Jewish World Review April 24, 2002/ 13 Iyar 5762


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Consumer Reports

Natural and human earthquakes | Last Saturday morning I was skimming the dailies online-The New York Times editorial page has discovered that anti-Semitism is spreading throughout Europe like an out-of-control forest fire, lit by a French match-when the floor started shaking.

It was 15 seconds at most, but an uneasy sensation.

The immediate thought was an Islamic loony blasting the nearby Citibank, but as I learned later, after returning from two Downtown Little League games, just a minor 5.1-magnitude earthquake. And it didn't have the sucker-punch impact of the rhubarb at a Battery Park City Gristede's, where, after MUGGER III's contest, we witnessed a shouting match between a cashier and senior-citizen crank over the price of the Daily News. This black-on-black confrontation lasted a full five minutes, with the checkout lady complaining to the whole store that her nemesis had "disrespected" her by using the word "hell."

Who needed this at 9:15 a.m.?

That Times editorial, "The Return of an Ancient Hatred," was astonishing not only for its late appearance but also the detached, mild rebuke of the disgusting anti-Israel bloodlust that's a central component of today's global chaos. Get this: "[J]ust as the [Sept. 11] attacks forced Americans to face the fact that there are deadly serious groups seeking to destroy us, so some of the anti-Semitic actions in Europe in recent months cause us to wonder [italics mine] whether, six decades after the Holocaust, we are witnessing a resurgence of the virulent hatred that caused it... All of this does not mean that Israel should be above criticism. Far from it. But it does mean that when you read of hooded men shouting 'Death to Jews' attacking a Jewish soccer team in suburban Paris, as happened recently, it should prompt some profound soul-searching about whether the past has come calling."

You'd think The New York Times, which editorializes incessantly-throughout its pages-about penny-ante issues like campaign finance reform, the plight of caribou in Alaska or President Bush's tepid tax cut, would limit its role as the Democrats' leading media cheerleader and use its worldwide influence to forcefully denounce this dangerous movement. But no. Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Gail Collins and Howell Raines-echoing the newspaper's see-no-evil coverage of World War II-suggest "profound soul-searching" while innocent people are daily being slaughtered or maimed. When did Times Square turn into Walden Pond?

Anyway, both the natural and human earthquakes seemed like small beer compared to the thunderstorms Friday night and Saturday: at Waterside Park in Chelsea, where Junior's Indians won their first game, 7-3, over an enthusiastic Rangers squad, the wind was so ferocious at one point that I got nailed by a flapping sign on the fence behind home plate, splitting my lip. My black leather coat sopped up the blood after a few minutes, allowing me to engage in conversation with other parents without looking like a reject from some grade-C horror movie. Aside from the action on the diamond, the talk was all Middle East, and not one person I spoke with voiced a scintilla of sympathy for lifetime thug Yasir Arafat. "Let the Israelis do what they have to do," said one fellow-a nonsecular Clinton liberal-"and then Bush can move on Iraq and Iran."


Back home, waiting for the rain-delayed Yanks-Blue Jays game to begin, I was still relishing Pedro Martinez's eight innings of one-hit ball in Boston's 4-0 (with future all-star Shea Hillenbrand providing the offense with a three-run triple) win over the Royals the night before. Who knows if Martinez has fully recovered from his arm injury last year-I suspect he'll be a different pitcher this year, relying less on the fastball, which ought to keep him healthy-but if the Bosox, with a beefed-up offense and World Series-hungry new owners, can count on the club's leader for even 15 wins, they'll contend for a playoff spot. Why, it's even possible that John Henry will pull a Steinbrenner and buy a replacement for white-knuckle-inducing Ugueth Urbina in midseason.

Even though the Yankees prevailed on Friday, it was satisfying to see Mariano Rivera get roughed up in the ninth and blow his second save within a week. The previously untouchable Rivera-a better closer than even Dennis Eckersley was in his prime-is getting hit hard and making throwing errors, which leads one to believe that his mind is still in Phoenix, where he lost the Series last November in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Better yet was Ramiro Mendoza, another disabled Yank pitcher, giving up a homer in the 10th inning on Saturday that allowed the choke-prone Jays to actually win a tight game. In Sunday's Times the headline over Tyler Kepner's report was incredibly unfair and misleading: "Giambi Misses a Chance to Finish Off a Rally." Okay, the latest multimillionaire in the Bronx struck out in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded, but it was the sloppy Yankee defense in the eighth inning-take a bow, Shane Spencer and Nick Johnson-that set up the situation.

When it comes to baseball (and the Bosox) I'm as superstitious as they come, and don't want to gin up a jinx, but so far these aren't the dynastic Yankees that New Yorkers have taken for granted. The bullpen's worse, the batters strike out at an alarming rate, they've got less speed (aside from the incomparable Alfonso Soriano and Derek Jeter) and they're stone-gloved in the field.

And I can't wait until David Wells gets hammered in a game. He's exactly the kind of player that rekindles hatred for the Yankees, with his loud mouth and cocky demeanor. After the Sox took three out of four from New York last week, Wells popped off. In an April 17 New York Post story, Wells, who once said he hated Fenway Park so much he wished it were blown up, cobbled a couple of sentences together for reporter Dan Martin. Wells: "It's pretty simple. I know what we're capable of and what we can do and we're a better team than they are... They just don't have as many weapons as we do and that's why we're better." The Sox's Trot Nixon, Boston's 50s-throwback player, responded the next day in The Boston Globe that Wells is just bitter because he doesn't have much success at Fenway.

With the acquisition of Giambi, the hubris of Yankees fans is more unbearable than usual. Just last Friday, I made a pretty safe $25 bet with my friend Alex Schweitzer, who claimed Boston, by June 1, would be trailing the Yanks by nine games in the A.L. East. That wager looked even better on Sunday night after the Sox swept a doubleheader from the Royals, gaining half a game on New York, who, behind Roger Clemens' strongest outing of the season and Soriano's hitting, crushed the Jays 9-2. The boys and I saw the depressing contest at the Stadium-the Yanks almost always win when we're plunked down in our season-ticket seats in section 27-and after it became apparent that Clemens was dominant, the only highlight was that dumb subway race on the rightfield electronic screen that Junior always wins.

JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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© 2002, Russ Smith