Gather 'round, ye denizens of The Cooler.
Dixie Cups of Sparkletts for all. On the house. We'll even spike 'em for you.
Pull up a chair. Pull on your Reggie Jackson gamers. Pop in your Billy Joel CD.
We're in a New York state of mind at The Cooler today, sports fans.
The past week has been dark. Brutal stuff. World-changing ugliness. What's The Cooler to do?
I'll tell you what The Cooler is to do: Celebrate the Big Apple. Pay tribute to the greatest city in the world. Give homage to "The City That Never Sleeps," because why sleep when its bars stay open all night?
And that comes from a former ball scribe who used to take "Getaway Day" as a chance to Get Away after a night game down to the Blind Tiger on 10th and Hudson, where Danny the bartender would serve until the cab took said scribe to JFK for the 7 a.m. back to SFO. Not that we're copping to any such behavior on company time, or anything.
Come along for the ride. Pour yourself into an NYC taxicab, shut the door and hear Joe Torre or Walt "Clyde" Frazier or, hell, even Bernadette Peters, warn us to take our belongings -- and! -- don't forget your receipt.
It's so heartbreaking to look at New York now, the long faces clouded by smoke and soot. But it's also foolish to think that, out from underneath that cloud, New York will be kept down for long. Though here at The Cooler we're California-born and bred, you cannot drink from the Sparkletts unless you have a deep affection for the lore of the world's most exciting city.
I don't want to lose sight of everything here, but growing up in suburban America, New York represented two gigantic moments in childhood culture: 1) It was the city that produced Joe Namath, who made a guest appearance on "The Brady Bunch" in an unforgettable episode; and 2) It was the city cited by Greg Brady in the famous "Bonus Baby" episode, when Greg got in trouble in history class. He was asked for America's greatest moment, and he answered: "1969: The year the Mets won the pennant."
What other city can produce archival footage of Pearl Bailey at a World Series game?
Just thinking about the place makes The Cooler take on a warmer, happier glow, confident that good times will return when we properly assess and analyze our grief. For that, fans, take a long pull on your Dixie Cup and enjoy the special version of the Weekend List of Five. On a weekend with no sports, the List of Five will instead have Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, too, as Ella once sang.
Forthwith, a tribute to all that is Good about New York sports:
1. Fireman Ed
|The passion of the New York sports fan is always on display.|
Nearly a year ago, I dedicated a column to the hilariously loony Fireman Ed, Jets Fan Emeritus, the very author of "J-E-T-S, JETS!, JETS! JETS!" whom I met in an Upper East Side bar called American Trash. I could not believe my good fortune: Thin Lizzy on the juke singing "The Cowboy Song" and the real McCoy in my grill -- Fireman Ed telling me of all things Jet, and of his job as a member of FDNY.
It was unforgettable. Fireman Ed, eyes alive, said that anybody in the five boroughs knew that when his company pulled up, they were there "to take care of business." He also said, many times on that hazy night, that "it's all good." Fireman Ed's reasoning? "Because if it isn't, what is it?"
What, are you gonna argue with philosophy that is deeper than Nietzsche? Watching the scene in lower Manhattan these days, I gotta believe Fireman Ed is there. I gotta believe he's taking care of business. And I gotta believe that, one day, it will all be good. Because if it isn't, then what is it?
2. Herman Edwards
|When Fireman Ed and his company arrive, they're there "to take care of business."|
While on the topic of New York's AFC entry, did anybody catch Herman Edwards' soliloquy this week? Damn, where do I sign to follow this guy anywhere? Edwards might have lost his opener to Indy, but I have found a new favorite AFC football team, and it is the team of the eloquent Edwards, who went Winston Churchill on us this week in enunciating his desire to give the NFL a week off.
Someone suggested the NFL owed the fans "a diversion." Cue Edwards, in passionate voice: "If they want diversion, go to church, go pray. ... If they want to go somewhere
united, then go to church. You don't have to go to a game and cheer, go to church. You've got aircraft carriers sitting in the bay, F-14s flying around. That's not business as usual; that's not status quo. ... Yeah, people are going back to work, but how much are you really at work now? I ask every American that. I ask the President that. You think those people aren't thinking about it? They've still got people buried down there."
It was like listening to Patton, only in a Jets sweatshirt..
3. The passion of that guy I met in the bar that night
Reason No. 4,999 why I love New York: I'm in the pub. It's the week of the A's-Yankees ALDS series last year. Eve of Game 3, series tied 1-1. I meet some Yanks fans. They tell me they're going to The Stadium for Game 3. I play devil's advocate, and tell them that the A's are going with the toughest little right-hander they've never heard of in Game 3. I tell them that Tim Hudson is serious business, that they'd better watch out.
I'm just warning 'em. Not rooting. But they're steadfast. See, Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez is going against Hudson. They believe in El Duque. They believe in October. They're saying, "You don't understand! You're not from here! You don't know El Duque!"
And I say, right back to them in the 4 a.m. glow: "But little Timmy Hudson is a gamer. And he's got a wicked sinker and some serious mettle and an attitude
as wicked as his fastball and ..."
And that's when one of them pounds the bar with his fist, and summons up a roar I will never forget. "But he never fought for his life on a
raft!" he shouted.
I sat silent, a huge smile across my face, letting his adrenaline course through his body.
What a great sports town.
4. The right-field Bleacher Creatures at The Stadium
|Even Mayor Rudy Giuliani, far right, is among those who show up regularly to salute Paulie and the Bombers.|
There are sports traditions in this country. There is visiting the grotto before Notre Dame football. There is the haunting chant of "Rock, chalk, Jay-hawk" in Lawrence, Kan. There are Lambeau Leaps, octopi at Red Wings games and Kate Smith at a Flyers tilt.
But right here, right now, it says that there is nothing better than the rhythmic outpouring of love and support the right field bleachers at Yankee
Stadium give their home nine.
Close your eyes, picture the unforgettable blue background, glimpse the No. 4 train flying through the outfield, and listen ... "De-rek Je-ter, clap, clap, clapclapclap!, De-rek Je-ter ... Paul-ie! Clap, clap, Paul-ie! ... Ber-nie Wil-liams, clap, clap, clapclapclap, Ber-nie Wil-liams ..."
It's the closest we come to approximating the passion of a European soccer game, without the tear gas.
5. The third out is made, and cue Francis Albert ...
Start spreading the news. I made a blunder. The right-field bleacher chants are only the second coolest sports tradition in this country.
The best belongs to -- who else? -- Sinatra.
I don't care if it's a mid-May win over the Royals, or a mid-October victory over the Mariners in the ALCS, there is nothing like being in The Stadium when the 27th out smacks into Tino Martinez's glove. Before Tino can even remove it from the webbing, the air is filled with the sassy sound of a 27-piece, horn-laden orchestra.
"Start spreading the news/I'm leaving today/I want to be a part of it ..."
I was there the night they beat Seattle in Game 6 to set up the Subway Series. I have never heard a more brassy, joyous sound than the entire stadium joining in for the chorus, swaying and celebrating their happiest sports moment ever -- a Yanks-Mets Series.
Not even a year later, we need that sound more than ever.
So why not join in, ye Cooler denizens? They need us now.
Raise your glass high. Belt it out.
"It's up to you/New York, New Yorrrrrrrrrrkkkk!"
Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes the "Weekend Water Cooler" every week for Page 2.
|If it's a Yankees' celebration, then you know Sinatra is playing in the background.||