A mile and a half from where I live, at the same intersection where I’ve used the ATM countless times and taken my children for numerous fast food happy meals, a man was killed outside a bar after being punched in a fight.
A 35-year-old-man punched a man 20 years his senior. The older man fell to the sidewalk, striking his head; he was pronounced dead at Flushing Memorial Hospital soon afterwards.
The local news media picked it up because the assailant who has been charged with assault in the case is a New York City firefighter. Even though the person he stuck was dead, he walked out of jail a few hours later—New York City’s revolving door of justice works its magic. He claimed to be acting in self defense.
Whitestone is a more suburban area of New York City. It has a downtown area like that of a village you would find on Long Island or in Westchester County, and most neighborhoods consist of single-family homes. The affluent Malba area of well-heeled mansions is part of Whitestone.
While it does not have the cultural cache of Manhattan or the trendy panache of Brooklyn, I take heart on knowing that the Parkside Lounge a half mile away from me puts on great punk rock shows, and that Dee Dee Ramone once lived in Whitestone. It also has nice parks, good public schools walking distance from our home, and
There are many nice features of Whitestone, Queens, but it’s also a place where you will wonder how so many wretchedly stupid people manage to live in nice houses and drive expensive trucks. There is a bogus working-class posturing on the part of upper-middle class people here, a vociferous ignorance that cannot be excused by poverty combined with a shallow cultural posturing that consists of thickly pantomiming stereotypical New York mannerisms. Because they live within the boundaries of the five boroughs of New York City, they think they need to size everyone up for a fight even when they are buying groceries.
When you love something, its faults drive you all the crazier because they blemish something you cherish. That is one of the reasons why this death outside of a bar in one of the outer boroughs is more troubling besides being literally closer to home.
Though I left the drinking life more than a decade ago, I cannot deny the good times that they have given me and the central role they still play in cultural life. It was in a dive bars that I helped form punk rock bands, got ideas for poems, traded quotes from “Repo Man” with both financial journalists and bouncers. Dive bars are the respite that people have needed from their daily grind for decades, and dive bars in the outer boroughs is where you can find the soul of New York City trying to drink off its last hangover. I don’t know if they have good punk rock shows at juice bars and I’m not going to find out.
I remember being alone and living in New York City on my own for the first time and meeting a friend from work at the Wee Pub in Ozone Park one Saturday night and it was a rambling joy that made me feel like I was home. Years later, I met up with friends and toured all the dive bars we could fine in Hell’s Kitchen. I’ve spent countless hours in some of the seediest drinking holes in the city and regret not a minute of it.
So, if we’re ruining dive bars, we are ruining life. Our civilization will not function if people don’t decent, affordable places to drink.
New York City will survive and thrive again. If anything be sacred, let it be our dive bars.
New York Jets starting quarterback Geno Smith will miss as many as 10 games because another Jets player punched him in the face. Think about that for a minute and how stupid that is to happen on a professional football team.
They wouldn’t be the New York Jets if something completely stupid didn’t happen every year. They wouldn’t be the Jets if they didn’t let a promising young quarterback get injured in some freak sideshow-type incident.
Idemefuna Enemkpali is the linebacker who punched Smith and was immediately cut from the team. Not to fear though, ex-Jets head coach Rex Ryan picked him up for his Buffalo Bills.
The New York Times ran a story saying that Enemkpali had transformed himself into a “figure of infamy” for the New York Jets. Taking out the starting quarterback with a sucker punch certainly runs you afoul of the team and its fans, but you have to do better in the N.F.L. if you want to achieve infamy.
The idea that Idemefuna Enemkpali could achieve some kind of “infamy” is ludicrous in a league rife with serial sex offenders, wife beaters and celebrated cheaters. Enemkpali may have “sucker punched” Geno Smith, but he punched an adult male and apologized for it. If serial sex offenders like Ben Roethlisberger can have a career in the N.F.L., sucker punchers shouldn’t have any barriers to a life in professional football.
The New York Jets have employed worse people. The Jets starting quarterback for many years was Mark Sanchez, who raped a woman in college.
