The Boss: The Eulogy Will Be Televised
In the modern age of media, with all the Internet sources and the mile-a-minute mouthpieces who can give you their opinions 24/7 (By the way, follow me on Twitter @stevelepore!) it can be a little desensitizing when something as jarring and real as death comes along. We can forget to handle it with the proper reverence and tightrope-walking it needs. We can overload on self-serving tribute and not step back and let the man's life story tell itself.
There were a lot of overblown, hastily-written defenses of the legacy of George Steinbrenner this week, and I'm sure there will be hundreds, thousands more in the weeks to come. There will probably be at least a fistful of books written in addition to the dozens that already exist. The television medium did a good job acquitting itself for Mr. Steinbrenner. The various local stations spent much time provided nothing but facts and interviews with former players. Dave Winfield appeared on ABC 7, many others gave out statements to the press, including Yogi Berra.
The MLB's national partners did a good job as well. FOX's tribute was clearly quickly put together at the top of the All-Star Game, but it took enough time and talked to all the correct parties. In fact, it could've taken up much more time, considering how long they waited to actually show us some baseball. ESPN was overblown, but that's what ESPN does. They haven't had a big baseball story to cover too much lately, so they got their fill on showing clips of Steinbrenner. MLB Network, however, very gracious in its time spent on Big Stein. Then again, without The Boss, would MLB Network even exist?
The key to their success was, again, not an attempted defense of Mr. Steinbrenner. He doesn't need one. He wouldn't want one. He knows he was the greatest owner in sports history, and it was made so that no one could see otherwise.
Extra credit goes to an unusually understated YES Network, who handled it in a completely non-over-the-top fashion, merely choosing to show the Yankees press event at 4 p.m. ET that day. They covered the story for about two hours on an All-Star Game day, and without a news operation. They probably managed to outclass most of the rest of the myriad networks covering things. It all comes down to the overriding theme here, and maybe of The Boss' entire legacy: those who tried to be as big as him failed miserably, while those who were humbled were more successful.
Strange happenings during FOX's broadcast of Saturday's Yankees-Rays game, a big winner for Tampa. Besides the myriad theories on why A.J. Burnett hurt his hand, as both FOX's Tim McCarver and ESPN Radio's Dave Campbell suggested it was from pie-ing NIck Swisher in the face last night, which ... OK, delightful guys. It was far from the craziest thing we'd hear.
The most bizarre thing that came out of anyone's mouth on Saturday was from McCarver, who compared the Bronx Bombers to the Nazis and the Communists, sort of. Deadspin has the full transcript and a video:
You remember some of those despotic leaders in World War II, primarily in Russia and Germany, where they used to take those pictures that they had ... taken of former generals who were no longer alive, they had shot 'em. They would airbrush the pictures, and airbrushed the generals out of the pictures. In a sense, that's what the Yankees have done with Joe Torre. They have airbrushed his legacy. I mean, there's no sign of Joe Torre at the stadium. And, that's ridiculous. I don't understand it.
First of all, come on. That's such an obvious attempt from a fading-from-relevance broadcaster to say something shocking or newsworthy. It has come to a time where we have to acknowledge that Tim McCarver provides literally nothing useful to FOX Saturday Baseball anymore. He needs to be replaced soon. Hopefully, it happens before there's a new network baseball contract in 2013. I think that the Game of the Week's fall from ratings grace can be traced directly to his involvement.
Secondly, let's allow wounds to heal for awhile. Joe Torre wasn't exactly a saint in his bolt from the Bronx, and it isn't as if he didn't have hundreds of millions of dollars worth of the greatest talent assembled in modern baseball history. Let them downplay it for a few years. Torre's 71 right now. Chances are he won't manage much longer, and then fences will mend. Once he recognizes, post-retirement, that no one remembers him for anything but the steadfast leader of the New York Yankees (quick, Yankees fans, name the team he managed before he got to New York!) he'll be eager to make nice with the Steinbrenners, et al.
Besides, as a good friend of mine reminds me, if you want to memorialize Torre's time in Pinstripes, just read "The Yankee Years."
Anarchy in the Saturday Game of the Week
Networks have long been using pop, rock and hip-hop songs to segue in and out of commercials during their telecasts of sporting events. The premise is a two-way street, that it'll serve the networks by showing hip-ness and keep people from getting tired of their theme songs, and it'll get the artists music out to people who may or may not listen to the radio or any music made after 1985. It's a good program and more networks/artists should cooperate.
That said, one of the more surprising examples of this happening I've ever seen is the use of Floridian punk-rockers Against Me's "I Was a Teenage Anarchist" during the aforementioned FOX broadcast of Yankees-Rays on Saturday. If you'd never heard the band or the song (I am a fan) I can't imagine you'd think what the hell was going on. Considering the average age of people watching the World Series, I can't help but think they must've imagined hearing the word anarchism on a baseball game some sort of sign of America's downfall. However, I recommend you download it regardless. It was just the most bizarre moment of baseball broadcasting I've ever heard, and I can't wait to hear ABC's NBA coverage, featuring the music of Mastodon.