NY Sports Fans Not Surprised At Garner Death; Used To Choking
New York, December 9 – Followers of New-York-area sports teams are expressing considerably less shock at the death of a man in a policeman’s chokehold than other populations, surveys indicate, because they are accustomed to the phenomenon of watching their chosen clubs choke.
A study of Knicks, Mets, Islanders, Rangers, Yankees, Jets, Nets, and Giants season ticket holders and of subscribers to the satellite or cable channels carrying those groups’ games shows that the demographic in question has developed a much higher tolerance for observing others choke than has the population at large. A control group expressed revulsion in approximately twice the intensity at seeing people choke than did these sports fans.
Choking has been a part of the New York sports experience at least since 1960, when the Yankees failed to put away the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series and ended up succumbing on perpetual underachiever Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off home run in game seven. Since then New York fans have lived through the futility and occasionally tantalizing periods of real potential embodied by their teams only to see them come crashing down after flirting with success.
Most prominent among the dubious group are the Knicks, who came oh-so-close to glory several times in the 1990’s only to choke famously against the Bulls, Rockets, and Pacers – with Reggie Miller of the latter club memorably gesturing toward the Knicks with his hands around his neck, thus capturing in an instant the essence of Knicks underachievement.
Choking has plagued New York on several other prominent occasions, including the Yankees’ 2004 inability to defeat the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series despite a 3-0 series lead. That letdown followed 2001 and 2003, when they lost the World Series in seven games. In more recent seasons they have failed to perform to expectations – with the highest payroll in all of professional sports – seldom advancing beyond the first round of postseason games if they have managed to reach the postseason at all. The lone bright spot of the 2009 championship has only served to highlight the sense of failure and choking under pressure every single other year.
The study authors intend to conduct similar research in other cities with perpetually disappointing performances by sports teams. Los Angeles features prominently as a candidate location, with the Dodgers consistently following a dominant season with a poor performance in the playoffs.
If LA becomes the venue, the researchers will be challenged to distinguish between adaptation to Los Angeles underachievement and residual tolerance for the choking that moved there from New York – first in the 1956 Bobby Thomson home run that gave the rival Giants the pennant, and more recently in the team’s Manager Don Mattingly, whose only playoff experience with the Yankees was in 1995 when his team dropped a five-game Division Series to the Mariners after leading two games to none.