It has been little over a week since the Islanders’ splendid run came to a sad but not entirely stunning end. In a couple of days the Yankees will embark on their most bizarre quest for a championship since they started making regular such quests in 1921.
That means New York’s Hell Clock sits at 3,523 Sunday morning (and if you are new here, you know that the Hell Clock began to chime on Feb. 5, 2011, not long after the Giants beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl for the second time, a glorious moment we’ve had to savor longer than we ever could’ve imagined as it is now 3,523 days since we’ve had one of our locals win a title).
So we have adjusted. It isn’t healthy being mad all the time. It is pointless raging about empty seasons and lousy teams. It should be beneath us that we take great glee in the fact Boston’s splurge of title teams has hit a wall (assuming the Heat do the right thing and finish off the Celtics) and it should be really beneath us to be jealous of Kansas City, owners of two championships since 2015.
I find New York sports fans seeking out alternate ways to gain fulfillment from sports in a time when it is so debilitating to wonder when the next tour up the Canyon of Heroes might be. That can be immersing ourselves in fantasy baseball and football (I have made a triumphant return to the latter this year; no worries, I will not bore you with my lamentations about my first pick, Michael Thomas. Not yet, anyway).
It can be getting away for a few days to play golf, or it can be gathering on a friend’s deck to watch a glut of Thursday-evening games (and it is a reminder of the pull of football that even though said friend is Canadian and a fellow emotional investor in the Islanders, an elimination game had to be viewed during commercials of a Browns-Bengals game; majority rules).
It can be sipping on a Bud Light or three and sitting back and simply enjoying the pleasures of sports, some of them visceral, some of them faded. I have a friend who has literally yet to stop smiling because he happened to be sitting next to me on the night when Steve Cohen was formally announced as the front-runner to become the new Mets owner. I have another who makes note of the fact the same day he buried the Yankees they put together a 10-game winning streak.
(And yes, true-believer fans still believe they have power over the universe. It is one of the very best things about sports, still. And, you know, one of the oddest.)
Just the other night, someone told me the story of a family friend who emigrated from Ireland over 50 years ago and somehow actually found himself at the Orange Bowl on Jan. 12, 1969, watching Super Bowl III, watching Jets 16, Colts 7, and retaining a feeling, all these years later, that it wasn’t exactly the best game he’d ever seen.
(Presumably, he figured the Jets would certainly be better the NEXT time they made it to the Super Bowl. And, if that’s so … well, he hasn’t exactly been proven wrong yet.)
And we have our own personal sparring sessions with sports. We play cards, and as 50 comes and goes we start to better appreciate just why that’s been on ESPN (sedentary athletes! Love it!). We dabble in golf, and hope that while chasing double bogeys we aren’t run over by out-of-control golf carts (it’s been a very bad stretch in New York, remember).
Maybe we dream of being able to play in rec-league softball and basketball games again, replete with raging at referees, and sometimes losing our cool and raging at teammates, too, having taken some temporary Billy Martin pills. All the time understanding: sometimes you’re the dog, and sometimes you’re the hydrant.
We’ve been a sports hydrant in New York a little too long — 3,523 days, to be exact. But we keep believing: The big dog is on the way. Yes he is. Just you wait.
I have very few rules in my life, but a steadfast one is this: When Jeff Pearlman releases a new book, get your hands on said book as soon as possible. “Three-Ring Circus,” about the Shaq-Kobe-Phil Lakers, arrived this week. I highly recommend cracking it open as soon as possible.
A nice story: During the pandemic, Mets alumni, under the careful hand of our old pal Jay Horwitz, have been conducting Zoom calls with assisted-living facilities. They’ve done nine of them so far, with more to follow — including such luminaries as Darryl Strawberry, Doc Gooden and John Franco. Good stuff.
Good for Don Mattingly.
I have a feeling Coach Judge is going to get hard-earned victory number one Sunday at MetLife. I can’t speak for how many others will follow, but my spidey sense is Sunday ends well for the blue.
Whack Back at Vac
Steven Sachs: So who does Christopher Johnson think is a lousy football coach?
Vac: It’s sort of a corollary question to this one: Who does Alex Rodriguez think is a cheating scoundrel?
Alan Hirschberg: 2020 Mets: The whole is so much less than the sum of the parts.
Vac: I think we can etch that baby in granite.
@BrandNewUsedCar: Sandy Alderson, under the circumstances he came in and operated under, was one of the best GMs the Mets have ever had. The end of the itchy trigger finger days of Brodie Van Wageben should be welcomed by all Mets fans. Welcome back Sandy!
@MikeVacc: I went more than a few rounds with Alderson during his first tenure with the Mets, but always suspected he was too often handcuffed by owner interference. It will be interesting to see what he does here under what promises to be much different circumstances.
Mike Calmenson: In regards to Saquon Barkley and the Giants: As Branch Rickey said to Ralph Kiner as the great Kiner asked for a raise after a monster year: “We can lose just as well without you.”
Vac: So sad. But so true.
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