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Yankees snooze, lose

NEW YORK -- Not to suggest that this whole postseason thing is old hat for the Yankees, but it was a little embarrassing when Derek Jeter started snoring during the national anthem.

The logos painted on the field said it was the World Series and the logos on the caps said it was the World Series and all the expensive tickets said it was the World Series, but Saturday's Game 1 atmosphere said mid-August doubleheader against the Devil Rays.

There were no extra-inning home runs. There were no stadium-wide chants of "Pierre sucks!" There were no bench-clearing brawls.

Heck, Don Zimmer didn't even attack starting pitcher Brad Penny.

And they call this the World Series?

Then again, after the great series between the Yankees and the Red Sox, any game that didn't involve a bat named Wonderboy was going to seem anticlimactic. As Jeter said after his team's 3-2 loss, "It's hard to top the atmosphere of a Game 7 against the Red Sox."

Indeed. The Yankees played one of the most memorable seasons in post-season history, rallying from a four-run deficit in the seventh game and beating their arch-rival with an 11th-inning home run. That game was so dramatic that fans made a pilgrimage to Babe Ruth's grave, leaving behind everything from flowers to a pizza.

And the Yankees were supposed to follow that up with a game against a team with a mascot named Billy the Marlin? Their fans are supposed to feel the same level of passion for a franchise that is younger than Jeffrey Maier?

Well, yeah. Of course they are. It's the World Series for crying out loud. And the Marlins certainly were keyed up for Game 1 despite recovering from their own cuticle-devouring series against the Cubs.

"Every bit of it lived up to my expectations," said Florida reliever Chad Fox, and he didn't even play in the game. "You can't ask for more as a player. Growing up, we all dream of playing in the World Series and then to get into and it's in Yankee Stadium? It doesn't get any better than that. During batting practice you see all the celebrities and the Hall of Famers. I just tried to take it all in."

But even the celebrity quotient at Saturday's game was decidedly B list. Clay Aiken? Jon Lovitz? Ron Silver? What ushers let these guys past the velvet rope?

And then there were the New York fans. When the Marlins bus pulled up to Yankee Stadium, the fans barely even noticed it. If it had been the Sox bus, they probably would have set it on fire. Yet, they had barely a curse word for the Marlins. It was as if they felt they weren't worthy of their disdain. And they were so quiet during the game that I could hear Tim McCarver on the stadium monitors most of the game.

(And Boston and Chicago fans think they're suffering.)

The Yankees also trailed most of the game and didn't play particularly well, either, two things which tend to deflate a crowd. Nick Johnson was picked off third base when he slipped and fell down in the third inning to kill one rally. Aaron Boone cut off a throw to the plate that, had he not, might have been able to stop Juan Encarnacion from scoring the third and deciding run. The Yankees scored only one of the seven runners who reached scoring position and stranded nine men overall.

"If we had won they would say that we didn't have any problems," Jeter said. "We lost, so they say we had a letdown."

There is some truth to that. The Yankees lost the first game against Minnesota and Boston and wound up winning both series, so tonight they just might bludgeon the Marlins in Game 2 merely for having the audacity of showing up on the same field as them. It's just that this series isn't going to be anywhere near as easy for them as so many people predicted.

For one thing, the Marlins are a good, well-rounded, young team loaded with talent. And they are relentless, rallying again and again to win throughout this postseason. As manager Joe Torre said before the game, "That team on the other side of the field, they don't know they're not supposed to win."

Why would they? They just rallied from a 3-1 series hole against the Cubs and also are the most successful post-season team in history (Florida has never lost a post-season series) and they are playing the team that has lost more World Series than any other.

The Yankees have played in the World Series so regularly in recent years that they place their champagne order in February to assure a good vintage. They had won their past 10 World Series games at Yankee Stadium, including the memorable Byung-Hyun Kim games in 2001, the Clemens-Piazza melee during the Subway Series and the Jim Leyritz home run game in 1996.

None of that mattered Saturday. The Yankees faced a team with virtually no World Series experience and they were flat out-played by it. And it will happen again unless they approach the Marlins with the same respect and fire as if they were the Red Sox.

In other words, Zimmer better get himself good and stretched before the game.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.