Monday, September 8, 2008

Distractions help during end of an era

For many fans, the start of the NFL seasons brings with it a new dawn in the sports experience.

Watching Brett Favre continue to pump life back into my team was certainly a welcome sight. But it's not a sports cure-all by any means. The average fan is able to turn his or her attention away from baseball and the struggles of their favorite team and hope that the Giants or the Jets or the Patriots will be heading toward a date with the Super Bowl. Well, maybe not the Pats.

But for the diehards out there, this blogger included, the blinding optimism of the NFL season can't make the pain of this Yankees season go away. There's no way to talk yourself into the Bombers going to the playoffs now, not after they lost two of three this weekend to a team with a .380 winning percentage. River & Sunset's Unofficial Theory of Survival is no more. The defibrillators have come out and they couldn't jumpstart the pinstriped heart. It's all over.

There will be a time to reflect on the end of this amazing Yankees run, admittedly soured by postseason failures in recent years, but amazing nonetheless. Say what you will about Brian Cashman -- and with his contract up plenty will be said both for and against him -- but he was the engineer of a franchise that hadn't missed the playoffs since he took the gig in 1997. With a little luck -- Joe Torre playing the infield back in '01, Tony Clark's liner into the corner not bouncing over the wall in Fenway in '04, the unlikely Cleveland humidity descending bugs into Joba Chamberlain's soul in '07 -- this could have been a team with one or two more championships under its belt.

But this isn't about crying over spilled milk. The point is the Yankees of 2001-07 were in a great position to extend their dynasty from one decade to the next. For a variety of reasons -- three of which are listed above -- it didn't happen. But Cashman helped give this franchise that chance. You can argue that his free-agent signings have been more bust than boom, but this guy knows what he's doing. Fans should remember that come next month.

What comes next? Well, I'll definitely begin diving into that as the season's final month wraps up. Suddenly there's a lot of room for different content now that the games mean less than nothing. I guess the lesson here is that every great run in sports comes to an end. And the struggles of '08 will only make it sweeter when New York gets back to the promised land again.

Seeing if Favre and the Jets can claim a suddenly Brady-less AFC East will be fun to watch this fall and winter. Watching how the Yanks try to rebuild this team may end up being just as interesting.

Around The Horn: When I graduated college, I took my first sportswriting job at The Journal News in Westchester County, NY. My favorite gig during my time there was covering the Rockland County baseball beat in 2003. I ultimately decided the everyday life of the newspaperman wasn't for me, but I have a great deal of respect for the business, and the beat guys in particular. The best of the bunch, in my opinion, is Pete Abraham. He's been the Yanks' beat guy for The Journal News for a few years now and his Yanks blog is the best on the 'net. Anyway, if you're interested in the newspaper life, check out Pete's post today, "So what's it like to cover the Yankees?" Really insightful stuff.

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