Monday, October 12, 2009

Home Town Hero

But until they do, let us be aware that while they preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the Earth, they are the focus of evil in the modern world.

Common wisdom had it that President Ronald Reagan, delivering a speech in Orlando, Florida to the National Association of Evangelicals in 1983, was describing the Soviet Union. We since have learned that he was referring to the New York Yankees, who have swept the Minnesota Twins in the American League divisional playoff series, with a little help from umpire Phil Cuzzi, who

knows what you were thinking. He was standing right there, barely 10 feet away, with an unobstructed view. He saw the ball curve down the left-field line and bounce. He is an umpire with decades of experience, working at the highest level in his sport.

How the heck did he miss that call?!

“Unless you umpire, you can’t possibly understand,” Cuzzi told The Star-Ledger in a phone interview Saturday night. “It happens. It happens at the worst possible time. And it happened to me....

He is not making excuses for what happened in the 11th inning of the Yankees’ 4-3 victory in Game 2. He missed the call. He had no idea until after the game, when he arrived back at the umpire’s room and a supervisor was waiting for the crew. He watched the replay, just like everyone else, and saw Twins catcher Joe Mauer’s line drive had bounced eight inches fair.

Cuzzi had called it foul, negating a leadoff double, and he spent much of the next 24hours trying to figure out what happened. Part of it, he thinks, was playing an unnatural position — baseball only uses umpires along the outfield foul lines in the postseason and for the All-Star Game.


The temptation, of course, is to assume that Major League Baseball is eager to have the Yankees, who had the best record in baseball this season and (with the N.Y. Mets) play in what is by far the largest media market in the U.S.A., represent the American League in the World Series. And no doubt that is true.

It's much more fun, however, to speculate further about this remarkably bad call in a crucial situation. Where does the 54-year-old Cuzzi, who says no one "on that field.... had a worse night's sleep than I did," hail from?

It might be New England, home to the Yankees' rival, the Boston Red Sox. Or perhaps the ever-growing Southeast, in Florida or perhaps the deep South. Is it the Midwest, maybe the Rust Belt or further down in the rural mid-section of the country? Perhaps it is out west, on the coast, whether California- the largest state of them all- or the Mountain West.

Cuzzi could have been from any of, say 47 states where the Yankees, who play in the borough of the Bronx, are just another baseball team, albeit a great baseball team.

But no. Phil Cuzzi, who played a pivotal role in keeping the New York Yankees from playoff elimination, hails from New Jersey. Northern New Jersey. Specifically, he is a Belleville (approximately 24 miles from the Bronx) native who lives in Nutley, approximately 13 miles from the Bronx.

Don't blame Phil Cuzzi for, intentionally or not, doing a "solid" for the home team. If he can hold down an enviable job, make an egregious error at a critical time and not even face discipline, he should not be pitied, patronized, or ridiculed. Merely envied.

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