With “Sex and the City” mercifully ending its six-year stranglehold on the American female population Sunday night, I think it’s a fair time to assess the importance of ending a good run on a high note.
Retaining relevance is a tricky proposition, and legacies are often made or broken not based on continued excellence but on conclusions. Thus, despite being the only television show ever to garner five consecutive Emmy awards for best show (in either the comedy or drama category), “Frasier” is being sent off with as much fanfare as “Grady Day at Fenway” while “Sex” and “Friends” are being ushered into the pantheon of television lore.
Of course this has some practical application in the world of sports. Compare Ken Griffey Jr. to Barry Bonds. Because of Bonds’ ridiculous late-career charge, it has become acceptable today to refer to him in the same vein as Ruth, Mays and Williams. But lest we forget that 10 years ago it was Junior who was setting the world on fire and Bonds who was in the midst of a Hall of Fame but by no means all-time-legend career. Griffey’s injuries and Bonds’ surge have rendered their efforts in the mid-90s nearly irrelevant.
Or compare the 2003 Kansas City Royals, who started off like a rabbit setting the pace in a marathon but were unable to sustain their momentum into September while falling into third place to the Oakland A’s of the past four seasons who seem to start each season with a postcoital lethargy before reloading in time to propel themselves to the postseason and an inevitable first-round defeat.
The eternal question of whether it is better to burn out or fade away was best avoided by Dennis Eckersley. A prime starting pitcher in the late 1970s, the Eck’s fabulous ‘stache caused severe chafing throughout the majority of the 1980s, and the distraction caused his stamina to wane. In 1987, Eckersley switched roles and became a closer at the behest of the architect of the modern bullpen, Tony LaRussa. In 1992, Eckersley won both the Cy Young Award and the American League MVP. By moving to the later stages of games, Eck had a phenomenal later stage of his career, meaning that he solved the problem on both a micro and a macro level. Simply sterling.
Back to television though and the concept of relevance: is it just me or did MTV thoroughly botch this season of “The Real World”? We have five people causing the requisite drama but two total non-factors whose sole purpose thus far has been to speculate/rehash/give second-hand accounts about what the other five are doing. Um — shouldn’t the producers of the show have filled them in on the fundamental tenet of the show — we already know what the other people are doing since there are cameras on them at all times. Thanks for the gossip, really, it adds a great deal to my viewing enjoyment.
Unfortunately, Yale can boast among its own pedigree a select few promising starters whose finishing kick has been less than stellar. Yes, I’m talking about you, Howard Dean. But I’m also obviously getting to the men’s hoops team, which, after its oh-so-promising performance at UConn in the opener has fallen off the map. Already having clinched a losing season overall, the Elis must win out to finish above .500 in the Ivy League and are in real danger of finishing seventh in the conference above only Dartmouth. Being better than Dartmouth is basically equivalent to the hammer being superior to the nail. Harvard is only a game back, and they already took Yale once this year.
A strong start in the Ivy League is essentially meaningless except in the rare chance that a team can build an NIT resume since the games that matter don’t come around until season’s end. Yale’s pre-conference efforts compared favorably to other Ivy teams (Brown entered the conference slate 4-9 while Harvard opened its campaign 0-11), but that clearly had no bearing on how the league season played out.
Despite the recent forays by Yale and Brown into the league’s upper echelon, the hierarchy has remained predominantly intact with Penn and Princeton at or near the top at the finish line. The two programs have been able to succeed in different fashions — the Quakers by consistently bringing in the league’s best players and the Tigers by running their antiquated system with its interchangeable parts.
It’s not too early to start looking ahead to next season. Matt Minoff is a huge loss, especially defensively, and Paul Vitelli has been a consistent presence with his outside shooting and rebounding. But with Dominick Martin and Sam Kaplan patrolling the inside and Alex Gamboa, Edwin Draughan and Casey Hughes on the perimeter, the Elis again will feature some of the best balance in the league. Brown has utilized its quickness to flummox Yale and complete impressive sweeps the past two seasons (Princeton last year, Penn this year), and Yale needs to carve out its niche in order to break the league’s southern stranglehold.
Great directors always harness their efforts to make sure the all-important “money shot” provides a worthy finishing touch on their works (as I am doing right now for this column). Without that ending, a stimulating start often goes to waste and is relegated to the obscurity of Ace of Base.