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How boring a Series? Let's count the ways

The New York Yankees won the World Series Wednesday night and America yawned.

It was arguably the most boring, desultory Series ever.

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There is one thing and one thing only to commend this year's four- straight-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves: It's over.

So noncompelling was baseball's championship series that those who elected to watch the competing Bill Bradley-Al Gore debate on CNN were the ones who, in comparison, were in receipt of far higher drama. Imagine the odds against that.

The problem is at the core: Sports without suspense, without competition, and, frankly, without heroes is sport without appeal. And that is what we witnessed, sadly, this week.

How bad was it? So bad that the story of the Series involved a heretofore little-known sideline reporter named Jim Gray. In a pregame interview earlier in the week with baseball bad boy Pete Rose, Gray focused his questioning on trying to elicit some sort of regret from Rose for his alleged betting on baseball. Because of the betting allegations, Rose has been banned from entering the Hall of Fame.

Gray was forceful, insistent, strident. That's to say Gray, by television standards, did a pretty good job asking questions in short time. Rose didn't like the questions. Next thing we see is the Yankees Chad Curtis, who hit a game-winning homer in Game 3, refusing to talk to Gray, in support of what he and presumably other Yankees thought was mistreatment of Rose.

Gray correctly said he wouldn't apologize because he had nothing to apologize for. Next day Gray incorrectly apologized, one assumes because NBC forced him to. And all of this presupposes we give a rip about hearing more from Rose in the first place.

Blah, blah, blah. See how bad the Series was? A pregame interview having nothing whatsoever to do with the Yankees vs. the Braves became the calling card for this year's fall nonclassic.

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How bad was it? The most valuable player award went to Yankee closer Mariano Rivera. Now, Rivera is a scintillating pitcher with an uncanny talent for pitching an inning or maybe two at the end of a game to preserve a victory.

He has arm, attitude, skill. The problem, obviously, is he spends almost all of every game goofing off in the bullpen.

A MVP, by definition, needs to play.

Yet, it's true none of the full time players was able to lift game to situation. Derek Jeter is an incredible shortstop for the Yankees, one of baseball's best, but he did nothing to warrant a halo. Bernie Williams is the best center fielder in baseball but no Medal of Honor for him either.

There is much to commend second baseman Chuck Knoblauch but his overdocumented problems with making easy throws to first base precluded him.

How bad was it? Consider that a strong case can be made that there were co-MVPs, television announcers Bob Costas and Joe Morgan. Brilliant.

Absolutely brilliant. Their perception and knowledge shoots out the lights.

They managed to be interesting when there was nothing to be interesting about. Whatever they were paid, they were grossly underpaid.

That it was a series played without intensity likely is attributable to both teams having had draining league championship battles. Whenever the Yankees and Boston play, it is serious stuff. And the Braves had a tough and excellent series with the Mets. Come the World Series, the emotional tanks for both registered empty.

Maybe the story was in the dugouts. Classy Joe Torre was the picture of focus and involvement. Across the way, Braves boss Bobby Cox seemed strangely detached, a haunting pall of inevitability about him. Torre looked as if he could hardly wait to see what would happen while Cox looked as if he could hardly bear it.

All of this forced writers who should know better to start talking about this Yankee dynasty, the team of the decade. Oh, how short the memories. The Yankees have been a dynasty since baseball was birthed. Three world titles in the last four years, giving a total of 25, has dynasty written all over it.

It didn't take a win over the suddenly hapless and helpless Braves to allow New York to be designated a dynasty.

Afterward, Braves pitcher John Smoltz confessed the obvious, saying clearly the best team won. He's to be admired for his forthrightness. But a win - or a loss - produced without fire in the belly is like gumbo without hot sauce. It's totally unsatisfying.

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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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