There was nothing quite like being a New York Yankees fan in the late 80’s. Munson. Nettles. Martin. Guidry. Gamble. Martin. Randolph. Dent. Martin. Chambliss. Martin. If you love your sports with a little drama, it’s hard to pick any other major league team of the past fifty years who provided more than the Bronx Zoo. And now ESPN is recreating that zoo-like atmosphere in a fascinating miniseries called, appropriately, The Bronx Is Burning.
I’ve only seen one episode—mainly because that is all that has aired—and I missed the first part of that, but it is a testament to the potential this miniseries has that I was instantly gripped. The Bronx is Burning apparently began with the signing of Reggie Jackson—the self-proclaimed “straw that stirs the drink”—and seems to be hellbent on presenting a warts and all examination of what it was really like to be inside the locker room during they crazy days of 1977. The inimitable John Turturro plays the apparently imitable Billy Martin complete with a pair of prosthetic ears. To say that Turturro merely plays Billy Martin is a vast understatement: I may have to change my view on the concept of channeling because that is exactly what Turturro is doing. Oliver Platt is so far not quite the match as George Steinbrenner but I can see where’s trying to go and if he makes it there his will be a memorable performance as well. Daniel Sunjata doesn’t really have the physical presence to play Reggie Jackson but in the scene in which he makes his infamous “straw” statement to a reporter inside a bar while at the same time being completely oblivious to the fact that Whitey Ford has just made him look like a total idiot you can see he’s got the overblown ego of Mr. October down to a tee. I unfortunately didn’t get to see the guy who is playing my favorite Yankee ever—Thurman Munson—and sincerely hope he is able to tap into the complexity of the only Yankee to win a MVP during the 70s instead of just making him into the good guy who dies.
If you are a Yankees fan, this miniseries is not to be missed. (This year we Yankees fans can really use a look at a team that lived up to its hype and potential.) If you aren’t a Yankees fan then you should still watch it because it is well-acted look at a volatile time in New York’s history. There apparently is going to be a subplot to the story about the search for the Son of Sam. I’m not sure how well that can be pulled off, but if done well it should prove to be a fascinating comment on all the other murders that took place in New York that summer.