Joe Torre was standing at the mound Wednesday afternoon preparing to lift Mariano Rivera, after the Yankee closer had blown his second consecutive 2005 save opportunity against Boston. On the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network, Michael Kay, the play-by-play man, wondered what kind of “reception” Rivera would receive from fans as he walked back to the dugout.
“If he gets booed you really have to question the fans, after what he’s done (throughout his Yankees career),” Kay said. “You hope there aren’t boos.”
Kay’s statement was strange on a number of levels. Most notable was the fact that on Tuesday, after Rivera had gagged against Boston in Game2 of the season-opening series, it was Kay, on ESPN-1050 radio, who ripped into the pitcher, casting doubt about Rivera’s future.
While there were no “boos” in Kay’s Tuesday spiel, his content was a lot harsher, and more cutting, than the sentiment offered by Stadium boo-birds Wednesday afternoon. Kay’s outrage over the booing was overdone.
But outraged he was.
“I’m totally flabbergasted that the fans booed Mariano Rivera,” Kay said as the Al-Yankzeera cameras (surprise, surprise) elected to focus on fans who were actually cheering the pitcher as he walked off the mound. “Would you boo Sinatra because he hit a bad note. I’m shocked!”
Why? The fans who chose to boo were, in their own way, expressing the exact same frustration Kay himself had brought to the ESPN-1050 microphone on Tuesday. Whether or not it’s fair, they could have been flashing back to those blown saves (Games 4 and 5) in clinching situations during the 2004 ALCS.
The fact these fans were not holding microphones when making their audio critique of Rivera does not diminish their statement. Or make it any less relevant than the one Kay presented to listeners on Tuesday.
Anyone who makes a living expressing an opinion, but begrudges fans from expressing theirs, not only comes off as a stone elitist, but someone who pays lip service to freedom of speech. Judging by his characterization of these fans, made on his Wednesday ESPN-1050 radio show, Kay clearly believes they do not have the same rights as talk show hosts or columnists.
He called fans who booed Rivera “low class” and “disgraceful.” He said they made him “embarrassed to be a New Yorker.”
Did Kay forget some of these “low class” fans could be sports talk show callers, the lifeblood of sports talk radio? If Kay would characterize fans as “low class” on his radio show, what must he be calling them behind their backs, when the microphone is turned off?
Kay’s Sinatra analogy is unfortunate, as anyone who heard Old Blue Eyes hitting more than a few bum notes during his final years can attest.