Sports fans make lists. It’s what we do. Hell, half of these Sunday columns are lists of some sort or another, and they always generate the most response because, well, sports fans read these lists and, being sports fans themselves, have their own lists. And the best part about lists is this: Nobody’s right. Nobody’s wrong.
But the list you write is just more right.
Unless it is a subject that is of utmost importance. Then it’s most right.
The great thing about this, of course, is that sports fans don’t contain their list-making to sports. We can bang out top-fives for movies (Today’s for me: 1. “Godfather,” 2. “Butch & Sundance,” 3. “Diner,” 4. “All the President’s Men,” 5. “Casablanca”); TV shows (1. “The Wire,” 2. “Breaking Bad,” 3. “Sopranos,” 4. “Odd Couple,” 5. “Cheers”); Presidents (1. Lincoln, 2. Washington, 3. FDR, 4. Teddy, 5. Jefferson) as easily as we can blink, breathe or sneeze.
(It is important to note the “today” aspect of this because one of the great things is these lists change day to day (sometimes hour to hour) depending on our mood, our outlook, sometimes just knowing you can add or subtract an entry and it’ll elicit a reaction from whomever you’re swapping lists with. Nobody ever said fans of sports — or lists — were especially sane.)
This is all relevant to me this week because starting next Thursday, SiriusXM will debut an all-Beatles channel. Now, in the same way it still puzzles to realize that Jerry Kramer isn’t in pro football’s Hall of Fame, it seems nonsensical there never has been a Beatles channel when there already are ones devoted to (all due respect) Tom Petty and Pearl Jam and Jimmy Buffett and Elvis and Bruce Springsteen. But, hey: Better late than never.
And there is a very, very close link between sports fans obsessive enough to make lists and music fans, because songs are so plentiful (like sporting memories) and take residence in places deep in your soul (like great ballgames do).
(And let’s face it, one of the great exchanges in movie history involves two obsessive Colts fans in “Diner”:
Eddie: Which do you prefer, Sinatra or Mathis?
Few music acts bridge the connection to sports more than the Beatles, though, though none of them were ever closely tied to sports (unless you count Howard Cosell breaking news of John Lennon’s death on “Monday Night Football”), though none of their songs became stadium anthems (though Paul McCartney’s solo “Live and Let Die” did).
But, then, few bands ever have had the impact on people the way the Beatles did, and do, even 47 years after releasing their last album together. Every Beatles fan has a story, each can go on for hours about why their music meant — means — so much to them. And this isn’t to say the Beatles were even a better band, empirically, than the Stones, or Springsteen, or the Clash, or Beastie Boys.
It is about what hooks you in. It is hard to describe.
Kind of like the way we feel about sports at its most visceral level. In “A Bronx Tale,” young Calogero explains to Sonny that he hates Bill Mazeroski because he made Mickey Mantle cry.
And Sonny says, “Mickey Mantle? That’s what you’re upset about? Mantle makes $100,000 a year. How much does your father make? If your father can’t pay the rent, go ask Mickey Mantle and see what he tells you. Mickey Mantle don’t care about you. Why should you care about him?”
Wiser words never were spoken. Yet we care anyway, about sports, about music, about quoting movies. None of it matters. And yet all of it is essential.
Like the Beatles are. On Facebook this week, I ranked all 187 songs written by the Beatles (plus “Twist & Shout,” their most iconic cover) for no other reason than I had to (Today’s Top 10: 1. “A Day in the Life,” 2. “Hey Jude,” 3. “In My Life,” 4. “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” 5. “Here Comes the Sun,” 6. “Let It Be,” 7. “Help!,” 8. “I Saw Her Standing There,” 9. “Day Tripper,” 10. “I Will”).
But tomorrow may be different. Tomorrow never knows.
Sure, it’s a daunting weather forecast. But I would bet my mortgage (and yours, too) that there’ll be a better chance for rain in the Sahara than at Yankee Stadium come Sunday night at 6:35 or so.
Those old comparisons between Matt Harvey and Tom Seaver? They still apply — if you’re talking about the day Barry Lyons went 6-for-6 against Seaver in a simulated game at Shea Stadium as he pondered one final comeback with the Mets in 1987. Seaver retired the next day.
Two early summer reads for you: “Waiting for Pumpsie,” a terrific young-adult book by Barry Wittenstein that relates the story of the Red Sox’s first African-American player through the eyes of a fictionalized kid; and “Sting Like a Bee,” a fascinating book by the great Leigh Montville, which details the five years Muhammad Ali spent banned from, then returning to, boxing.
The Mets are the Imelda Marcos of sports teams waiting for other shoes to drop.
Whack back at Vac
David Hughes and Donald Reed: Has anyone asked Willie Randolph about how he feels about James Comey being fired while he was in L.A.?
Vac: We tip-toe very cautiously into political waters here at the Whacks, but funny is funny on both sides of the aisle.
Charles Gramaglia: The Giants should retire Emlen Tunnell’s No. 45. He is in the Hall of Fame, was a key contributor to the “Umbrella” defense of the ’50s, and was one of the (relatively) few Giants of African-American heritage who played in that era.
Vac: Other terrific suggestions based on last week’s column on retired numbers: Richie Guerin’s 9 (from Michael McAllister), Red Ruffing’s 15 (or 22) (Stephen Leach), Sam Huff’s 70 (Warren Goldfein & Jim Kelly), Freeman McNeil’s 24 (Alan Sperber & Joe Durning) and Rick Barry’s 24 (Richard Ievoli & Scott Mackenzie).
@JimNewton8: There’s been a pattern of guys getting thrown out at the plate this season. A few of them weren’t even close. Blame goes to the third-base coach.
@MikeVacc: As Tim Teufel (and Joe Espada and Glenn Sherlock) can attest, coaching third base is not a job for the weak of heart or the thin of skin.
Joan Mettler: About the N.Y. Metropolitans and their incredible number of significant long-term injuries, I say: That’s what the original owners get for naming the team after a hospital.
Vac: Maybe since they use Hospital for Special Surgery as their O.R. of choice now we can rename them the “Hosses” now?