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The Bell Curve: New York State of Mind

By Martin S. Bell, Crimson Staff Writer

So it's May 19th, and the Red Sox find themselves in first place in the AL East, seemingly validating Sports llustrated's outlandish World Series prediction. Already, you can hear the Red Sox faithful hail the inevitable end of The Curse, anoint Carl Everett the American League MVP and, perhaps worst of all, sweat Pedro Martinez even harder than usual.

All of this is a bit irritating, but understandable. Sox pitching has held up far better than anyone expected, and the Sox could easily, at the very least, hold off the Blue Jays and Mariners to make the playoffs.

But when you go to Annenberg and hear a cocky New Englander proclaim Boston the new center of the sports universe, as I did the other day, it's enough to make you choke on your ratatouille.

Since arriving at fair Harvard from Brooklyn, I've grown to love Boston sports radio. I find myself genuinely impressed by what WEEI pumps out on a regular basis. It isn't so much because I enjoy Glenn Ordway's witty banter or the overnight stylings of the "Two- Minute Drill," but rather because I've never heard so much done with so little. The Boston sports scene as a whole is about as bankrupt of entertainment value as a ride on the Orange Line.

The fact that sports radio around here remains engaging is nothing short of a minor miracle.

It isn't so much a matter of the talent level of the teams or individual

athletes that makes things around here a mite dull. Granted, there's a lot lacking there. Why Pats fans expect so much from a team with no running game is beyond me.

But what makes Boston relatively uninteresting is the lack of what I call the sideshow effect. When you're sitting in the stands at Fenway, you can talk about how good Nomar and Pedro for a couple of innings, and reminisce over who took who over the Green Monster a few years back for a couple more. But by the time you've gotten to the seventh-inning stretch, there really isn't much to say.

"So, um, that Pete Schourek, he's really pitching like a man possessed, isn't he?"

"Yep, but I wonder if he'll hold off Jeff Fassero for the third spot in the rotation."

This is what passes for drama here? It's almost laughable to anyone who has looked at the back page of a New York tabloid anytime in the recent past.

New York--now that's where all if the intrigue is. Start with baseball. Every year, the New York Yankees dedicate their season to another Bomber of the past or present--sometimes two--who has come down with a life or career-threatening ailment. Every year, Darryl Strawberry will find another way to disgrace and then redeem himself in the eyes of the faithful.

Now, I am in no way endorsing the abuse of illegal narcotics or terminal illness for the sake of becoming media darlings. Heck, I hate the Yanks. I'm merely pointing out that in the Big Apple, there are always four or five subplots attached to every campaign that make every season interesting.

That becomes even more apparent when you realize that the Yankees, despite their ongoing Hollywood screenplay, don't even grab the majority of the Daily News' sports headlines.

Did anyone catch the Mets' season last year? Recall the disgruntled outfielders who played cards during pivotal playoff games, the insane manager who returned to the dugout in a Groucho Marx disguise after being ejected from the game, the grand slam single in the 15th inning in the NLCS, and New York's newfound love affair with John Rocker. These events transpired in roughly two months of the Amazins' 1999 Wild Card season. Now that's entertainment!

Be honest. Would you rather have a front-row seat to see Pedro pitch on a given Sunday, or be anywhere in Shea when Rocker returns to Queens in June?

I thought so. See you on the 7.

Beantown's inferiority extends to the gridiron. The New England Patriots --who, if the team's name is any implication, belong to Vermont as

much as they do Boston--recently experienced a disappointing campaign and fired head coach Pete Carroll. Local radio pundits had a field day with that "saga."

Well, that's nothing. How many NFL teams have gone through three head coaches over the course of sixty hours? I can only think of one, and that was the New York Jets a few months ago. And you know what? Hardened New York's sports fans shook their heads and continued like it was just another day.

And so, after quickly calling hockey a draw, we come to the Celtics. Ah, you say, what can this jerk say against 16 championship banners and one of the proudest winning traditions in sports?

The problem is that most of the people who are reading this couldn't spell Kevin McHale back when the last banner made its way up to the rafters. The Celts today are flat out boring to watch.

The Knicks--now there's a great blend of talent and controversy. The Knickerbockers have one of the league's most electrifying players in Latrell Sprewell and a snazzy celebratory gesture known as "The Big L." The Celtics have one of the league's most underachieving talents in Antoine Walker and a supporting cast that averages roughly 50 of those other "L's" each year.

Gone are the days of the great Celtic-Laker battles. Nowadays, the leagues best rivalries all involve the boys in blue -Knicks-Heat, Knicks-Pacers, and up until a year ago, Knicks-Bulls. Even when Shaq and the boys come to town, you know not to expect anything other than a dull blowout to happen. The only thing that makes the T-ride worth well is the trip to the only hoops shrine greater than Madison Square Garden, Boston Garden.

Oh, wait, that doesn't exist anymore....

You might be tempted to chalk all of this up to a disgusting display of Big

Apple arrogance. Well, you're right. A feeling of bravado naturally accompanies the knowledge that your hometown is the mecca of professional

sports, and that Boston can do little but cling to the coveted second-fiddle position.

But don't feel bad. It's not like Boston has underachieved. What else can be expected from a town whose subway system shuts down at night and takes you to a fake "Broadway" when it's running, a town whose one major sporting event, the Boston Marathon, takes place largely outside of Boston, a town that's basically a very distant suburb of New York?

So there. Got a problem with any of this? My name is Martin Bell, and I'm a New York sports fan. Bring it.

Just don't mention the Metrostars.

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