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Yankees' World Series berth makes it all worth it for Bryant Gumbel

The host of HBO's "Real Sports" says baseball is better when the sport's most polarizing team is successful.

October 28, 2009|Mike Penner

While Dodgers and Angels fans still wrestle with thoughts of "what-if," the East Coast media have virtually thanked our local teams for stepping out of the way so the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies can occupy the World Series stage.

An example of that sentiment was provided by Bryant Gumbel on HBO's "Real Sports. "I will admit up front to some bias, and I'll certainly understand if the folks in Anaheim would beg to differ, but having the Yankees in the World Series is clearly in the best interest of Major League Baseball," Gumbel said. "As the most polarizing team in the game, they're certain to make their matchup with the Phillies the most compelling Fall Classic in years.

"Now before you start throwing things at your screen, I would ask that you keep in mind one simple truth . . . that sports works best when there's a gold standard . . . something or someone to be measured against. Like it or not, when Tiger Woods struts, when Bill Belichick cheats, when USC tops the football polls, when the Lakers are running . . . when the time-tested best are winning, people care, no matter the sport. And no team has ever won more than the Yankees.

"With their rich, historic tradition and their obscene, exorbitant payroll, the Yankees represent, to many, all that's right and wrong with Major League Baseball. They arouse levels of passion nationally that teams in most outposts can't even fathom. . . . For as Celtics great Bill Russell once wisely noted: the opposite of love isn't hate, it's apathy."

Angels fans will no doubt differ. And, no, that won't be apathy they're exhibiting if they root against the Yankees or, quite understandably, ignore the World Series altogether.

Trivia time

Who was named most valuable player in the 2002 World Series between the Angels and the San Francisco Giants?

Ramp up the criticism

Then again, not everything with the Yankees is sublime. Their first-year $1.5-billion stadium is catching criticism for the huge cracks in the concrete of pedestrian ramps.

A recent New York Times article detailing the cracks was accompanied by a photograph of a ramp marred by substantial cracks. Some cracks were several feet long and several inches wide.

Yankees President Randy Levine responded to the story as one might expect: deny it's a problem and blame the messenger.

Levine told CNBC that the cracks were a punch-list item. Basically, some cosmetic things that are the same in every single construction site. He also charged the Times for flaunting a Red Sox bias by pursuing the story.

"The New York Times are great people, but they own the Boston Red Sox," Levine said. "They haven't been too happy with our new stadium all year. They really don't like the fact that it's been so successful. They've been writing a lot of negative stuff."

Right. And if you believe that you'll also believe the Times equipped their reporters with hammers to make those cracks even uglier.

Ignore and advance

Some NFL scouts insist Florida's Tim Tebow won't excel as a quarterback at the next level. They were given more ammunition when Tebow completed only 12 of 22 passes for 127 yards and had two interceptions returned for touchdowns against Mississippi State. After the game, Tebow left without talking to reporters.

His coach, Urban Meyer, said Tebow was frustrated. But as Terrell Owens and countless other pros might say, Tebow showed right then that he's NFL-ready.

Trivia answer

Troy Glaus.

And finally

Chicago White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen, noted for the coarse language he uses on and off the playing field, has been hired by Fox as a World Series analyst. Should Fox be concerned?

"Don't worry, I'm not going to curse," Guillen said. "I only curse when Chicago media is around me."


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