Right Field

I’ll Spare You the First Line From Tale of Two Cities

Yesterday’s New York Times contained a pair of stories that showed the Times’s policy-oriented approach to sports coverage at its best and worst.

The best was a long but interesting article about the Vikings’ so-far unsuccessful efforts to get Minnesota taxpayers to build them a new stadium. The Vikings already have a stadium, the Metrodome, which is perfectly acceptable (although ugly as sin, but that’s been true for decades), except it doesn’t have quite as many bells and whistles as Vikings owner Zygi Wilf would like. So the team wants a new home, mostly paid for with public money, of course, and in years past this would have been no problem.

Unfortunately for Wilf, due to what the Times quaintly calls “the country’s emergent political philosophy: smaller government and lower taxes,” it probably won’t happen. After seeing any number of expensive white elephants get built (such as Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey), nobody believes the old line about stadiums paying for themselves in tourism and taxes, so the Vikes are forced to fall back on “Don’t you love us, Minnesota?” And so far the response from the taxpayers has been, “Yes, we do, but not $650 million worth.”

At the other journalistic extreme is an article about the New York Rangers waiving Sean Avery. Avery is a particularly flagrant example of that NHL staple, the enforcer. His playing style is perhaps best summed up in a limerick:

There once was a forward named Avery

Who practiced all manner of knavery.

From cheap shots to late hits

To crude mockery, it’s

No surprise that his rep is unsavory.

OK, perhaps not. Anyway, the Times explained how people around the NHL feel about Avery with this paragraph, which no other paper in the U.S. or Canada could have written (emphasis added):

For all of his popularity in New York, Avery was widely reviled in hockey circles. In a 2007 poll of 283 N.H.L. players, 66 percent said Avery was the most hated man in the league. He came by that judgment honestly, sucker punching opponents on the ice and insulting them off it. But he also earned admiration in many quarters for his public support of same-sex marriage legislation in New York State.

Yes, I’m sure his stand on that issue won him plenty of locker-room cred . . .