Fight and Flight
Early yesterday evening I was riding the subway downtown when I ran into a friend of mine. He was on his way back from Shea Stadium, the Mets game already having been called due to weather.
After a minute of talking about his disappointment about the rainout, I cut in and said, “Hey, did you hear about Cory Lidle?”
Indeed, he had already heard the day’s bizarre news: Yankees’ right hander Cory Lidle had been aboard the small plane that crashed into an apartment building on East 72nd Street in Manhattan yesterday.
We talked for a minute about just how spooky the whole thing was – a Major League pitcher crashing a tiny jet on the Upper East Side. And then, a second later, my friend said, “Did you know that people are already making jokes about this?”
“Are you serious?” I asked.
And apparently he was, because right on cue, a guy sitting across the train who had overheard our conversation blurted out, “I heard that Lidle thought he was crashing his plane into A-Rod’s apartment.” (Another variation of this joke that’s been going around: Too bad A-Rod wasn’t on the plane or it wouldn’t have hit anything.)
Later, when I was thinking about what this stranger had said, my first impulse was to call him out as a tasteless, classless bastard. There are things you just don’t do for a laugh, and one of them is to make cheap jokes about a dead person within mere hours of his death.
But then I got to thinking about it some more, and I realized that there was a reason people were making jokes: Because like me, they have no idea what to make of Cory Lidle’s demise.
As far as sports-related deaths go, few I can recall have been more eerie or hard to comprehend. Sure there was the strange disappearance of Bison Dele several years back, and there are others I’m probably forgetting, but Lidle’s death has been flat-out bone chilling from the moment it was first reported yesterday, from the fact that it inevitably and unfortunately calls to mind 9/11 to the unanswered question of what exactly caused Lidle’s plane to hit that building.
After we stopped talking about the Lidle jokes on the subway yesterday, I said to my friend that the whole thing made me wonder what had really happened. I had been thinking about the fact that the Yankees had just lost in the first round, and how Lidle, demoted to the bullpen, had been rocked in his one playoff appearance…
And it crossed my mind that maybe Cory Lidle had committed suicide.
My friend thought I was crazy when I told him this theory, and maybe you’ll agree that I’m way off, but I’m clearly not the only one who’s at least had the thought. And how can you not wonder? Do planes really crash into buildings in the heart of Manhattan by accident?
As one reader told me today, when Lidle was interviewed on Mike and the Mad Dog just three days ago after the Yankees’ loss, he sounded like a truly broken man. (That interview has apparently been removed from WFAN’s online archives.) So isn’t it possible that this broken man made a successful attempt on his life?
Ultimately, I guess it doesn’t really matter. Cory Lidle died yesterday under mind-boggingly strange and surreal circumstances. What more can you say? Quite honestly, this is all I can think of:
Cory Lidle – previously an above average journeyman pitcher – became a national story in just about the most disturbing way imaginable yesterday. And if people are joking about it, or theorizing about what might have happened as I did moments ago, it’s only because collectively, we don’t know what the hell else to say.
In what must be proof that this Cory Lidle thing has thrown me for somewhat of a logic-altering loop, I have to admit for the briefest of moments today I found myself empathizing with gun-toting Indiana Pacer Stephen Jackson. Think about it: As a pro athlete who has an (admittedly deserved) reputation as a hothead, Jackson can’t go out on the town and have a good time without someone trying to start a brawl with him. That would suck, right?But then I thought about it some more and realized that I’m a complete idiot. The fact is, Stephen Jackson can’t go out on the town and have a good time without someone trying to start a brawl with him because he’s the kind of guy who simply can’t avoid getting into brawls.
I mean, for all that Ron Artest was vilified after the infamous melee at Auburn Hills, wasn’t Stephen Jackson clearly the scariest guy involved in the whole fight? Artest and Jermaine O’Neal were both, to some extent, provoked, but it sure looked like Jackson lunged into the stands to take swings at fans because it seemed like a good opportunity to beat up a couple civilians.
And did you know that in this most recent incident outside the strip club on October 6th, it’s been alleged that Jackson kicked a dude who has a deformed arm? Who does that? (Okay, I’ll admit, for all I know the guy with the deformed arm was some kind of bad-ass street fighter whom, if not kicked, might have used his weathered arm to bludgeon S-Jax into submission, but when I read about Stephen Jackson kicking a guy with a deformed arm I absolutely could not avoid mentioning it.)
All tasteless comments about malformed limbs aside, has it ever occurred to anyone else that Stephen Jackson might be the worst guy in all of pro sports who rarely gets accused of being the worst guy in all of pro sports? For all the talk of Terrell Owens being such a bad guy, what’s he really done other than be a giant asshole to his teammates? He’s not out firing off his gatt outside a strip club, slugging fans in the stands at Auburn Hills or going Kung Fu style on a cripple.
There are jerks, and then there are people who should probably be heavily medicated and regularly receiving therapy instead of heavily intoxicated and regularly toting glocks. Nine out of 10 pro athletes, if I saw them on the street, I'd stop to point and gawk. If I saw Stephen Jackson, I'm pretty sure I'd run away. Dude is like Omar from The Wire. You just don't want to be around when he's coming through.
Is Stephen Jackson currently the most unsavory character in all of pro sports?
Or here's a better question: Can you think of anyone worse?