The Yankees are in the playoffs once again and beating up on the lovable Twins, so for most of the country (and even many New Yorkers), the Bombers are the villain, the team to root against. To many fans they're the Evil Empire, the classic foil to hate. If one's favorite team didn't qualify for the postseason, what better way to follow and stay interested in the playoffs than to cheer for any team pitted against the Big Bad Yankees. Of course, Yankee fans could care less. Whining about the team's success and payroll is nothing but a whole lot of sour grapes to them. But the Bronx Bombers as the dastardly bad guys doesn't just happen in reality--it's also a running theme throughout Hollywood.
Going back to the 1950s, the title Damn Yankees says it all. A Washington Senators fan will go so far as to sell his soul to the devil just to have his team beat out New York. How many Orioles and Blue Jays fans would be willing to do that today? (The Red Sox pretty much did that anyway in 2004 when they finally won the World Series by becoming the Yanks--giant payroll, acquiring mercenary free agents and players only they and couple of other teams could afford and let's not forget about the steroids.) Even a fictional evil Little League team had to be named the Yankees in the 1976 classic Bad News . Shortstop Tanner Boyle summed up multitudes of fans' feelings when he uttered this simple declaration: "Those Yankees are real turds." (If I quoted some of his other memorable lines today, I'd get run out of the country by every advocate group there was--ah, political incorrectness, where have you gone?) The Bears lost the championship, but it was the Yankees who were the real losers of course.
Moving on to the next decade, tears flowed when the lovable good guys vanquished the sinister powerhouse club, who were of course once again the Yankees, in Major League. Unkempt bad guy Clu Haywood personified the Bombers, exemplified by the fact that he led the league in nose hairs, and one of the Yankee pitchers was known to throw at his own son in a father-son game. When Kevin Costner made yet another baseball movie, For Love of the Game, who did he choose for an opponent when his character throws a no-hitter? Who else but the Yankees. It's not only the Yankees, though, who are portrayed as the bad guys, as New York in general fits the bill. The Bombers can't be the enemy in a hockey movie, so in Mystery, Alaska, thewill have to do. Most of the prison guards in The Longest Yard were probably from New York, too, though it's never mentioned. In order to make New York teams sympathetic somebody had to die (Pride of the Yankees) or the teams themselves had to be fictional (the Mammoths in Bang the Drum Slowly and the Knights in The Natural). The Yankees (and New York for that matter) are Goliath. And who better to bring him down than and Kelly Leak.
Here are the top stories of the week in the world of New York sports:
October = Yankee Time: The Yankees chose to rest players (but then overuse them when Joe Girardi couldn't make up his mind) and pitch guys like Dustin Moseley instead of going all out for first place. It cost them home field advantage, but it didn't hurt them (at least in the first round), as they own the Twins no matter where the games are played (eight straight postseason victories over Minnesota). It was looking like the Yanks may have to slug their way to a championship when they got a run-of-the-mill outing from the one starter they were counting on, in CC Sabathia. But old-pro Andy Pettitte came though again, along with heroes Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and the bullpen, while Lance Berkman had his big Yankee Moment. And how sweet is it to beat Carl Pavano and his Freddie Mercury-like mustache? On the downside, Jorge Posada's defense has gotten so bad, it's just a struggle for him to catch a routine fastball. He was a disaster last October, and here he goes again. And poor A.J. Burnett, who was given the Oliver Perez treatment and banished to the bullpen, can only sit by and watch as his teammates have all the fun.
Omar & Jerry, Gone & Soon Forgotten: The 2010 Mets season ended the only way possible--with Oliver Perez throwing the game away with his special style of "pitching." Was soon-to-be-fired Jerry Manuel sticking it to the franchise one last time by putting Perez in the finale? The ax finally came down on Manuel and Omar Minaya, probably two years overdue. Sure, Minaya put together a team that went to the NLCS in 2006, but the next four years were absolute disasters. He was the king of the big splash, and occasionally found a diamond in the rough, but he was always a step behind, fixing last year's problems without foreseeing future issues cropping up, and plodding along only able to deal with one task at a time. There were the giant contractual albatrosses, the inability to let go of favorite players, the constant obsession with attempting to squeeze one last good season out of aging players, the poor roster maneuvering, the inattention to team depth, the communication fiascos and the lack of any real plan or philosophy. He was just plugging holes that he created or never saw coming. He was gracious once it was all over, but even he admitted it was time for a change. Manuel was kind of fun, what with all his cackling-filled press conferences and all, but his in-game strategy and lineups were usually just puzzling. The good news is that the Wilpons are looking to bring in someone without Met ties this time around to take over the reins. The last time that happened was with the hiring of Frank Cashen. And that was the last time a World Series was won. Sandy Alderson or John Hart would do the trick (or at least someone with the clout to tell Little Jeff to take a hike when needed). The bad news: both Fred and Jeff denied they have done any meddling, which means they are still in denial. But one thing we have to look forward to with the upcoming hirings is a new phrase that will live on and take on a life of its own. In the past, when a new executive or manager was introduced, we were introduced to "skill sets," "lighting up a room" and "autonomy"--what will this year's buzzwords be?
