoreless innings in two of the six games and the Mets lose them both. The second-longest shutout streak in franchise history ended in the ninth inning of the first game of the road trip, and the opposition kept on scoring, as that same staff gave up 39 runs in the last six games. In fact, they now have a new streak going, which is the third longest in team history: 55 road games without back-to-back wins. There weren't many positives on this recent highway to hell (Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey and Jeff Francouer notwithstanding). In Milwaukee, the highlights of the trip for the Mets were seeing Bob Uecker, wearing cool Negro League uniforms, facing a reliever with a handlebar mustache and taking in a few sausage races -- and isn't that what baseball is really all about anyway? They then moved on to San Diego where it's always sunny except for the black cloud that hangs over the Amazin's. When you think of the Padres, you instantly conjure up images of Nate Colbert, Dave Winfield, Tony Gwynn, yellow-and-brown uniforms and, of course, "Gene Tenace at the plate . . . and Whammy!" but the most interesting thing that occurred in the last game of the series was the fact that, by my count, six players appeared in the game whose fathers were also major leaguers (the Hairston brothers, Tony Gwynn Jr., Ryan Webb, Ike Davis and Gary Matthews Jr.). Unfortunately, the Mets had to play six games on this sightseeing trip across the country, which left them with an 0-7-2 record in series outside of Queens this season.
The Oliver Perez Situation: Perez is the classic case of a million-dollar arm and a 10-cent brain, but now with his decreasing velocity even his arm is depreciating in value. And things have gotten so bad for the erratic lefty that his own manager and teammates don't want him around. He stubbornly refuses to go to the minors or down to Florida to work on his pitching, which makes him both selfish and useless. And there's conflicting opinion on whether he should see a psychiatrist or not (though anyone who suffers through watching him pitch may need a therapist more than he does). Jerry Manuel will only use him if, say, the Mets are losing to the Padres, 16-5, or maybe in a father-son game if the team runs out of pitchers. Can't the Mets at least get him to do some odd jobs around the clubhouse so he has some use to the team?
Theeeeyyy're Baaaack: The Yankees welcomed back Curtis Granderson on Friday (and sent Randy Winn packing) and Jorge Posada on Wednesday (with Juan Miranda going back to triple-A), while Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez have started to heat up. For the Mets, Jon Niese will be back to start tomoorow's game, and Jeff "How Do You Say Swings and Misses in French?" Francoeur can't stop hitting after doing nothing but not hitting most of the season (.550 in his last six games). He was told to stop taking advice from everybody and their mother and to only listen to Manuel and Howard Johnson. But those two know that the key to Francoeur's talent clearly rests in his teeth, so they brought in a world-renowned dentist instead of another hitting instructor to turn his season around. And sadly, Daniel Murphy got creamed turning a double play while playing second base for Buffalo and is out four to six months with a torn MCL in his right knee, so he won't be back.
Showtime: The crew of Hard Knocks started setting up shop at the Jets training camp this week, but Darrelle Revis was a no-show at practice yesterday in protest of his contract situation. He's holding out until a clause is put in his contract that says he'll be eligible for an Emmy next year as well as MVP. The best corner in the league also wants an option for a spin-off show. And the Jets might as well make him the highest-paid player at his position while they're at it.
Gone But Not Forgotten: Gary Coleman tragically passed away on Friday. I suspect Mr. Drummond had something to do with his untimely death, though I don't have any proof. What does this have to do with sports? Later that night, Nate Robinson helped the Celtics clinch their series with a dynamic performance. Coincidence? I don't think so. Is it so far-fetched to think that the spirit of Coleman entered the diminutive basketball player's body as a show of camaraderie between two pocket-sized yet big-hearted people? Nate was also heard taking one last potshot at Mike D'Antoni, when he exclaimed: "What ya talkin' 'bout, Coach?" Dennis Hopper also left us this week, but we'll always have his coaching performance of a lifetime in Hoosiers to look back on. Maybe there's a lesson in there for the Nets in their search for a new coach. Avery Johnson was interviewed last weekend (with Jeff Van Gundy taking himself out of the picture), but maybe New Jersey should look no further than the town drunk to lead their team.