Monday, May 23, 2005

The Boss takes center stage

George Steinbrenner is a great owner of a great team that plays a great sport in a great stadium in a great city in front of great fans. He is a great Yankee.

That should just about sum up the Steinbrenner installment of "Centerstage" on YES that aired this past Sunday. Steinbrenner said the word "great" 4.2 million times in the 90-minute show. Upon further review, that number could grow.

If you've never seen "Centerstage" before, Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay sits down for a one-on-one interview with famous people. The show is usually 60 minutes and it's taped in front of a studio audience which gets to ask questions in the latter part of the broadcast. It's actually a fairly decent piece of original programming on YES. Not great, but not bad, either.

These days, Steinbrenner rarely says more than a few sentences on his own. Most of his outlandish comments that we love to hear and read come in the form of statements released through his spokesman Howard Rubenstein. Basically, Rubenstein is to Steinbrenner as the mask is to Darth Vader.

So, for YES to land this interview was pretty impressive. Granted it's Steinbrenner's network and Steinbrenner's team and Steinbrenner's world, but he still had to agree to the interview. Of course, there were no hardball questions but the average fan doesn't care about that anyway. Kay served up a few softball questions that had you wondering if YES interrupted the interview to bring us another showing of Javier Vazquez pitching to Johnny Damon in Game 7.

When Steinbrenner wasn't using "great" like it was the world's preeminent adjective, he was answering Kay's questions and only answering Kay's questions. Very little elaboration on Steinbrenner's part. Just a lot of "How did that feel?" followed by "It felt great." That kind of stuff. At one point, you start to feel bad for Kay. Then, a commercial cuts in and any sympathy is washed away by advertisements.

The curt answers and the quick questioning afterward to avoid dead air created a choppy sequence of editing. There were times I wondered if Kay and Steinbrenner were in the same room. For a moment, I thought I was watching the scene in "Heat" where Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro are talking in the coffee shop. The editing in that scene gives the appearance that they are the same table talking, yet Pacino and DeNiro are never on screen at the same time.

Steinbrenner did offer a little insight into his psyche for those who don't anything about him. He yapped about how important winning is and how it's the only thing. Uh oh! I just used the verb yapped, which never has a positive connotation. Remind me to have someone else start my car for the next few days.

He laughed a bit, almost cried a bit, too. He went on about how he loved all these Yankees and how they were all great competitors, great men, great Yankees. Not too much on Howard Spira, Richard Nixon, Mr. May.

It was an interesting interview to watch. Not the best, but certainly better than anything Magic Johnson ever did on his late-night talk show back in the day.

Even with the boisterous Boss taking center stage for this show, Gary Sheffield won the award for Best Line.

In a clip from his appearance on "Centerstage" last year, Sheffield discussed his meeting with Steinbrenner as a free agent. "I told him he can bring in the greatest player in the game, but I'm still gonna be the best player on this team," Sheffield said, give or take a word. (Note: Not trying to pull a Mitch Albom here, but I just don't remember every single word from the quote, but that was the gist of it.)

That's a great line for a great player to drop on a great owner of a great team before signing a great contract.