Thursday, January 13, 2005

E.J. Montini writes a great one on the Big Unit vs the Big Apple

Randy's outburst in the Big Apple was Ariz.'s fault Like many residents of Phoenix, I watched replays of the shoving match between Randy Johnson and a television cameraman in New York City and laughed out loud. Now I see how terribly insensitive that was of me. After days of quiet reflection during which I've had time to read the New York papers, watch the television news and review Johnson's many subsequent TV appearances, it has become clear to me that those of us in Phoenix owe our friends in New York City a sincere apology. This was entirely our fault. After several years of roaming the mean streets of suburban Phoenix, Johnson apparently has developed the type of rough-hewn demeanor that delicate New Yorkers can't deal with. It's been a long time since the 2001 World Series, and I guess we forgot how kindly and impressionable New Yorkers can be. How easily wounded. How genteel. How tenderhearted. How civilized. "The day before his official initiation at Yankee Stadium the Big Unit acted more like a big jerk," read the lead story in Tuesday's New York Post. "The Big Unit is officially New York's biggest $32 million crybaby," announced the Daily News. Post columnist Mike Vaccaro wrote, "As first impressions go, this was spilling a carafe of red wine onto your blind date's white dress." While the Daily News' Mike Lupica said of Johnson's run-in with the cameraman, "Guys much more important and much more famous than Johnson mostly deal with it in a civil fashion." Of course they do. In fact, if one were to ask a tourist in New York to describe his impression of New Yorkers, the first thing that he'll tell you is how civil they are. As in: "They could have shot me or struck me on the head with their guns, but they only stole my wallet." On Monday, Randy Johnson rudely placed his hand over the camera lens of a man trying to take his picture. He told the man, "Get out of my face." When the photographer questioned the need for physical contact Johnson added, "And don't talk back to me, all right?" Many, many New Yorkers took offense at that remark. And they should. You'd think that Johnson would have learned just how hurtful people from New York find indelicate conversation simply from having watched an episode of Growing up Gotti. Yankee TV announcer Jim Kaat told one reporter, "New York is different. I hope for his sake he's going to adjust to that." In one of his numerous apologies to New Yorkers, Johnson admitted that he has much to learn about the decorum and social protocol of his new home. Perhaps Yankees owner George Steinbrenner can arrange for his star pitcher to receive lessons in proper New York etiquette from those who best understand the city's definition of good manners. Donald Trump, for one. Or Al Sharpton. Maybe even the man whom most of us consider to be the epitome of New York refinement - Joey Buttafuoco. Sadly, here in Phoenix, we failed to recognize what can happen to a person who endures years in an urban environment from which the sky can be seen, the sidewalks don't stick to your feet, and where - in January - you might have to put on long sleeves before going to play golf. And if we weren't so stressed-out by the pressure of having to decide which outdoor cafe to visit for lunch, and what level of sun block we'll need, one of us might have warned the Big Unit that moving from a place like Arizona to a place like New York could make a fellow a little testy.

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