This column hits newsstands after what Mayor Bill de Blasio is predicting will be one of the biggest snowstorms in the city’s history. What may lay ahead is preparing for, and paying for, whatever New Yorkers need in bad weather - be it now or in future storms.
The Department of Sanitation is large and highly professional, but the storms that we have seen, and may see again, are different. They are a ratcheted-up version of what we are used to seeing. It is very easy to mismanage a snow removal plan, which we saw a few years ago with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Situations like these are important indicators of leadership and management skills. Big storms cost big money in overtime and resources. In the end, it’s all worth it.
This is not a city that can take timeouts. It’s a working, pulsating economy. The mayor is now in control of a large municipal sanitation agency that is critical in snowstorms. Mistakes during snowstorms create news, and news makes or breaks the confidence people have in government.
City Hall has had a tumultuous last few months, and heavy snowfall will not change that, but this is a chance to be aggressive and get out in front of whatever might become a problem for the people of New York City.
There is a shortsighted contemporary approach to professional sports that suggests without a championship there can be no greatness. It’s a modern way of thinking.
Great athletes like Ted Williams never won a World Series championship. Neither did Ernie Banks, who played his entire career for the Chicago Cubs. Banks died last week at age 83.
He won two MVPs on teams that were not always competitive, toiling through hot day games in Wrigley Field. He was a champion without a championship, as were athletes like Williams, Dan Marino in football, and Charles Barkley in basketball.
People know the name Ernie Banks, and there is a brass plaque in Cooperstown for those who want to know more. He made the rounds, visiting baseball camps for young players who would be glued to whatever the legendary “Mr. Cub” would say to us.
He had a slogan that he shared with us, that there were only three things you needed to be successful. His famous three P’s: “Practice, Pride, and Patience.”
Think about all of the inglorious parts of professional sports that we see today, including the big money and pampered athletes. Banks hit 512 home runs for the Cubs without steroids or corking his bat. He played on a team that wanted to win, but did not.
In a week that saw us lose Banks, the New England Patriots were defending themselves against accusations that they deflated footballs in the AFC championship game. Championships do not make the man, integrity does. It would have been nice if Banks and Williams had World Series rings, but their contribution to the game is not at all diminished by the lack of jewelry.
If Banks was considered great in 1971 when he retired, he is even more relevant today. Banks certainly endured real and ugly racism, but did not get into the mud with it. Players today like the mud. They find Twitter or Facebook in order to cast more mud. Banks was different. He was about the game of baseball for all people, especially in Chicago.
There is a dignity that professional sports has lost. There are still great people who are great athletes, but there is a loss with people like Banks. A more recent analogy would be Don Mattingly, who came within an eyelash of winning back-to-back MVPs for an uneventful, depressing Yankee team.
There is something about an athlete that gives you a reason to show up to see a game in spite of the scoreboard. Banks and Mattingly were not the same players, and Banks had a greater number of amazing seasons. The comparison is still useful, however.
For a good five to seven seasons, there was one reason to go to Yankee Stadium, and it was Mattingly, who signed with the Yankees a year after they won the World Series in 1978 and retired a year before they did it again in 1996. Both men played the game right.
People who care will remember Banks as a world citizen and ambassador of the game. This was a man that was beyond race, celebrity, and wealth. He was just good for the game. Tweet that.