Sports

Pressure is on for players of the Big Apple

The media in New York is unlike any other. It’s more aggressive than most, and is easily the most critical with failures and shortcomings put under a microscope.
Just ask New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez and New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

Last week, both athletes were reviled in the Big Apple. While their inability to perform anywhere close to professional level is cause for grievance, the New York media has had a momentous effect on the national opinion of these two athletes.

In the midst of a tightly contested American League Divisional Series against the Baltimore Orioles, Rodriguez is batting an appalling two for 15, with nine strikeouts. He has struck out at least twice in every playoff game this season. For a guy who is paid about $27.5 million a year for his offense, any criticism is credible.

Sanchez has been consistently one of the worst players, playing one of the most important positions on what should be one of the better teams in the National Football League. His 66.6 passer rating and six interceptions are hellish statistics, to say the least, and he’s led his team to a subpar 2–3 start. As if playing poorly in New York wasn’t enough, the polarizing and enigmatic quarterback, Tim Tebow, remains his backup and the favored choice of New York fans.

Playing in New York is a much bigger beast than playing anywhere else. We have seen good athletes come to New York and choke under the heavy weight of the big media market. Pitcher A.J. Burnett was pretty good as a Florida Marlin and a Toronto Blue Jay before coming to the Yankees.

But, in New York, he was 34–35 and never had an earned run average (ERA) below four; in two of his three seasons in New York, he had an ERA over five.

New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony continues to be criticized for being unable to lift his team to the level of championship contention, despite putting up similar numbers to what he was able to do as a Denver Nugget. The cases of Burnett and Anthony illustrate two different scenarios: simply being unable to perform with the New York-sized weight on your shoulders and being unable to live up to unrealistic expectations.

During Rodriguez’s horrible playoff performance — something that has happened consistently in his time as a Yankee — the columnists and journalists have fed like vultures on his failures.

Articles condemning Rodriguez for not being completely committed to the team’s success or ordering manager Joe Girardi to bump Rodriguez down in the batting order are in vast supply.

For Sanchez, it has been no better. Articles bombarded the news questioning when Tebow would unseat Sanchez as the Jets’ starting quarterback. As head coach Rex Ryan continues to make Sanchez his starter, the media has continued to balloon the attacks to start the less skilled Tebow over the struggling quarterback.

But Sanchez’s performance hasn’t been significantly worse than his career numbers.

When you look at football teams in New York, it is hard to believe — based on the media coverage — that the New York Giants had just won the Superbowl.

Quarterback Eli Manning, fresh off winning the Superbowl MVP, is the third most talked about quarterback in New York behind Sanchez and Tebow.

For some, the pressure of New York is too much to handle. Maybe Sanchez would be better suited in a smaller market. Perhaps the expectations for him are just too high, and the numbers he puts up will attract less criticism in a different city.

We know Rodriguez can bring it: His offensive numbers are some of the best the MLB has ever seen. But is the weight of 27 World Series victories too much pressure? He has consistently underperformed in the playoffs as a Yankee.

The media is a vicious monster, and there is none more vicious than a writer in New York. But the media is a public service, and its aggressiveness parallels its fans.

There is no escaping that monster in New York because all they expect in the Big Apple is championship success.