So unless Enemkpali ripped off Geno Smith’s arm and then knocked him out with his own fist, a simple punch isn’t going to make you infamous. I guess there is a dry spell of crimes from N.F.L. players lately and the media needs to make the most of ones that it gets.
And, this happened to The Jets, which makes the story of misfortune that much better. Ridiculous misfortune business-as-usual for Gang Green. And being a Jets fan hasn’t been easy for four decades.
I’m a Jets fan, and I must admit that the Jets misfortunes are somewhat of a badge of honor at this point. I have stayed loyal to sports teams through thick and thin even when others became fair weather fans and attached themselves to more popular, winning teams at the time. I remember when the New York Yankees had the worst record in baseball in the early 1990s. Living in Connecticut, many of my friends supported the Boston Red Sox and made fun of me for my team loyalty. I vowed to them that I would see the Yankees as world champions again (vowing to be kept on life support until this happened if need be). I only had to wait six years.
And so it is with the Jets. Most New Yorkers are New York Giants fans because the Giants have won more Super Bowls within recent memory. The Jets last won the Super Bowl in 1969, three years before I was born. That’s OK. I’ll wait a little longer.
Some of us in New York have the unfortunate burden of being Jets fans. The New York Jets were a great team sometime more than 40 years ago. Like the Knicks and Mets, they have made it their modus operandi to find new ways to break their fans’ hearts. They have been described as more of a media circus than a football team. It is often remarked that J.E.T.S. means “Just End The Season.”
The news this past weekend that the New York Jets have given up quarterback Mark Sanchez for Michael Vick will be sure to continue the Jets’ reputation for making foolish moves. This is the same team and coaching staff that paid handsomely for Tim Tebow, who became the NFL’s most expensive bench warmer.
The Vick hire has already brought shrieks of horror from animal rights activists, moralistic sports haters and even decent human beings. The Jets made the announcement on a Friday night, when news is likely to get the least amount of attention. Since returning to football, Vick has been the subject of the most invective aimed at a sports figure since O.J. Simpson got away with murder. And Vick didn’t get away with his crimes.
That’s not to say that the continued campaign against Vick is without merit. Michael Vick is every bit as bad as his harshest detractors say. He heartlessly tortured and murdered defenseless animals and his dumbly parroted apologies in the intervening years convince me that he’s only sorry he got caught. If there’s an afterlife, Vick will spend eternity being torturously gnawed at by Rottweilers with AIDS.
But there are a few things that stand out in the endless Vick hatred that the Jets have stirred up again. One is that there are much worse people still playing professional sports today that do not create half the controversy that rightfully follows Vick. The NFL employs rapists and murderers and thugs of every stripe.
One of the rapists that had a home in the NFL until just now was Mark Sanchez, the Jets quarterback that Michael Vick is replacing. It escaped the ire of football moralists that Sanchez was arrested for raping a woman at the University of Southern California while he was a student there, though charges were never brought. There has been no exodus of people from Pittsburgh Steelers fandom on account of their quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, being a serial rapist. Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens is a murderer of people and went on to become a Super Bowl MVP.
The second thing to take note is that the era of the celebrity hero is over. It is hard to face the reality that people we admire for their skills or accomplishments can be bad people. The sports world brings this into focus for us many times over, but the same is true for any celebrated line of work. It’s unfortunate that Lord Byron likely knocked up his own sister and that William S. Burroughs shot his wife to death, but that doesn’t make their writing any less influential.
So I won’t stop being a Jets fan. When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way, from your first scoreless half to your last fumbled play. I’m used to rooting for a losing NFL team and over needing to like professional athletes. Being a New York Yankees fan, I have read some of the horror stories of how Joe DiMaggio would treat fans. Was Billy Martin a homophobe or a racist? Who cares? No one hired him to sing “Kumbaya” to crack babies; they hired him to play and coach baseball. Baseball’s current home run record holder, Barry Bonds, is such a despised human being that his own teammates could barely bring themselves to congratulate the slugger on his accomplishments.
We can rightfully revile sports figures all we want, but ultimately they will be judged by what they do on the field of play. The New York Jets long ago gave up trying to recreate the magic of being heroes to anyone. Now they just need to win football games.