Friday, December 17, 2010

Where Absurdity Meets Reality

History is in the mind of the teller. Perhaps that is why for the rest of my life I shall not look back on the route that the New York Giants (and no I am not going to say "football" Giants. The New York "baseball" Giants have existed only in the hearts and memories of their fans for more than a half-century now. I think the distinction is no longer needed) took to get from their home base of operation here in the State of Concrete Gardens to their last game, which was played on a day other than had been originally scheduled in a state other than had been originally scheduled as one of mankind's great undertakings to relocate men and material. The manner in which the team's journey was chronicled both in the print media and on the FOX pre-game show on Monday night might have created the mistaken impression that they had been the group trapped more than a mile beneath the Earth's surface for an extended period of time. As it turns out, that distinction belonged to a wholly different group of giants.

As it turns out, the Giants' journey through hell was actually a weekend in Kansas City, Missouri, which contrary to popular mythology is not a frontier outpost along the Pony Express Route. Instead it is an established city in the Midwest with running water, electricity, paved roads and cable television. It also apparently has enough of a population base to serve as the home to two separate professional sports franchises: the Chiefs of the National Football League and the Royals of the American League. Was it just me or was anyone fighting hard to suppress the gag reflex listening to the talking heads on ESPN, CBS and FOX prattle on about the "hardship" the Giants were going through? I am quite confident that the G-Men do not spend their weeks away from home hunkered down at the Motel 6 by the airport and would be stunned to learn that they spent their time in Kansas City in anything other than a 4 or 5 star hotel.....before boarding a chartered bus to be driven to the airport where they flew to Detroit Michigan to play a football game.

Let me see if I understand what transpired: a group of business travelers from New Jersey were supposed to have a 12:00 p.m. meeting on Sunday in Minneapolis for which they flew out of New Jersey on Saturday. Weather conditions in Minneapolis required their flight to be re-routed to Kansas City Missouri where they were put up for the night in a hotel (at no cost to any of the individual employees in the traveling party). On Sunday morning they learned that the meeting in Minneapolis had been relocated to Detroit Michigan and the time of the meeting had been changed to 7:00 p.m. on Monday night. They were driven by chartered bus (again at no expense to any of the individual employees making this particular trip), to the airport in Kansas City where they boarded a plane and flew to Detroit. They were put up in a hotel in Detroit Michigan on Sunday night (yet again at no out-of-pocket cost to the individual employees making the trip) and then on Monday night - in Detroit - they had the meeting that had been originally scheduled for Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis.

If this group of business travelers had been lawyers, police officers, physical therapists, jugglers, saw salesmen or any other of a million different professions, then this journey would have been a blip on the screen. The fact that it involved a team of professional athletes should not have resulted in an effort by the sports media to raise the Giants' journey to something akin to the rescue at Dunkirk or the Bataan Death March. The journey was not "epic". The men who made it - the football players and coaches - are not warriors......regardless of how often someone might try to persuade us otherwise.

And the last time I checked, staying in luxury hotels, being chauffeured from Point A to Point B and being flown wherever one needs to go on someone else's dime and with someone else doing all of the leg work to ensure that everything you need when you reach Point B is there awaiting your arrival does not qualify as a "hardship". If this past weekend's excellent adventure is the most adversity that any current member of the Giants faces for the remainder of his life, then he is a man who has fortune the rest of us are left to envy.

Nor do I worry about having to explain to my as-yet-unborn grandson Declan twenty-five years from now how it was that Cliff Lee won neither the Cy Young Award nor the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 in spite of his performance on the field during the season and his historical selflessness off the field during his free agency. Lee after all did something that athletes rarely do - he "left money on the table" in order to sign a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. He rejected longer-term offers from the Yankees and the Rangers in accepting the deal with the Phillies.

The sports media's collective reaction was to swoon over Lee. In one day he not only signed a contract that shall over the next five seasons pay him $120 Million but was revealed to be the long lost love child of Mother Theresa and Gandhi. From the coverage of the story one might have misunderstood what direction the $120 Million is going to flow these next five seasons and might have thought that Lee was paying the Phillies that money just to have the chance to pitch for them again. Nope.

To his credit at his news conference on Wednesday Lee did something that I did not hear a single Giants coach or player do earlier this week. He put what he had done in deciding to come to Philly in perspective and in doing so slowed down at least to a degree the Diocese of Philadelphia's efforts to secure canonization for him between now and Opening Day 2011. Apparently reports of the Lee family worrying now how to feed their children in view of Cliff's decision to sign a contract on the cheap were greatly exaggerated. Lee told the media that, "It's plenty of money. When you hit a certain point, enough's enough." He is right. On both counts.

Things are tough all over. They have been for a couple of Christmases now. For those among us earning a living playing professional sports it has likely been less so. Perspective is important. Character counts. Kudos to Lee for keeping the former and exhibiting the latter and in doing so rejecting the fawning-a-thon being thrust upon him and perpetuated upon the rest of us.......

......although what would Lee know about hardship. The only time he is likely to have to spend time in Kansas City Missouri during the next five years is if the Phillies play the Royals in inter-league play.


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