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Tuesday, August 12, 2003
Updated: August 19, 12:39 PM ET
The city that never sulks

By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist

Last week's power outage was the largest in U.S. history, blacking out cities from New York to Michigan, plus parts of Canada. Of course, you wouldn't have known it affected anyone outside New York City by watching the national newscasts ...

A CNN Special Report: "The Big Apple Goes Dark"

AARON BROWN: New Yorkers are handling the blackout the same way they handle every crisis, with their famous New York mix of bravado and aplomb. New Yorkers respond to everything with a mere shrug of the shoulders, and that's certainly the case today. No city in the world is better equipped to handle this blackout than the Big Apple. For more details, we go to CNN correspondent Wolf Blitzer in mid-town Manhattan.

Empty market
Empty grocery stores? No problem for New Yorkers, thanks to the generosity of their neighbors.

WOLF BLITZER: Aaron, I'm outside Central Park where New Yorkers are coping through the blackout with their well-known élan and selflessness. With no electricity to run their refrigerators, restaurant owners are simply emptying their freezers and feeding the people on the street. Cab drivers, whose multi-lingual skills are helping them reassure citizens, have turned off their meters and are driving workers to their suburban homes for free. And because elevators aren't working, doormen are personally carrying residents up the stairs to their apartments.

BROWN: Carrying a resident up 15 floors? Even given the delicate frames of New York socialites, that sort of service must generate a stupendous tip.

BLITZER: Oh, New York doormen never accept tips. You should know that, Aaron.

BROWN: What is that sound I hear in the background, Wolf?

BLITZER: I'm not sure which sound you're hearing, Aaron. It could either be the free acoustic concert Paul Simon is giving in the park or the free candlelight performance by the cast of "The Producers." Or maybe it's the free all-u-can-eat barbecue at Tavern on the Green. Just further examples of the way New Yorkers come together in a crisis while other cities panic.

BROWN: Speaking of which, Wolf, we're getting disturbing reports from other cities, which apparently are not weathering this crisis the way New Yorkers are. Detroit residents are said to be cowering in fear in their bathrooms while Clevelanders are setting themselves on fire and running into Lake Erie.

If only those residents showed the moral strength all New Yorkers possess as a birthright.

BLITZER: Well, you shouldn't blame them too much. Other cities simply haven't had the experience at crisis management that New York has. Compared to the last major tragedy to hit the city -- the Mets' trade for Mo Vaughn -- this blackout is just a walk in the park. Other cities simply aren't experienced in this sort of thing the way we are. They don't have the leadership of Mayor Bloomberg or former Mayor Giuiliani or Rev. Al Sharpton. And they don't have athletes for role models the way we do. They don't have a gentleman like Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey showing them the way to behave in a crisis.

BROWN: Wolf, it is a shame that Shockey can't get any publicity so people outside New York can learn about what a great player he is. Do you think he can lead the Giants back to the Super Bowl?

BLITZER: I don't think there's any question about that. The only question is whether the Giants can knock off the Jets. Chad Pennington is the next Joe Namath.

BROWN: No argument here. It almost makes you feel sorry for the football fans in Cleveland and Detroit.

Traffic
While there was rioting in other cities, New Yorkers remained calm and collected during the outage.
Wait a minute ... It's difficult to get details from outside the city because of the antiquated tin can-and-string communications system linking the Midwest and Canada, but there are now reports -- still unconfirmed but I wouldn't be a bit surprised if they turn out to be true -- that there are pockets of cannibalism in Toronto. And in one particularly disturbing report, we hear that dogs and cats are sleeping together in Toledo.

We now go to correspondent Richard Roth for breaking news from the United Nations. Richard, does anyone at the UN have any indication that terrorists might be behind this blackout?

RICHARD ROTH: Not that I know of, Aaron. I just wanted to say a few words about Roger Clemens' fabulous work ethic and Mike Mussina's brilliant knuckle-curve.

BROWN: Yes, we would be remiss if we didn't report how important their inspiring contributions have been. You almost have to feel sorry for cities like Boston and Baltimore that never appreciated those players the way New York fans do.

PAULA ZAHN: Aaron? Aaron?

BROWN: Excuse me, but CNN anchor Paula Zahn has some breaking news for us. What is it, Paula? Have they determined the cause of the blackout?

ZAHN: Yes, we know now that the culprits in this outage are those five transmission lines in northeast Ohio near Cleveland, Aaron. And I've just been handed a statement co-signed by Mayor Bloomberg and George Steinbrenner that sanctions the cities of Detroit and Cleveland for sponging off the power grid that rightfully ought to belong to New York. The city apparently is ready to move on a bid to build its own power grid and secede from the Eastern Interconnection, and it intends to send the bill for this blackout to the mayors of those midwestern towns who are clearly responsible for whatever inconvenience New York is experiencing.

Plus, I want to point out another important crucial point. Let's not forget Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter. I know they've been hurt this season, and they might not have the stats of the better-known, overhyped players in the Midwest, but they're proven winners.

ROTH: Paula is right, Aaron. Frankly, I would much rather have them on my team than Ty Cobb or Charlie Gehringer.

Shirt
What next? Rumor has it New Yorkers will cheer Mo Vaughn and Armando Benitez now.

BLITZER: And don't overlook Andy Pettitte. He's twice the pitcher Bob Feller ever was.

BROWN: This just in. Seattle, which never came close to losing power and is completely unaffected by the blackout, has called out the national guard to control rioters.

BLITZER: Seattleites are probably just hacked off about the Jeff Nelson-for-Armando Benitez trade. I don't blame them. What a stiff that Benitez is. He was fine elsewhere, but he just didn't have the strength of character to succeed under the pressure of New York. Only winners and champions need apply here.

BROWN: You're absolutely right, Wolf. I worked for years in Seattle and those people are kidding themselves if they think they'll ever get past the Yankees in the postseason.

ROTH: Ichiro couldn't hold Matsui's jockstrap.

BROWN: We need to sign off for the night. But before we go -- people outside the city must think it all sounds too much to believe that a city of this size could handle such an emergency without so much as a minor glitch or slowdown. Surely, there is something somewhere -- perhaps in Queens -- that isn't working perfectly.

BLITZER: Well, now that you mention it, there is one small nagging detail.

BROWN: Yes?

BLITZER: That's right, Aaron. The Yankees' YES network. Even when electricity is restored, the network is saying it could take three to four weeks before people can get the Yankees games on TV again.

BROWN: Ah, just another example: No matter the crisis, New York recovers and returns to normal almost immediately.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.