Sports Talk In New York

Bobby Curran
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Friday - July 06, 2011
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The late U.S. speaker of the House Tip O’Neill once remarked “all politics are local.” That statement might be as aptly applied to sports. A family vacation back to New York is providing a reminder on just how local is the bulk of sports interest and conversation.

A sampling of the New York papers and sports talk provides a constant, almost unnerving trail on Derek Jeter’s calf injury, on the future of Fred Wilpon and the Mets, on the Knicks and their ownership. For example, I can tell you in excruciating detail the daily rehab schedule on Jeters’ injury, the hour-by-hour prognosis on his return and up-to-the-minute speculation on the date he’ll record his 3,000th hit.

All sports conversation in bars and on beaches begins with the hometown teams before rippling out to the rest of the various divisions and the leagues. You can’t talk about the NFL lockout in general without analyzing its impact on the Giants and the Jets.

And what is quite odd to my Hawaii sensibilities is the preoccupation with professional sports. Because there are no dominant college teams in the metropolitan area in either football or basketball, there is almost nothing discussed on college sports. I’ve probably listened to 10 to 12 hours of sports radio and have only heard passing references to anything collegiate, and even that was in relation to the recent NBA draft.

But on Bartolo Colon’s 60 pitches in a simulated game last Monday, where should I begin? Every one can know that in addition to giving up two hits and striking out three, what pitches he threw and to whom, even how many bunt attempts he made in batting practice.

I had to go 14 pages deep into the sports section to find out that a Delaware court had cleared the way for embattled Dodgers owner Frank McCourt to borrow $150 million from a hedge fund to cover his mounting bills and keep MLB from taking his team away.

It is a kind of myopia that partly explains the level of vitriol directed at opposing teams. It’s hard to show respect to the other guys when you know so little about them. I have talked to enough New York sports fans to have figured out some consensus opinions. As a general rule, Yankees fans admire and respect Derek Jeter but believe he’s currently overpaid, think Jorge Pasada is wearing the uniform for only this year, and that Colon is a near miracle.

Knicks fans mostly respect head coach Mike D’Antoni, but think he’s not the long-term answer, believe you need another star besides Carmelo and Amare, and can’t stand Isaiah Thomas.

Jets lovers believe Rex Ryan is one of, if not the best, coach in the NFL, and the team could win the Super Bowl.

I got involved in a lively discussion about Hawaii at a Long Island bar and grill and found the following: One in seven “sports fans” knew that Hawaii had played in a recent Sugar Bowl. Two of that group were quite certain that Duke Kahanamoku was a linebacker (with one of them sure he was with the Rams). Another fan opined that Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o is Italian, “like from Italy Italian, you know what I’m sayin’.”

All seven knew the Pro Bowl was played in Honolulu, and one even went so far to say “that’s where the game belongs.” From his mouth to God’s ears.

I went back to my sister’s house focused on something I still love about New York: Tomorrow’s charts for Belmont racetrack, where the third race has a horse named Bold Warrior starting from the outside post. Two good workouts coming in, and only one speed horse to worry about. Probably end up the favorite. Maybe wheel him in the exacta.

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