Sportswriters love to turn what is routine into hyperbole?and what is exceptional into poetry. Sometimes, this is done well.
The Washington Post’s Shirley Povich wrote simply about players such as Lou Gehrig and Don Larsen, but his words were powerful in that ease, and true. Today, writers such as David Halberstram are able to discriminate between what is just good, and what is great. More often than not, though, sportswriters have a need to “poetically” overblow reality in order to salvage their own literary posterity.
Before 1998, Mark McGwire was never the benevolent hero that the media portrayed, and his feat in itself now looks ordinary after a drug-free Barry Bonds made his way into history this year with 73 home runs. Kobe Bryant can never be the “next Jordan,” and the Ravens will not be remembered as “the best defense ever.”
However, this fall saw one of the greatest World Series ever played, and we can say this with certainty. Never before has there been a Game Seven comeback that came down to two outs in the bottom of the ninth, let alone three such games in one series.
But after games five and six, those Yankee comeback wins, journalists could not leave alone the obvious clich??The Yankees represented New York’s “indomitable spirit.” How convenient. The Yankees came to represent New York because they happened to be in the World Series, and the Giants, Jets, Rangers, Islanders and Mets were ignored.
Sure, this is understandable. The winners were in the spotlight.
But is there a real healing power there? Would people who lost friends and relatives feel real contentment seeing Joe Torre in another tinker tape parade? And this angle seemed ruined as the Yankees fell, and writers were left to write lukewarm pieces about the dominance of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. More than ever, writers took a path that failed to ring true. The focus should have been on the field more than the city. We needed more shots of Derek Jeter than Rudy Giuliani.
The opportunity to tie Sept. 11 into our pop culture is probably inevitable, but it’s not always relevant.
A good writer knows that the best way to reach readers is to make them identify with words. It’s hard to identify with clich?, with melodrama and with a blurred truth. Putting this unforgettable World Series into words is hard enough.
It’s true. New York surely needs healing. But the Yankees were more about baseball than the city and were an escape from the pain, not a solution.