King George

Is the Yankees owner behind Expos' situation?

August 19, 2004|By Barry Levinson

"IT'S ALWAYS about George." my friend likes to say. "Everything in baseball always connects back to him."

As far as my friend is concerned, George Steinbrenner is the Darth Vader of baseball. "He's evil. Perverse."

If you ask my friend anything about baseball, it always comes back to George Steinbrenner.

Over coffee the other day, my friend gave me a new nugget of information.

Question it, disbelieve it, accept it as gospel, but remember it comes from an obsessive mind that knows no bounds as far as Mr. Steinbrenner's concerned. My friend's latest conspiracy is about the Montreal Expos moving to another city.

"If you look at the list carefully," he said, "the most logical place for relocation is missing. New Jersey. The New York/New Jersey metropolitan area is much better than the Maryland/Washington/Virginia area. So how can it not be included? Because it's all about George!"

He started getting agitated, pouring more coffee into his sugar, priming himself for an adrenaline rush. And then the words started coming faster.

"More than 30 miles from Camden Yards? Are they crazy?! Let's look at 30 miles from Yankee Stadium! Jersey! The surrounding area is home to nearly 3 1/2 million alone, and that's not even including anyone from New York. Compare that to 563,000 from D.C. and more than a million and a half from Northern Virginia. The numbers don't add up!"

Seeing his point, I calmly asked why Jersey didn't make the list.

"Because of George!" he exploded. "Don't you listen!"

"Yes," I yelled. "I do! But why didn't it make the list?"

My friend asked for a refill, more coffee, more sugar, he was in heaven now. "It's about dark webs," he continued. "Tentacles." He leaned forward and arched his brow. "Silent intimidation."

"In short," he said, "no one messes with George. He's so powerful that Jersey never got on any list. ... The wrath of George is fearsome!"

I was slightly confused. "So Steinbrenner never even consulted the commissioner about keeping Jersey off the list? The commissioner just knew it would be unacceptable?"

A smile flickered across my friend's face. "Now you're getting it."

"But if George never asked for Jersey to be excluded, then how can he be faulted? He never said anything. There's no proof."

My friend shook his head, disappointed. For the longest moment he just stared at me. He just stared. And then he said, "The genius of true evil is its invisibility. George's fingerprints are never on anything ... but in the end he quietly wins. You didn't realize you were in a war, and you lost."

But let's be clear about my friend for a moment. He can be slightly delusional. He certainly was in the late '60s and most of the '70s. Yet there were facts to consider. Washington has had two failed teams and no strong fan base for baseball in general.

So why not relocate the Montreal Expos 30 miles from Yankee Stadium? Into the heart of the most massive metropolitan area in the country? An area that has never had Major League Baseball?

"Consider the brilliance of George," he said. "Let them create a list for possible relocation, but make sure the obvious place is excluded. Then let them debate the list and only what's on it. Since a list exists, that's what they'll focus on. It's called `framing the argument.' New Jersey never even becomes a factor. Nothing must threaten the empire of George. Nothing!"

And then, as quickly as my friend said that, he swallowed his last gulp of coffee and left.

Barry Levinson is a writer and film director and native of Baltimore.

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