Friday, April 11, 2008

Steinbrenner Coliseum: Is It Cursed?

The Hundred Year War resumes, with a story that some fiend dropped a Red Sox T-shirt under the concrete floor of the visitors' clubhouse at the George M. Steinbrenner Memorial Coliseum -- which some people are erroneously calling "the new Yankee Stadium."

Some people are saying this is Boston's final revenge on the Yankees, a permanent "curse" that will last as long as the House That George Built stands.

Baloney. This is baseball, and nothing is ever final. (Except the Mets being Number 2 in New York. By the way, Reyes was out last night.)

If there is a "Boston revenge" on the Yankees intended to be a "new curse," it's that Mayor Bloomberg, a.k.a. Massachusetts Mike, was the man who worked with King George III to get the new stadium built, and thus saw to it that the one and only Yankee Stadium will be demolished. If I were a Red Sox fan, I'd want Bloomberg to be President.

(No, I wouldn't. Even if I were so sick in the head as to be a Red Sox fan, I hope I'd still have enough heart to be a Democrat, and Bloomberg is a Republican, whether he says it's officially so or not.)

Moving out of the House That Ruth Built? You think you saw a "Curse of the Bambino" before? It was never the Babe that cursed the Sox. If there ever really was a curse, he's not the one who laid it on.

But move out of his house? The Big Fella is pissed. He just might see to it that the Yankees never win another World Series until the Steinbrenner family sells the team.

"Owning the Yankees is like owning the Mona Lisa," George Steinbrenner has said many times. If that's so, why are you tearing down the Louvre?

No, he's not moving the team, like Walter O'Malley (Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles), Bob Irsay (Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis), Bob Short (Minneapolis Lakers to Los Angeles AND Washington Senators to Dallas to become Texas Rangers) and Norm Green, a.k.a. Norm Greed (Minnesota North Stars to Dallas Stars), the Mount Rushmore of sports carpetbagging.

But notice! In the 1995-96 season, the Boston Celtics moved from the Boston Garden to the next-door FleetCenter, now renamed the TD Banknorth Garden; and the Montreal Canadiens moved from the Montreal Forum to the Molson Centre, now the Bell Centre.

In 49 years at the Gahden, the Celtics won 16 NBA Championships -- at the time of the move, the Lakers were second-best with six. In their first 12 seasons at the new building, they've only reached the Eastern Conference Semifinals once. (That was in 2003, when they had that incredible comeback against the New Jersey Nets in Game 3, and the Nets then won the next two games and won the East.) Yes, I know, they've clinched the regular-season best record this season, but that's the regular season, not the Playoffs. But they've still never even gotten to the round of 4 in their new building, and only to the round of 8 once. Since then, the Lakers have won a seventh, eighth and ninth NBA Title. If you count their Minneapolis years (and you shouldn't), that's 14 Titles, only two behind the C's.

In 72 years at the Forum, the Canadiens won 22 Stanley Cups -- plus two before that. In their first 11 seasons at the new building (one fewer than the Celtics because of the 2004-05 lockout), they've only reached the Eastern Conference Semifinals once. (That was in 2002, losing to the Carolina Hurricanes.) Yes, I know, they've got the second seed in this year's Eastern Conference Playoffs. But, like the Celtics, they've still never even gotten to the round of 4 in their new building, and only to the round of 8 once.

Nearly all of the Celtics' legends are still alive; of the players whose numbers are retired, only the most-recently honored, Reggie Lewis, Number 35, is dead. So there were no "ghosts" that needed to make the short walk next door. Whereas the Canadiens had many dead legends, and "the Ghosts of the Forum" apparently didn't make the one-mile trip from the Forum to Centre-Bell.

Contrast that with the team that has won the most NFL Championships: Instead of building a new place, or moving to a new city entirely, the Green Bay Packers renovated Lambeau Field, keeping their 12 titles in the same place.

You can look out on the field at Yankee Stadium, and you can still see Babe Ruth in right field, Lou Gehrig at first base, Joe DiMaggio or Mickey Mantle in center field, Thurman Munson behind the plate, Catfish Hunter on the mound. You can also see Frank Gifford running for a touchdown, Jou Louis knocking out Max Schmeling, and two (soon to be three) Popes delivering Mass. You can't see that at the new place.

Anyway, the Yanks-Sox blood feud resumes tonight in the Back Bay, with both teams having struggled to open the season. Cliche time: In this rivalry, you can throw out the records. (Often, one team or the other would like to.)

Wang against Buchholz. The Sinker of Doom vs. last year's flash-in-the-pan no-hitter. Prediction: Yanks 6, Sox 4.

(UPDATE: The Celtics won the NBA title in 2008. The Yankees won the World Series in 2009. Canadiens, you're on the clock!)

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