It's all over the news and the blogosphere, the dramatic way in which Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle died yesterday. I read with sympathy about the shock and sadness to his family and teammates, and also about the jitters that the incident caused in New Yorkers until its true nature was sorted out. I was in New York, living in Soho, the last time an airplane crashed into a building there, and I can readily imagine the stress and anxiety and flashbacks that those in my home city must have experienced on fearing that it was happening again.
But this one is really from the "you can't make this stuff up" files - just a couple of days after the Yankees' deflating, listless exit from the first round of the playoffs, just a day after Lidle was roundly criticized in the media for suggesting that the Yankees were not adequately prepared for the series, Lidle's aircraft explodes in flames over a nervous city.
And, although I would never expected to have seen this at such a time, I had further proof that the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry truly brings out the worst in both cities. As the news of Lidle's demise spread among the docket and filing clerks who work in my office, I heard one of them shriek (in jest, but still) that it's fitting, that it only proves that "all Yankees are terrorists and they should all be killed and destroyed."
It's one thing to root for your team. It's even one thing to hate the enemy team. But I was quite surprised to hear such a tasteless response to a genuine tragedy. Perhaps I am naive. But I am not naive enough to attribute the vicious tackiness of the remark to a rancor that exists in Boston alone. I am sure that somewhere out there there were Yankees fans who responded to last month's news of Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester's cancer diagnosis by wishing it were contagious.
It's not necessary to shed tears when a celebrity dies. People die, and the death of a baseball player is no more or less tragic than the death of anyone else. But there's nothing good that can be said of a rivalry that arouses in people the desire for still more tragedy. Baseball fans losing perspective in the blinding glare of hometown fervor - that's the real tragedy.