By Mike Steffanos
When I was a kid and first starting to follow sports, I didn't have a father to explain things to me, so I had to figure everything out on my own. I would devour the sports pages from the Daily News and Post, convinced that the columnists like Dick Young had an understanding of what was going on that was unavailable to the rest of us mere mortals. I imagined that they somehow saw the game more clearly than the rest of us, and had a keen insight into the players, coaches and personalities who flickered across my television screen.
Time has cured me of that sort of faulty thinking. I've come to understand that, as in any profession, there are good, bad and just plain indifferent practitioners of the art of writing about sports. There are some guys that I really respect, some that I get a kick out of, and some that I just can't stand. What never ceases to amaze me, however, is the just plain intellectual laziness of some of those in the field. Case in point, this chastisement of Mets fans from that vaunted bastion of fan decorum, the City of Brotherly Love:
To their credit, the New York Mets came to bury the Atlanta Braves last week and did.
To their discredit, New York fans came to taunt, mocking visiting Atlanta with the Braves fans' own signature tomahawk-chop chant during a doubleheader sweep on Wednesday.
The two victories reemphasized the obvious. The Mets are going to win the National League East running away. The Braves won't, ending a 14-year run as division champions.
Atlanta's dream of a wild-card berth also likely ended that night, as the Braves fell off the pace by 61/2 games in that race.
So Mets fans should have celebrated. But to dance on the dugout roofs at Shea and mock? The home team - arguably the best in the National League - deserved better from its fans. So, too, did the Braves.
There are classic dynasties and then there are classy dynasties. And the Atlanta Braves' dynasty (1991-2005) had class.
The most arrogant thing about the franchise's storied run was the chop.
That chant might have been as insufferable as it was insensitive, but not so the product on the field, for no one other than the rock-headed John Rocker ever demeaned the Atlanta uniform, belittled the opposition, or singlehandedly put an ugly face on the era.
Apparently Claire Smith's premise is that the Atlanta Braves were the Mother Theresa of the National League for the past fourteen years, and have moved up to some exalted plain where the normal rules of what to expect in a visiting ballpark don't apply.
Claire glossed over Johnny Rocker pretty quickly there, but the simple truth was that the "classy" Atlanta franchise was more than willing to employ a racist on the fringe of mental illness to win ball games. But more than that, this is a team whose fans taunted every other team in the division for years. Braves 3B Larry Jones has been known to taunt Mets fans a time or two himself, but I guess that's okay, since Larry has always been all about class. Pity the Braves?
Taunting the other team is something that is a staple of American sports. I experienced it at the Junior High School level, for God's sake. As long as it doesn't involve fans physically invading the space of the opposing team there is nothing wrong with it. Winning fourteen division titles doesn't provide you with any sort of Dynasty Exemption from this treatment, how utterly asinine of Ms. Smith to even pretend that it should. Major League ballplayers make millions of dollars and enjoy a lifestyle that is ample compensation for being taunted in an opposing ballpark.
It's funny how much jealousy is being directed at the New York Mets from around the league. Although Smith pretends that her petty disdain was directed at the fans of the team, the ending of her piece belies that:
So celebrate, Mets. Consider the possibilities, Phillies, Marlins, Nationals.
But remember, before you mock the dying dynasty as it exits stage right, before you even think about topping it, try emulating it first.
Since Claire indulged herself by nibbling at those sour grapes in Philadelphia, where there is no love for the Mets or their fans, I'm sure the vast majority of reaction to her childish opinions will be approving. It's the intellectual equivalent of Rodney Dangerfield yelling out, "Let's all get laid!" at the end of one of his movies. It lacks any intellectual depth, but whose going to argue? Make no mistake, though, crap is crap. Stories like this appear in print every day, reflective of the intellectual bankruptcy of the profession.
Reading an absolute piece of garbage like what Claire wrote used to make me mad. Now it just makes me sad. Not because I pity the poor Braves, nor for her silly attack on the Mets and their fans, but because Ms. Smith is actually employed as a sports columnist by a legitimate paper in one of the largest markets in the country. It makes me wonder if there are any standards left.
Daily News: Professor Rick Rocks
John Harper profiles the Mets pitching coach. I never bought into all of the silly finger pointing at Peterson, blaming him for everything from the Kazmir trade to the Kennedy assassination. Nice to see that he's finally getting some of the credit he deserves.
Getting Paid to Watch: Bob's Back
Bob Sikes has an excerpt posted looking back on the week before the Mets clinched in 1986.
Heads Up: I'll be out for most of the day, so my recap of the game will be quite late.