There was an almost funereal hush that quieted Yankee Stadium Saturday night _ and it had nothing to do with the go-ahead run scoring in the top of the 12th inning, eventually rendering that miraculous ninth inning comeback totally useless.
The eerie silence that enveloped Yankee Stadium in extra innings was caused by an unusual sight. The culprit that turned the Yankee Stadium bedlam into a silent dome was the image of the seemingly unflappable staple of Yankee baseball, the team's captain, Derek Jeter, rolling around on the Yankee Stadium infield, writhing in pain.
You knew by the way the always unsinkable Jeter couldn't get to his feet that he was hurt severely, that this wasn't your average sprain or twist. You could see in the replays with Jeter's mouth wide open in agony that this was a season-ender.
Anyone who has watched Jeter perform brilliantly over the last 17 years knew that this was a major injury, because every other time Jeter has gone down in his career, he got up.
He dove into the stands to catch that foul popup against the Red Sox and popped out of the stands, looking like something out of a John Wayne war epic, with the blood trickling down his cheek, and you knew he was fine.
You've seen Jeter foul pitch after pitch off his feet and shins, watch him hop around a little on the injured foot or leg, strap on a shin guard and head back out to shortstop. Sprained ankles, bum shoulders, banged-up elbows, you have it. Jeter fought all the nagging injuries off and went out to do his job.
Because that's who he is. He's Derek Jeter, the man who personifies being the captain of the most storied and well known franchise in professional sports. George Steinbrenner was brilliant in a lot of ways, but no more of a genius when "The Boss" decided to hand the larger-than-life title of being the Yankee captain over to Jeter a decade ago.
Because Derek Jeter is the Yankees. He's the heart and soul of the team. Now with Steinbrenner gone, he's the face of the franchise. And deservedly so. Jeter handles his enormous celebrity with dignity and class. He does things the right way.
Some other sportswriters think that Jeter is boring, because he's never going to say the words that will end up as the headlines on the back of the tabloids. He's going to utter the company line _ "We have to play hard and work hard"...."We have to come back to the ballpark tomorrow and get back to doing what we do best"... "We'll take them one day at a time." -- Cliche after cliche. But that's who Derek Jeter is. He's not going to instigate with words in the newspaper. He doesn't have to. He does it all on the diamond.
I've always said that there are just a handful of professional athletes who "get it." Who understand just how enormous of a celebrity they are, how they are perceived by everyone from eight to 80, how vital their place in society is. There are only a few who handle their roles and get it. Peyton Manning. Dwyane Wade. I used to think Tiger Woods and LeBron James were in that category, but not now.
And then there's Derek Jeter, who knows he's adored by millions, who undertstands that he personifies what a role model truly is and not what others unfairly pump them up to be and who lives every single day living up to the expectations of his public and is so deserving of their adoration.
That's why seeing Jeter getting carried off the field Saturday night with a broken ankle is so alarming and so different, because you never expect to see that. Our heroes aren't supposed to be fallible. Superman is always supposed to save Lois Lane from disaster. John Wayne always rides off into the sunset having saved the day. "Sully" Sullenberger always lands that plane on the Hudson River and Derek Jeter always leads the Yankees to victory. It's what heroes do.
This morning, Derek Jeter is sitting with a cast on his foot, his season over. The Yankees lost in extra innings after making that implausible and unthinkable comeback in the ninth inning. They're down, 1-0, in the American League Championship Series. It's going to be Eduardo Nunez's chance to be the hero now.
October has had a history of making unknowns into heroes overnight. Just think of some of the Yankee October heroes of the past, guys like Don Larsen, Bucky Dent, Brian Doyle, Chad Curtis, Scott Brosius, just to name a few, guys who were average regular season players that had a chance to shine in the postseason spotlight and performed like heroes.
More than likely, Nunez, who I believe has a world of talent and has a very bright future in this game, gets thrown into that spotlight now. The future is now. Because the captain isn't there to save the day this time.
And there's something wrong with that image. Jeter is supposed to be the one leading the way, not the one on crutches. Life goes on. The Yankees have to somehow find a way without their leader.
But with or without their captain, there are a lot of guys who have to look in the mirror this morning and figure out what in God's name is going wrong, guys like Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano (can a man with all that talent actually go 2-for-29???) and of course, the whipping boy, the $27 million a year part-time player named A-Rod.
They're all too good of players to all go south that quickly, although A-Rod is showing signs with these slow, swooping, lazy swings that he might be done for good.
They all have to take a deep look at themselves as they shave this morning and wonder what in the world is going on, because the next few days are going to be a hell of a lot tougher without their fearless and seemingly inviniceable leader.
