PHOENIX -- Well, the Yankees are in the World Series, and New York feels so much better now.
See that statement? Over the next week, you'll be clubbed over the head with it, if you're not already woozy from the initial hit.
There's an assumption that having a baseball team play for a championship is just the bandage this city required. The media has already taken this ball and run farther with it than Curtis Martin. You can't flip a newspaper page, turn a radio dial or TV channel without seeing or hearing someone associate a sporting event with a war-ravaged city and reaching one conclusion: It's exactly what New York needs! The notion is only being reinforced by the mayor, the Yankees' First Fan, who has elevated his fav orite team to the level of EMS worker and firefighter. You can't even tell them apart these days.
You come away with the feeling that not only did Derek Jeter make that fabulous flip, he saved at least a dozen lives, spent several nights working at Ground Zero, and is coming after Bin Laden once he's done with the Diamondbacks.
To those who embrace this kind of thinking, I say: Get a grip. There is baseball. There is tragedy. They are separate and unequal and in no way related.
It's risky these days to go counter to the beliefs of Rudy Giuliani, who is being hailed as our Winston Churchill, but no, the Yankees can't cure New York. You wonder if everyone's perspective is buried deep under the rubble of the World Trade Center. The Yankees play great baseball, sell plenty of caps, give thousands a reason to visit the South Bronx at night, and they represent the city very well. These are all amazing feats.
They might have the finest dynasty in baseball history, too. Congratulations to them. But while Joe Torre and his players are certainly capable of many things, they can't replace a loved one. That's a little trickier than coming back from two games down against the Oakland Athletics.
A mayor with a baseball Jones and a national media looking for an easy angle have handed the Yankees an impossible assignment: Lift the spirits of a grieving city. It's almost like each player had it inserted in his contract at the last minute. The Yankees have heard this so much they actually believe they can pull it off.
"I realize and our players realize that all of a sudden, our responsibility is more than just to baseball fans,"Torre said moments after clinching the American League pennant.
Well, no offense to Torre, a fine man with good intentions. But half the city can't stand the Yankees. Mets fans, I'm speaking about, who will never cross over, unless Roger Clemens is traded to Flushing.
Another good portion of New York could care less about baseball and can't believe all the fuss generated every October over a bunch of ballplayers.
And finally, there's a fair amount of people, whose feelings truly matter here, who were directly affected by the events of Sept. 11.
Do you really think a Yankee win over Arizona will make them forget, even temporarily? It's insulting for anyone to believe baseball or the Yankees carry that much clout. Here's what will make a mother who lost her daughter smile: a family photo, a cherished memento and a telephone call offering condolences. Not Mike Mussina pitching seven scoreless innings Saturday. Here's what will help a widow and her three fatherless children who needed him financially: compensation from the insurance company, not a two-game sweep in Arizona.
Normally, I wouldn't even bother addressing a topic so outlandish, but a theme is already gripping the Series and threatens to squeeze tighter by the day. It also sends a strange signal. Suppose the Yankees lost to Seattle? Would that have plunged the city into a deeper funk? Of course not. So why would anyone think a Yankee win can pull us through?
There's no denying the unifying power of sports. In certain situations, sports can bring together communities and races who otherwise seldom cross paths. To an extent, the Yankees have done this, four times in the last five years. And yet, it's only baseball, just another blip on the entertainment radar.
Funny, but nobody ever hailed "The Lion King" for healing our city over the last month, or accused Denzel Washington's new movie of giving us strength in time of need. What's the difference?
If they pull off their fourth straight Series title, the Yankees will certainly make their fans cheer. Maybe a few other folks on the periphery will join in and clap. Elsewhere around New York, the grieving and the digging will continue.
Win or lose.
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