Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Coincidence and tragedy

Do any of you remember my story about my buddy Ed and his brother? Running into Ed's brother hundreds of miles from home on a random trip?

Well, another weird coincidence happened to me recently, and today it got even stranger.

You've probably heard about New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle dying in a small-plane crash today.

I saw him pitch just two weeks ago, during his last start of the regular season, the annual Yankees game I go to with my Dad.

That's where the coincidence took place.

So, the fun stuff first.

Dad and I don't take the subway much in the city, but we did. And on the subway, he asked the man sitting next to us if the train went to Yankee Stadium. And the fellow replied, in a thick accent, that he hoped so because that's where he was going.

We got to talking and it turned out the man and his son were from Scotland, and in the city on vacation, going to their first Yankees game. (They were hoping for football, but the New York teams weren't convenient to their schedule.)

Plus, it turned out the son was a fellow Oakland Raiders fan!

So we spent most of the ride up chatting about the history of the stadium, the atmosphere, how much they knew about baseball (the father, not so much, the son, quite a bit) and so forth.

At the Stadium, we went our separate ways.

They saw a great game. Several home runs and the Yankees won, with Lidle picking up what proved to be the final win of his life.

The next day, my folks went out of town, traveling via Newark Airport.

My Dad called me from the airport, all excited. Who did they run into in the security line? That's right. The man and his son, on their way home to Scotland.

Millions of people in New York, thousands at the game, probably two from Scotland (still trailing my buddy Roger Hook for the title of "Great Britain's Biggest Baseball Fan"), and thousands more going through Newark Airport.

We sit next to them on the subway, then Dad runs into them again at the airport. Now, what are the odds of that?

I was going to tell this story today (now that my parents are back home; they hate people knowing they're away), but it wound up with a strange twist after the Lidle tragedy. Another odd coincidence. I went to one Yankee game this season...

And on top of that, my Dad's cousins used to live about a block from the building that got hit by the plane. Which you could add to this: My mother went to high school with the mother of Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, who died along with her husband, JFK Jr., in another small-plane crash.

Also coincidentally, but totally unrelated, I met a fellow journalist this past weekend, down in Virginia, who grew up in Manville, the next town over from where I live.

Speaking of journalism, anybody who wants any insight into journalism need only consider how the story was covered. At 2:50 or so, it was all about a plane crashing into building in New York. Questions of whether it was terrorism, whether it was an accident, what. Then, when the identity of the dead man was known - a Major League baseball player! - it seemed like coverage of the story changed completely. No more 9/11 worries, but the death of a Major Leaguer. Interesting to see, even to a veteran journalist like me.

In closing, my condolences to the Lidle family and the family of the (as yet unnamed) flight instructor killed with him, and my best hopes for a speedy recovery for the injured. God be with you in your time of pain.