This is one of those “only in New York” moments.
On Friday morning, at around 10:15, I was walking West on 86th street, towards 3rd avenue. It was already hot out, probably in the low 80’s with high humidity. That’s why I thought it was weird that it smelled like someone had started a fire in their fireplace.
As I got closer to 3rd Avenue, I started to see smoke. And as you know, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And I found that fire. Turns out, the sidewalk was burning. I don’t mean there was something on the sidewalk that was on fire. I mean, there were flames shooting up out of the cement. It wasn’t dangerous at that point, though every time the wind blew, it seemed like it could reach that level.
Most people walked by as if there was nothing unusual happening. On most days, I would have done the same. But, for some reason, I didn’t. I stopped and called 9-1-1, then stood there. A few other people picked up on the cue and stopped as well. One guy went into a store to get a fire extinguisher. Another tried to stomp out the flames with his shoe. So, we had formed a little posse. We knew there was really nothing we could do until the fire department got there, but we figured this situation couldn’t just be left alone. And so, for about ten minutes, we all became friends. We joked with each other about how watching a sidewalk burn was a perfect excuse to be late for work. We theorized about what the hell could cause a sidewalk to spontaneously combust (You’re guess is as good as mine. I’m still not sure how it happened.) But mostly, we waited. By now, our group had grown to about 10 people. Now, a group of ten people standing around on a New York City sidewalk is usually enough to make someone stop and see what’s going on. Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd. Add to it billowing white smoke, midsized flames and the smell of fire, and you’d have to think any passers by would take note.
That’s why we were all so shocked when a cop walked by without even giving us a second look. This is one of New York’s finest. The best and the brightest. The last line of defense against threats to our city both foreign and domestic. And yet, nothing. Not a question. Not a sideways glance. He didn’t even slow down. Just kept right on walking.
Luckily, a few firefighters showed up and took over. It was at that point that my new friends and I decided it was time to get on with our days. And so, I left my little burning section of sidewalk.
Only in New York, kiddies. Only in New York.
I can never tell if these double issues mean I shouldn’t expect to receive a magazine next week. The fact that this issue is dated July 4-11 seems to indicate that the staff of Sports Illustrated is taking the week off. The presence of an outsized “Inside Sports” section is even more evidence. Yet, somehow, Sports Illustrated has managed to publish 7 columns without a single one catching my interest. Joe Sheehan has just about destroyed Inside Baseball at this point, turning a page that historically included trade rumors, character studies and fun little stories into one that relies so heavily on statistics, it’s almost clinical. And I can’t imagine anyone who reveled in the joy of reading subsequent columns on soccer, tennis, olympic sports or Nascar. Even the NFL, in the midst of a lockout, offered no joy.
Yogi Berra Will Be A Living Legend Even After He’s Gone by Joe Posnanski
How does Yogi Berra qualify for “where are they know?” I know exactly where he is. He’s in Montclair, New Jersey most of the time. And he was at Old Timer’s Day at Yankee Stadium last weekend. But, once you get past that, there’s a lot to like in this profile of the legendary catcher. One more complaint though. Posnanski includes this line:
From here on this will be a story without quotes. Well, there will be two Yogi Berra comments at the end, but that will be about it.
And that is almost immediately followed by this:
As Yogi Berra says, “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”
As Yogi Berra says, “If you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him.”
As Yogi Berra says, “I always thought that record would stand until it was broken.”
Yogi Berra also says, “I never said most of the things I said,” which is probably the most telling of all the Yogi-isms. He said some of those things, didn’t say others, but at this point even he is not sure what he did or didn’t say.
And there are plenty more quotes sprinkled through the rest of the way. Is it possible Joe wrote that sentence in an early draft, realized he would have to get rid of it, but then forgot?
Shooting History portraits by Walter Iooss Jr.
For a collection of pictures by Walter Iooss Jr, there are sure a lot of photos taken by Neil Leifer. Also, how do you say “Iooss?”
A League Of Its Own by Chris Nashawaty
Charlie Sheen is obviously lying about taking steroids. He’s a desperate guy who’s final 15 minutes of fame have just about run out and he knew he could make another day’s worth of headlines by making that claim in Sports Illustrated. Aside from his annoying persona, this was a fun read. Movies like “Bull Durham” and “The Natural” are oftentimes held up as the twin pinnacles of baseball movies. But, I’ve always preferred Major League. “The Natural” is dated and “Bull Durham” is quaint. “Major League” makes me laugh out loud.
Green Acres by Grant Wahl
You mean there’s an article that combines my twin loves of women’s soccer AND animals? SKIP!!!!!!
Sir Roger’s Run by David Epstein
“And what’s your Christian name?” he asks, in perhaps another of his historical firsts, given that he is soliciting this information from a David Epstein of Brooklyn.
That made me laugh out loud.
Larger Than Real Life by Pablo S Torre
A story: A some point in the late 70’s or early 80’s, my father was in a chinese restaurant in New York City. Across the room, he noticed Kareem Abdul Jabbar sitting and eating. My father walked up to Kareem and asked him for an autograph, discounting the fact that Mr. Abdul Jabbar was literally mid-bite. Kareem was displeased. He stood up slowly (and since he’s 7’2″, that took an excruciatingly long time,) looked down at my father and said, “NO!” Then he sat back down and continued eating while my dad slinked away in embarrassment. Fast forward to 1987. 9 year old Justin is, for some reason, at a jewelry store with his father in his hometown of Freehold, New Jersey. A few feet away is New York Met center fielder and World Series hero Mookie Wilson. Justin’s father, forever scarred by the Kareem incident, will not let young Justin walk over an interrupt Mookie’s shopping experience. Instead, they finish what they’re doing and leave the store with even acknowledging that Mookie is there.
And so, all these years later, what would I do if I saw Mark Eaton in an airport? Would I sneak a picture? Would I walk up and speak to him, one human to another? Or would I leave him be, allowing him to live his life without interruption? I’m not sure. Probably the first one. Im kind of a pussy that way.
A Boy and His Bucs by Austin Murphy
Sometimes when I can’t sleep, I list world series winners in my head in descending order by year. And I will admit, until seeing this article, I always thought “Baltimore,” when I got to 1971. I’m kind of embarrassed by that now. Although, considering I’ve barely heard of all the players quoted in this piece, I’m not particularly surprised.
The Ultimate Playlist by Greg Kelly
Man, this is a lot of fun to read. I’m not even going to complain that songs about surfing or drag racing as concepts aren’t really “about” sports. Instead, I will bring up two examples of the juncture of sports and music that aren’t mentioned. First, I will suggest that everyone follow Benjamin Gibbard from Death Cab For Cutie on Twitter, but not to read about his music. More interesting are Gibbard’s comments on his beloved Seattle Mariners. The guy even has an old school Mariners sticker on his guitar. I love that.
Next, a Ben Folds lyric that has always stuck with me. It’s from his song, “Late,” a tribute to the musician, Elliot Smith, who committed suicide in 2003.
Elliott, man, you played a fine guitar
And some dirty basketball
The songs you wrote
Got me through a lot
Just wanna tell you that
I’ve always loved the concept of all these semi-nerdy indie rockers getting together in an ally behind a rock club and playing basketball together in their skinny jeans and black rimmed glasses. It’s an image that’s been seared in my head for years and is something I’ve kind of been obsessed with learning more about. Who’s the best player? Are the games super competitive or does everyone act like hipsters who don’t care about winning or losing and are just playing ironically? Can I play?
Anyway, here’s the song for your listening pleasure
Point After by Phil Taylor
Happy Fourth of July, everyone!