"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice



Determined not to let the latest set back between the Yankee-owed YES network and Cablevision—who just happens to be my local cable provider—get me down too tough, I got up early Saturday morning and went to stand on line with cousin Gabe, the Mets fan, to see the Leonardo Da Vinci show at the MET. This was the final weekend of the exhibition, and the mobs had been turning out all month for a look at what has hyped as a once-in-a-lifetime showing.

The Saturday papers did a good job of covering the YES story, which essentially boils down to George Steinbrenner being an ogre again. The monster has been loose all winter. Jeter got it, Torre got it, Boomer’s getting it, and so, once again are all the innocent Yankee fans who have the sad-ass misfortune to be Cablevision subscribers. In the words of Mike Lupica, we’re all getting ‘Georged.’

Speaking of the lip, Lupica, a veteran of this kind of Yankee stunt, penned the kind of dead-to-rights piece on the whole affair that reminds you of how good a tabliod columnist he can still be:

…Finally Leo Hindery, who is the CEO of YES in name only, and James Dolan of Cablevision got in a room with Gerald Levin and Richard Aurelio, two big-time New York guys acting as mediators, at the mayor’s house. They came out a few weeks ago and announced what is now known as an “interim” deal that would put the Yankees on Cablevision and into those three million homes. We all cheered. Because of the fans.

Only now Steinbrenner, hiding behind Hindery and his Crack Television Committee the way he always hid behind his Crack Baseball Committee when something used to go wrong with the Yankees, backs away from a deal he knows everybody agreed to as if he’s Guillermo Mota of the Dodgers and here comes Mike Piazza.

He backs out of the deal, and blames it all on Cablevision, of course, and lets Hindery stand there and take the weight for him. Why? Because something never changes, the way George M. Steinbrenner never changes.

Which means nothing can ever be his fault.

Now Steinbrenner doesn’t want to open his books as part of the deal, because no owner ever does in baseball. No owner wants you to know how much he’s making. Particularly Steinbrenner, who’s already getting murdered with revenue sharing. What is one of the biggest reasons he wanted his own network in the first place? Because it could be Yankee revenue that wasn’t officially Yankee revenue.

In all matters, he wants it all. Now this interim deal that has turned into no deal at all.

“The best part of this,” Dolan said yesterday, “is that (Steinbrenner) wants people to believe he’s not running the show.”

Cablevision is a monopoly, big, bad, greedy, occasionally real lousy. And makes no secret of that. Steinbrenner is a different kind of monopoly, his greed just as blatant. He just dresses his in pinstripes.

Bob Raissman, the media columnist for the Daily News, lays a good share of the blame on Cablevision.

(The Times reports on Sunday that the Yankees have made a self-serving counter-proposal to Cablevision in a last-ditch attempt to get the team on the air by Opening Day.)

I read the papers on the train, and felt better. Lupica’s column had hit the spot. I was able to forget about the whole mess, and concentrate on the DaVinci show, just ahead.

Of course, my unlce Fred the painter, had seen the show about 4 or 5 times. I got on the 1 train at 231st street at approximately 8 am. It should take a half an hour to get to 79th street, where I then transfer to the crosstown bus, that lets me off on 5th avenue and 79th street. The Met opens at 9:30, so we figured on meeting at 8:45—which was pretty lax I must admit.

The train ride was running smoothly and by 8:20 we were on 110th street. Right on time. At 103rd street, the doors stayed open extra long, and then somebody exited the car ahead of mine, and yelled, “Somebody’s having a seizure!” A weird stillness that fell over my car, which was crowded for a Saturday morning. We didn’t hear any commotion.

Had we heard that right? Nobody continued yelling for help. There was a kid in scrubs in our car who was eventually summoned. Everything was happening painfully slowly. And the feeling of collective helplessness was papable. Later, it reminded me of watching Geoff Jenkins busting his ankle last season. There wasn’t anything that happened in 2002 that enraged me more than how long it took to get medical attention to that kid last summer. The Brewers medical staff moved in slow-motion. It was like like Double A at its finest. I felt so helpless watching it at home. No wonder nobody wants to go play in Milwaukee.

At 8:26, we were still in the station when my old friend Ricardo walked onto the train. We ran in the same group for a while a couple of years ago, and hadn’t seen each other in a minute. I saw him first, standing across the car from me. He scanned the car when he first walked in, and we made eye contact, but dude didn’t recognize me. Homeslice rocks some thick ass glasses, and I know he didn’t pick me up.

Another minute passes before he does recognize me. He comes over and I fill him in on the seizure story. We chat for a mintue and then we split. The EMS had still not arrived. I felt guilty leaving the scene. We decide to walk down to 96th street—he was on his way to work (Ricardo is a copy editor for the AP). I caught him up on my life-in-a-nutshell, on the walk down Broadway. We exchanged cards and I ran off to catch the crosstown bus at 96th street—which had just rolled up the block.

I jogged up to Amerstam avenue, but and watched the light change against me and the bus get smaller and smaller. So I did something I rarely do—I hailed a cab. It was 8:35. Fug it. Had a nice conversation with the cab driver too, a Kurd with a great name: Sham Shawali.

I made it to the Met by 8:40. There were already lines along both sides of the front steps. I checked for my cousin, didn’t see him, and got in the shortest line.

Stood next to this older dude who eventually started up some small talk. In no time we got around to chatting about baseball. This guy had one of those strawberry-sized-W.C. Fields, Father Rosacea shnozola’s that are mesmerizing. It’s the only part of the guy you can look at. He was a funny old character, bitter and hung-over and hostile. He must have been in his late 50s-early 60s. He was one of the these guys who don’t want to have a conversation, they want to rant at you.

Well, I can’t have that, so I didn’t let him talk at me too long. We ended up having a decent chat.

Gabe showed up by 9:00, when the lines were getting hairy. A third line had developed down the center of the steps. By the time they opened the doors, it was a bonafide bum’s rush. People rushed in from all directions. Middle aged ladies had their kids, walked up, cutting all lines, and buffaloed their way in.

It was pretty funny. There was a kind of general panic that made everything seem like a little bit too much like a Mel Brooks sketch. But since when is that bad? As I made my way through the bag search I over heard a screatchy Upper East Side Joan Rivers-like voice say, “Which way is Leo? Which way is Leo? I gotta see Leo.”

People were basically sprinting to the Da Vinci exhibit.

At it was crowded. First, they roped us into lines like cattle. Then we made it into the show and the first two galleries were very congested. But after a couple of minutes of adjusting, I found some rush-hour commuter patience, and managed to get a good long look at every picture.

And it was so worth it. The show was absolutely amazing. Despite the viewing conditions. All of the drawings are unbelievably small, and intolerably fine. Walking through the show felt like walking through a genius’ hard drive. The guy was like a freakin’ computer. He was into everyting—science, art, medicine. And the show has something for everyone.

There was an amazingly animated quality to the studies and drawings of horses. As cerebral and mathematical was Da Vinci was—he is a draftsman in a true architectural sense, his drawings have an expressiveness of an artist, not a mere clincical illustrator.

Gabe and I brought our mitts to have a catch, but we were so hungry after the show, we skipped the catch and headed straight for delicious brunch.

Mmmm, delicious brunch.

Oh, man. It was enough to make me forget the YES-Cablevision screw-job for a minute, that’s for sure.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver