By Marie Cocco
How to describe the euphoria, the smug satisfaction, the unrestrained elation at seeing the New York Yankees eliminated once again so early in postseason play? I’m thinking something silly, like, Eureka!
And I admit to bias on every count. First, as a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan who grew up watching Carl Yastrzemski (the last player to win the Triple Crown) and buying bleacher seats for a buck. Second, as the wife of a Cleveland Indians fan, who grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, and who periodically reminds me that though the Red Sox broke the Curse of the Bambino with their World Series win in 2004, the Tribe still hasn’t snagged a series ring since 1948.
But really, before moving on to the freighted question of how the American League Championship Series will play out in my household, we must count the many blessings that come with the Yankees’ demise.
First, there won’t be any more television shots of Rudy Giuliani in the stands, presiding over Yankee Stadium as if he were still mayor of New York City and getting all that free national exposure for his presidential campaign. One of Giuliani’s annoying tics as mayor was his habit of diverting questions on topics of public importance with meandering chatter about the Yankees, his good friend Joe Torre and whatever locker-room drama was playing in the tabloids that day. We’re spared that—for now.
Second, there will be no public fury over whether transplanted New Yorker and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will show up in the Bronx, or whether she will have the audacity to wear a Yankees cap, as millions of transplanted New Yorkers have done for generations without controversy.
Third, Roger Clemens. There’s really nothing more to say on this subject.
Fourth, the networks, especially Fox Sports. The first round of the playoffs did not go well for either Fox or Turner Broadcasting System, with teams from the top four media markets—New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia—quickly eliminated. With the American League Championship Series and the World Series on Fox, the only team left with a big national following—and big potential ratings draw—is Boston. “I’m sure if Fox was writing the script, they’d rather have a Red Sox-Yankee league championship,” says Neal Pilson, the former president of CBS Sports, who now runs his own sports consulting company.
So now viewers will have to be enticed not by the prospect of games that unfold like grand opera, but by the lure of baseball. It’s definitely a harder sell, what with college and professional football both under way.
Unless we get opera anyway. Certainly the Red Sox are capable of playing their part. The team’s encounters with the baseball gods are either triumphant or tragic; there’s no emotional in-between. Maybe the country is getting sick of us, with all this drama and the idea of a “Red Sox Nation.” There is no similar story line to the National League’s Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, two teams still building their histories.
But then there are the Indians, a fitting adversary for Boston if only because Cleveland knows how to blow the big ones, too.
The Indians were the butt of an awful joke, and a lousy movie—the 1989 film “Major League”—about a fictitious Cleveland team that a new owner deliberately stacked with mediocre players so attendance would sag and she could move the franchise to a sunnier climate. (As it happens, the Indians’ home opening series this past April was snowed out, with four games rescheduled.)
Cleveland did make it to the World Series in 1995, only to lose to the efficient Atlanta Braves. The real humiliation, though—call it the ball-through-Buckner’s-legs moment—came in the 1997 World Series, when the Indians went into the ninth inning of the decisive seventh game ahead by a run. They wound up losing it all to the Florida Marlins in extra innings with the help of boneheaded fielding reminiscent of the worst Boston collapses.
So what will the weekend bring? I do not envision Hepburn-and-Tracy contretemps, since baseball is not taken lightly in my home and there is no way my husband and I can match their witty repartee. The closest I can come to a prediction is from my 13-year-old son, who responded with characteristic terseness when asked what he thinks a Red Sox-Indians series will be like in our home. “I think you will cry a lot,” he said.
Marie Cocco’s e-mail address is mariecocco(at)washpost.com.
© 2007, Washington Post Writers Group