Recently in New York, a highly contentious radio interview featured a hysterical talk-show host, a hidebound magazine writer and an examination of the health of a baseball legend. It was an interview that demonstrated the prickly nature of the most discomforting sports story there is today.
The interview occurred on the Michael Kay Show. Kay interviewed Franz Lidz, a highly talented and quirky writer who penned a piece about who will control the New York Yankees Empire after George Steinbrenner relinquishes control. The story by Lidz detailed the sad and stunning decline of the 77-year-old Steinbrenner's mental faculties.
|George Steinbrenner has mostly stayed out of public view over the past few years. (Getty Images)|
Kay's sudden expertise on property rights and subsequent outrage was so over-the-top, he acted as if Lidz was Michael Vick after just harpooning seven blue whales. He accused Lidz of trespassing, a stunningly ridiculous notion. In between Kay's shrieking and Lidz's inability to see that maybe, just maybe, he might have crossed a journalistic line (though that is definitely a debatable fact) the two men actually raised a vital issue.
Said Lidz, speaking of public sports figures and the people's right to know personal information about their lives: "Does it have to be Ronald Reagan or does it have to be Woodrow Wilson to report on their mental health?"
Responded Kay: "Boy, you know what, I've got to be honest with you ... I don't know if George Steinbrenner's mental health is something we have to know."
And that is the crux of this highly charged situation which features one of the top 10 most important figures in the history of sports and the circumstances of his potentially drastic health conditions.
To many sports fans, particularly Yankees fans, Steinbrenner is more important in their lives than the aforementioned Reagan or Bush or their state senator or even Paris Hilton.
So the question is: What do we deserve to know about the health of Steinbrenner, who still controls the reigns of the greatest franchise in sports?
This query will remain a vital one, because it is reasonable to assume that a transfer of power will happen soon and when it does occur, Steinbrenner's mental status will be at center stage.
The Steinbrenner story is an amalgam of issues that are raw and uncomfortable, kaleidoscopic indeed, none of them easily solved, with the main one being should an ailing old man simply be left alone, no matter how famous, wealthy or powerful he is?
Personally, I'm not into Trojan horsing onto the property of elderly men, whether they are famous or not. Lidz is lucky Steinbrenner didn't break out a stun gun. But I also do not fault media members who want to gauge the health status -– without interference and obfuscation from flacks -- of the main cog that has made the New York Yankees into an eternal powerhouse.
Lidz's description of Steinbrenner is blunt and almost frightening. "His body is bloated; his jawline has slackened into a triple chin; his skin looks as if a dry-cleaner bag has been stretched over it," Lidz states. "Steinbrenner's face, pale and swollen, has a curiously undefined look. His features seem frozen in a permanent rictus of careworn disbelief."