Back in mid-July, when New York City suffered through seven consecutive days -- an entire week! -- of 90-degree-plus high temperatures, a report on National Public Radio disclosed that some New Yorkers were taking dramatic measures: showering right before bed and letting the kids play in sprinklers.
As someone who grew up in Houston before air-conditioning was common and who now lives in St. Louis, I thought, "Wow. What courage. What ingenuity. What pluck."
I thought, "Why is this on the national news? So what? It's hot in New York. People in hotter parts of the country (which is to say most of them) know what to do when the weather gets hot. You just sound stupid."
Then again, I work for a newspaper that prints "hot weather tips" like "eat light, cool, easily digested meals, wear a hat and dress in loose, lightweight and light-colored clothes made of natural fibers, limit activity in the middle of the day, bathe or shower frequently in cool water."
I'm all for public service, but who reads those lists? "Hey, Earl. Hold off on the sweatshirt. It says here you should take a bath in cool water and put on a hat and some light-weight clothes made of natural fibers."
It gets hot. You deal with it. Not in New York. New York shares it with the rest of America.
New York is a special place. It contains approximately 90 percent of the nation's opinion-makers. More important, it contains the bosses of those opinion-makers.
Key rule of journalism: News increases in importance in direct proportion to its proximity to the editor affected. If an editor hits a pothole on the way into work, be prepared to write a pothole story.
If people are hot in New York, you'll hear about it in Okmulgee, Okla. If it snows a foot in Omaha, Neb., it's winter. If it snows a foot in New York, it is a cataclysm. This is true not only in news and weather, but especially in sports.
The New York Yankees are the favorite baseball team of most opinion-shapers, so you hear way more about the New York Yankees than the other 29 teams in Major League Baseball. The only exceptions are the New York Mets, in the infrequent years when they are good, and the Boston Red Sox, who are the blood-rivals of the Yankees and the second-favorite team in the East Coast megalopolis.
It makes no difference if the Yankees are just slightly better than a .500 team, as they are this year. When they play the Red Sox, it is a Big Deal. Some of this is because there are 30 million people in the megalopolis so Yankees-Red Sox are always going to do better ratings than, say, Kansas City-Seattle.
But it's also the game of the week because the Yankees are the team of the opinion-makers. They believe the Yankees players are far better than they actually are because everyone who plays for a New York team, whatever the sport, automatically is perceived to be one notch better than he actually is. This is known as the New York Bump.
It means the same player who would be regarded as average in Kansas City would be regarded as good in New York. If he was good in Kansas City, he would be hailed as great in New York. It he was Mariano Rivera or Derek Jeter, he would become a god.
In 2007, the Yankees stupidly agreed to pay $275 million over 10 years to their then-32-year-old third baseman, Alex Rodriguez, an almost miraculously great player who turns out to be -- surprise! -- a serial abuser of performance enhancing drugs. Last week, New York relentlessly inflicted its A-Rod-PED saga on the rest of America.
Which was actually OK, because it meant that New York spent less time inflicting its mayor's race on us. Granted, a guy (a) named Weiner who was (b) forced to leave Congress after (c) tweeting photographs of his groinal regions to various women and then brazenly (d) runs for mayor anyway and is (e) leading in the polls before (f) it turns out he was still doing it a year after leaving Congress and then shrugs it off at a nationally televised press conference with his (g) wife who is a former top aide to (h) Hillary Clinton has at least eight elements that would make it a story even if he were running for mayor of Tonganoxie, Kan.
But at the top of the news? For days on end?
Besides, in Tonganoxie, Kan., or any number of other American cities a guy like Anthony Weiner wouldn't have the nerve to show his face, much less any of his other parts and especially wouldn't run for mayor.
I'm not saying the rest of America has more sense than New York, but in the rest of America he'd have a better chance of being on a sex-offender registry than a mayoral ballot.
Why must New York keep inflicting itself on us? What's wrong with those people?
It must be the heat.
Kevin Horrigan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 900 North Tucker Blvd., St. Louis, Mo. 63101; firstname.lastname@example.org.