The Sporting Life: The Bronx Zoo

To help us escape our summer full of dirty refs, dog fighting, and steroids, ESPN has provided us the feel-good story of the summer, chronicling the 1977 Summer of Discontent with their original miniseries The Bronx Is Burning.

Courtesy David Giesbrecht/ESPN ; George Steinbrenner (Oliver Platt) berates Billy Martin (John Turturro)

Based on the book Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning, the series follows the events that shaped the dire landscape of New York City in 1977: the infamous blackout, the Son of Sam serial killings, and the political turmoil that ended Abraham Beame’s tenure as mayor. All that kept New Yorkers sane was the Yankees’ tumultuous quest for their first World Series win (whoops, spoilers!) under George Steinbrenner. [Continue reading…]

Unsurprisingly, it’s not exactly Roots; I don’t expect much from the network that brought us the “Who’s Now” segment anyways. Lame acting and poor production values aside (why do the hits sound like they hit the baseball with a Mongo Bat?), the biggest gripe I have with the whole series is how poorly connected the baseball plot is connected with the rest of the happenings in the five boroughs. It’s as if Yankee Stadium exists on a whole different planet while back on earth, New York City crumbles. We’re only reminded of what’s going on outside of the clubhouse with eye-rolling moments such as George Steinbrenner reading a New York Post with a front page Son of Sam headline.

The series is total garbage, but I can’t help but keep watching it. It’s a mixed bag of characters: Daniel Sunjata’s depiction of All-Star Reggie Jackson’s flamboyant demeanor is hilarious and over-the-top, John Turturro pulls off a typically great performance (no sure thing after Transformers) as manager Billy Martin, and Joe Grifasi captures the charm of Yogi Berra perfectly. And now that Son of Sam has been captured, the blackout has occurred, and Ed Koch has been elected mayor I can only hope that the focus of the show is primarily on baseball now.

But who am I kidding, any TV show that utilizes a Ramones soundtrack is A-OK with me.

The Ramones – “Beat On The Brat” (live at the Roxy Theater, 1976): mp3

(The Bronx is Burning airs on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EST; stream episodes online at


The Sporting Life with Carman Tse: Real talk. Click below for more.