Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sanchez/Tebow not really new, not even for New York City sports fans

I’m not much of a football fan, so it kind of amazes me that people are getting so worked up and seeing “Controversy!!!” in the making with the trade of quarterback Tim Tebow to the New York Jets.

After all, the Jets already had a quarterback in Mark Sanchez, and not exactly one who is going to be willing to share the limelight – or sit on the bench.

YET WITH THE persona that Tebow has developed in recent seasons, there’s no way he is meant to be the benchwarmer for the upcoming football season. At the very least, I could see the fans who like Tebow’s excessively public displays of religious fervor getting all offended.

Bring down the wrath of God on the team that hasn’t won a Super Bowl since the days of Joe Namath? Why risk it!

Yet tamper with the personality that brings attention to the Jets with his ability to date so many women whose own public personas rely on their ability to look fine in skimpy bathing suits.

Are we destined to see a brawl out of New York at some time this autumn? Will their jealousy overcome them? Or is it inevitable that one of them – most likely Sanchez – will fade away from the celebrity scene and ultimately wind up desperately hanging on to professional athletics for a few seasons?

BECAUSE I HAVE to admit that when I hear about this potential for conflict, I can’t help but think back to baseball a trio of decades ago. Specifically, to the off-season between 1977 and 1978.

Because that was the time when the New York Yankees, coming off their first World Series victory in 15 years, had a team that had the “best” pitcher in the American League in the form of Sparky Lyle – who actually won the Cy Young Award for ’77.

So how did the Yankees deal with this situation? They gave a “big money” contract to pitcher Rich Gossage, who threw hard fastballs compared to Lyle’s slider.

There was some talk early on that the two pitchers would be used in a platoon – Lyle pitching to left-handed hitters in relief while Gossage would throw to right-handed batters.

IS SOMEBODY CONCOCTING a similar scheme in New York these days to try to pretend that it is possible for both Sanchez and Tebow to be the “regular” quarterback for the Jets?

If they are, my guess is that it will last about as long as the Yankees’ cheap rhetoric – just a month or so.

Because eventually, the Gossage fastball was viewed as so overpowering at game’s end that it became “the arm” that the Yankees relied upon in order to preserve victories.

In the famed words of Yankees third baseman Graig Nettles, Lyle went from, “Cy Young to Sayonara.” He was traded away at the end of the season, and he bounced around baseball for another four seasons – eventually winding up his career as a major league pitcher in a season-ending stint with the Chicago White Sox in 1982.

HE WAS A far cry from the “best pitcher of the American League” that he was with the Yankees that year, and the relief pitcher who some fans thought might have a shot at election to baseball’s Hall of Fame. While Gossage – whose career started out with the White Sox and even included a one-season stint with the Chicago Cubs – went on to Hall of Fame pitcher status.

Are we going to see something similar happen in New York this year? Perhaps Sanchez can take the same route that Lyle went – keeping a day-by-day diary of his season and turning it into “The Bronx Zoo,” which is still an entertaining sports book a third-of-a-century after it was written.

Although I doubt the Jets are as equally entertaining a sports team as that Yankees team whose season was ultimately a success because of another one-time White Sox farm hand whom Boston Red Sox fans still hold a grudge against.

Go Bucky Dent!!!

WHILE THE REST of us will be looking toward New York to see how entertaining the athletic jealousy will be.

And perhaps we should be pondering the day when a washed-up Sanchez (or will it be a washed-up Tebow?) will be touted as the great hope (and savior) of our very own Chicago Bears.


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