The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Tuesday, September 25, 2001



Over the past two weeks, I've been pretty swamped at work and have had correspondingly less energy to devote to my web log. But with the Yankees coasting to their fourth straight AL East title and the Red Sox having been pummeled into humiliation by by injuries and their own bad acting, there seems little I could have added in commentary. I found the return of the games last week to be very moving, and I take great pride that the game I love is seen by so many as a means to our healing and our return to some degree of normality.

I wanted to share with you a series of events that happened at work that have had an impact on me over the past two weeks. I am a graphic designer at a Manhattan design firm called Bill Smith Studio. On September 10, I delivered the final version of the cover for The World Almanac 2002, the classic annual reference book, to my clients. I was slated to deliver the final version of "The Year In Pictures," a 16-page photo insert for the book, on the following Wednesday. And then, all hell broke loose on September 11. Those two projects had to be drastically revised. I spent the better part of September 13 and 14 designing three pages of the insert devoted to the cataclysmic events--laying out pages of flaming and collapsing buildings, people fleeing in terror. Less than 72 hours after the tragedy, I had to attain some level of detachment, clinically placing and processing photos to illustrate a horror previously unseen on this country's shores. Somehow, I survived the process, though the intensity of my emotions in doing so made it very difficult.

Then I had to turn my attentions back to the book's cover. The cover, which I designed last January and then had recently revised, features a montage of nine postage-stamp-sized images and a globe. The images are mostly stock photos relating to the contents of the book--science, money, animals, children, sports, etc.--attractive photos, but all relatively benign. A top-level executive at the World Almanac Group decided that a photo representing September 11 needed to be included on the book's cover--a horribly graphic photo of the twin towers of the World Trade Center aflame, immediately after the impact of the second plane. At firs this executive reportedly felt that the entire cover design should be scrapped and should JUST feature this horrific image. He was talked down from that astounding perch by his publisher and other executives. But over my own strenuous objections, I was forced to revise my design to include the image, in place of a couple others and much larger than any other. The result cost me a good amount of sleep and a sour taste regarding a project which looked to be the capstone of my young career as an art director. I don't pretend to equate that with the suffering of the tragedy's victims and their families, but I hated the feeling that I was involved in treating the matter exploitatively and in bad taste.

I arrived at work the day after delivering what I grimly referred to as "the inferno cover" only to be greeted frantically by our receptionist and our business manager, telling me that I needed to redo the cover yet again. Apparently, one of the client's distributors had refused to carry the book with such a distasteful graphic depiction. Exhausted, yet very relieved, I produced a new version with that now-famous photo of the firefighters raising a flag in the rubble, an image which calls to mind that of soldiers raising the flag at Iwo Jima. The version which ultimately heads to press is much more dignified and tasteful, and I'm again proud of the result of my labors, which can be seen here.

My point in telling this story is not to air dirty laundry regarding my job, or to congratulate myself for being right on an issue about which I felt strongly. Mainly it's about the need for perspective--we're all struggling to regain ours here in the city, and it manifests itself in different ways. For a few days, my work was more important to me, and to my clients, than it had ever been. Now that those projects have been delivered, I'm trying to regain my own sense of normality.

I haven't found it yet, but baseball has at least offered me some sense of stability. The performance of the Yankees the first two nights back, as they bulldozed the Chicago White Sox, gave what I hope is a glimpse of things to come next month--the team was locked in like it was mid-October. They've been lackluster since then, but I've never been so glad to see them play lackluster baseball in September as I am now.

Of course, I hope that lackluster play turns into some of that vaunted Yankee October magic. And I must admit I'm rooting pretty hard for the Mets to keep things interesting as well (is there a manager better than Bobby Valentine when it comes to staving off elimination?). If ever this city needed the kind of pick-me-up a winning ballclub can provide, now is the time. GO NEW YORK!

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