Just one last piece on the Lance Armstrong debacle. We're not going to mention any names, but one of the people who gave downright damning testimony against Armstrong to the United States Anti-Doping Association recently, forcing USADA to strip Armstrong of all his championships, including his seven Tour de France titles, was the same guy who admitted to me back in 1998, at the Goodwill Games cycling event at Wagner College (an event I worked at), that Armstrong was involved in blood doping and steroids.
This informant opened up to me during a break in the action (of course, off the record) in Staten Island, telling me that people with cancer don't just recover that quickly to become a dominant force in cycling, that he wouldn't be able to handle the grueling hills of France the way he mastered them, unless he had some sort of illegal assistance pumping through his veins.
For years, I remained steadfast that Armstrong was a cheater, even to the point where it downright angered many people, because they all wanted to believe that Armstrong had beaten cancer the right way and his charitable work with his LIVESTRONG Foundation was the most philantrophic and charitable efforts of anyone in America.
And for the last seven years, all Armstrong has done has denied, denied, denied. Much like Pete Rose denied he bet on baseball after the evidence all said otherwise. Or the way this evil pedophile Jerry Sandusky still insists he did nothing wrong with those little boys, professing in a sick and disgusting way that it was just the media contriving a conspiracy to get him.
Well, the evidence againsty Lance is just too damning now. More and more people are coming out of the woodwork to say Lance did use performance-enhancing drugs, steroids, was involved in blood doping and the rest. The New York Times had an interview with Armstrong's personal masseuse with the U.S. Postal Service cycling team who said that she was basically used as a drug runner and smuggler for Lance.
Armstrong's response? Well, the woman has no credibility and that she's nothing more than a prostitute.
Sure, Lance, that's how we discredit someone. Call them prostitutes. And your 15 other teammates that testified against you? What are they? Pimps?
In the court of public opinion and for the sake of his organization that is in tatters, Armstrong would serve everyone better if he just came clean and admitted his shortcomings now. Just cut the lies and accusations and come clean as a cheater and a liar. If he said he did so to help in his fight against cancer, he might still maintain some of his dignity. But calling an accuser a prostitute? That's just insane.
Finally, the last bit borders on the insane, but then again, considering the source, it really shouldn't shock anyone.
However, here goes.
There was a story that earned national attention last week, all the way to television shows like Inside Edition, that featured the owner of the Newark Bears, the ridiculously dilusional Danielle Dronet, actually posting on the Bears' website that pop sensation Justin Bieber was going to perform a concert at Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium later this month.
The website actually was selling tickets or auctioning tickets if a donation of a Halloween costume to the "Bears That Care Foundation." Or if you purchased Bears season tickets in 2013, you got into a raffle to get a chance to see "The BEEBS" at Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium.
Now, if anyone had common sense, they would realize that a recording act the size of Bieber would not perform at such a small venue like the Bears' stadium, much less an outdoor facility in late October, when the temperatures are _ how do you say? _ chilly at best.
When Bieber's publicist got wind of the so-called concert, they sent out all denials, saying that the claim of the concert was "pure fiction."
But here's Danielle, who had sent out messages on Facebook and Twitter that "The Beebs" was indeed coming to Newark, insisting that the concert was going to take place and that it was booked, that there was going to be a "meet and greet" with the teen sensation.
When Dronet was reached by reporters from NJ.com about the hoax and scam, she still insisted that it was going to happen.
"We shall see," she said. "I'm knocking on wood and doing the sign of the cross. We've been burned so many times. We did this through all the right channels."
Bieber is already performing with Carla Mae Jepsen in a sold-out concert at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford with 20,000 screaming teens expected in attendance.
So why would "The BEEBS" be performing at a 6,800-seat stadium when he has a cozy, warm indoor joint with 20,000 seats booked?
The answer: He's not performing in Newark. He never was.
"No such performance was ever confirmed," said Bieber's publicist Melissa Victor in a statement. "His legal team will take legal action against any firm or person holding themselves out as Justin's authorized agent who may have confirmed any such event. AEG (Anshutz Entertainment Group, which basically owns the entire sports and entertainment world these days, even bigger, believe it or not, than ESPN) is the exclusive promoter of Justin's tour in the United States."
When another reporter tried to reach Dronet about the situation, she did what most good, law-abiding former strippers would do. She hung up.
There's no truth to the rumor that Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey is bringing the elephants and clowns to perform at Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium, because the circus has already been headlining at the joint since Dronet and her boyfriend Dr. Doug Spiel took over the franchise.
You can read more of my work at www.hudsonreporter.com, www.theobserver.com and www.dailyrecord.com. Contrary to other reports, there's no truth that Justin Bieber will be performing with me anywhere soon.