Total Domination: The Jets toyed with Buffalo from the opening minute to the final second, absolutely destroying the Bills, with LaDainian Tomlinson (AFC's Offensive Player of the Week) and Shonn Greene spearheading a one-two punch of a powerhouse ground attack, tearing the Bills' defense apart. The city of Buffalo hasn't seen running like that since the days of O.J. Simpson (before he starting using a white Bronco to do all his scampering in, of course). The one good thing you could say about Buffalo was that at least they wore those cool, old-time uniforms. The Jets are on a roll, and now they get Santonio Holmes back, and Darrelle Revis and Calvin Pace are likely to play on Monday, too, in the Favre Bowl.
Total Domination II: The Ahmad Bradshaw did win the NFC Offensive Player of the Week, even though he fumbled away a potential TD), the game would have been a complete laugher. And yes, special teams are still a problem, as Matt Dodge spent the first half auditioning for America's Funniest Home Videos. But a win with flaws is better than a loss with excuses.defense knocked out two QBs, destroyed Chicago's offensive line and played like the tradition-filled defenses of the of old. Imagine of Lawrence Taylor was playing in this game? How many Bears QBs would have met their final demise? Chicago could only muster six first downs, were 0 for 13 on third down conversions and had a paltry 110 total yards. The Giants did it mainly with a four-man rush, rarely using special packages or blitzes. And they did it without Mathias Kiwanuka. If the offense didn't have so many problems finishing drives, and holding onto the ball (
Ring of Honor: At halftime of Sunday night's Giants' game, 30 players, coaches, executives and owners were put into the team's Ring of Honor. Phil Simms, Michael Strahan, Y.A. Tittle, Harry Carson, Frank Gifford, Jesse Armstead, Sam Huff, Andy Robustelli, Charlie Conerly, Pete Gogolak, Joe Morrison, Rosie Brown, Bill Parcells, George Young, Jim Lee Howell, the Maras and Bob Tisch were just some of the honorees. Lawrence Taylor was a no-show, probably for the best. And Tiki Barber caused the biggest stir, with loud boos cascading down on him. Has there been a faster 180, going from one of the most popular players to one of the least liked in such a short time? Mark Bavaro and Bob Tucker should have snuck in the New Meadowlands, as they were deserving of the honor, too.
The Italian Stallion & The Eiffel Tower: The Knicks took their show on the road and traveled to Italy, where Mike D'Antoni is a legend, in a similar vein to David Hasselhoff's reverence in Germany. D'Antoni even has an Italian nickname--"Il Baffo" (which is Italian for either "the mustache" or "Pavano"). The Knicks won their preseason opener 125-113 vs. Armani Jeans Milano, behind Amar'e Stoudemire's 32 points and local hero, Italian Stallion, Danilo Gallinari's 24 (including five three-pointers). They moved on to Paris and posed for a team picture in front of the Eiffel Tower despite terror alerts. They were contemplating cancelling and gathering in front of Eddy Curry instead, just to make him feel useful. They lost their game to Minnesota while in France, though. Meanwhile, the Nets beat Maccabi Haifa (wasn't that one of the original ABA franchises?) and the 76ers this week, but fell to the Celtics. It's only preseason, but the Nets will take any wins they can get.
Ouch: The three local hockey teams start their seasons this weekend, and all three have injury issues, but they all lead to different situations for each club. The Kyle Okposo, Mark Streit and Rob Schremp injuries are devastating to the Islanders, and put a damper on the season before it's even started. The Devils' predicament actually saves them from making tough salary-cap choices, with Bryce Salvador going on long-term injured reserve. And the Chris Drury and Vinny Prospal injuries give the Rangers a chance to take a longer look at guys like Derek Stepan and Erik Christensen, though there's a chance Prospal's injury could keep him out for a while (or even permanently), which would be a big blow to the Blueshirts, who are already weak down the middle. At any rate, the Devils start things off tonight vs. Dallas, and the Blueshirts and Isles begin tomorrow.
(For in-depth analysis and discussion of the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Knicks, Nets, Rangers, Islanders and Devils, go to SB Nation's Pinstripe Alley, Amazin' Avenue, Big Blue View, Gang Green Nation, Posting and Toasting, NetsDaily, Blueshirt Banter, Lighthouse Hockey and In Lou We Trust, respectively.)