Monday, May 01, 2006

Rumors Of My Demise...

I'm alive.


Saturday constituted of a 14 hour work day, and a short turnaround into a Sunday work day. Throw in a fairly nasty head cold that I'm still working through, and a leg cramp from out of nowhere, and you have a cranky blogger.

Speaking of cranky, some of you might have thought that I dove off the nearest tall building after what happened on Saturday. And as you know, there are a lot of tall buildings in Manhattan. No, I'm fine. But for those of you regulars who are also supporters of the seventh Avenue Blueshirts, allow me a quick eulogy. For the rest of you, we'll tie everything together if you stick with me until the end.

As you know from being Met fans, nothing comes easy lately. The last two Mets playoff appearances saw them lose to bitter rivals. Atlanta in 1999, and the New York American League representative in 2000. So think of how it felt to not make the playoffs in eleven seasons, then make it only to lose to the bitter enemy...two seasons in a row. That's kind of what Rangers fans dealt with last week, as their first playoff appearance since Messier, Gretzky, and Robitaille were teammates at MSG ended with a sweep at the hands of the team that might be their most bitter rivals at this point in their history. Couldn't be a run of the mill playoff loss to say, Carolina. had to be Superman losing to Lex Luthor. Shaquille losing to Kobe. Donald Trump replaced by Martha Stewart. The Rangers being swept by the Devils. It just had to be the most painful exit possible, didn't it?

But as painful as it may be, take heart...because you root for the good guys. And it's going to get better.

Think back to the last seven NHL seasons. Think back to the mercenaries that have posed as New York Rangers with the sole purpose of collecting a paycheck (most of which were collected by wearing a ski mask and a gun). Think of all of the bad periods of hockey, all of the games that players sleepwalked through that you plunked down your money to better used for keeping warm by burning it. Think about Bruce Driver. Kevin Hatcher. Kevin Stevens. Brent Fedyk. Tim Sweeney. Eric Lindros and his nervous system that has the consistency of applesauce. Stephane Quintal whining like a baby. The second stint of Alex Kovalev. The second stint of Jan Hlavac. The first (and hopefully only) stint of Bobby Holik. Glen Sather ruining Dan Blackburn's career. Marek Zidlicky for Mike Dunham. Guy Hebert. Pavel Brendl. On and on and on.

Now think back to this past season. How many periods of hockey that were devoid of any effort whatsoever did you see? Honestly.

Because I can only think of maybe one or two all season. And that's a lot better than the former requisite one or two per night.

Players and teams are mostly judged by what they do on the ice, or on the field, or on the court. That's how it should be. And the standards haven't gotten any lower. It's Stanley Cup/World Series, or bust. Always has been, always will, always should be. But this season for the Rangers was about changing the culture of losing, and the culture of not caring. How many professional sports franchises do you know that salute their fans as the Rangers have done at center ice after every victory this season? I can't think of any. It's such a simple thing...but to me it was probably the coolest thing to come out of the hockey season because it shows that there are players out there that are willing to break tradition and show their fans that they care about them. It's not for the television cameras, not something players are compensated for, or sponsored by some bank. It's something every fan can look at and say "this is for us, and only us."

And how many teams do you know that are in the process of getting swept, yet are still throwing the kitchen sink at their opponents during every shift, giving maximum effort? The Rangers? Really? The same team that actually paid Valery "The Kevin McReynolds of Hockey (post 1989)" Kamensky for years? No, it's true. The New York Rangers. Head coach Tom Renney hopes that this is the team that he hopes will start a consistent culture of winning that only teams like the New Jersey Devils, the Atlanta Braves, and the New York Yankees know and understand. I know that in the next few seasons, when hopefully Lord Stanley is paraded around the Garden ice one more time, that 2005-2006...the season that gave us Marek Malik's behind the leg shootout winner...the season that gave us Jaromir Jagr breaking the team scoring record...the season that gave us Henrik Lundqvist, the HMO line, and also gave us Darius Kaspariatis and Michal Rosival staying late and signing autographs for many adoring fans following the bitter end of their playoff the season that I'll look upon with fondness, because it's the most important season that Madison Square Garden has seen since 1994.

What the Rangers hope 2005-06 will signify is what the Mets hope last season will signify down the road: the corner turned towards future glory. And on Saturday night, when this Ranger fan needed something to hang his hat on, came proof that another corner, this one down a street in Atlanta, has been turned. The Mets' 1-0 victory at Turner Field was one of those signature won the series at Turner Field (their first series victory in that hell hole since 2003), it was Tommy Two Teeth's first victory at Turner Field, it was Country Time nailing down a scintillating save, and it was a win that no doubt got everyone excited. How do I know this? There was something to Gary Cohen's call after Wagner struck out wasn't your normal "and the ballgame is over" call. This was a "I'm throwing a party and the escorts are on me" call. Gary was pumped...and why wouldn't he be? This is a team that has the look and feel of a special team...and there's nothing like a 1-0 victory, complete with a Paul Lo Duca lighthearted post game interview, to drive that point home.

All we need now is for the Mets to raise their bats to the Shea crowd after each victory (or at least offer up a member of the bullpen for human sacrifice after a Mets loss).

Speaking of human sacrifices in the bullpen, sure, the sweep eluded the Mets...and sure, Jorge Julio's scoreless inning streak is over in his first close game since the last time he gave up runs...but complaining about losing the last game of the roadtrip against the Braves after winning two games in Turner Field and going 6-4 on a historically tough road trip (California, and Atlanta), would be like complaining about the one bad stretch the Rangers had after seven seasons of not playing hockey after the middle of April. The Mets won two of three against the Braves in their personal house of horrors. Think about that.

You have to crawl before you can walk. Two thousand five was the year to crawl, for the Mets and the Rangers. So far, 2006 looks like the year for walking for the Mets. The Rangers? With a couple of new defensemen and a speedy winger (hint hint), well they may very well stop crawling and start walking this October.

And hopefully, Jose Reyes will be walking plenty in October as well (like he did yesterday...three in one game? What's next, dogs and cats living together?)


Anonymous said...

Well said, my friend on the Rangers.....well said...

Lets Go Rangers!!!!!!


Mets Guy in Michigan said...

Dude. The Rangers? C'mon, you Mets fans follow the Isles!

I will say that center ice salute is pretty sweet.

Metstradamus said...

Isles?!? No way dude! Bite your tongue!

Mets/Isles is the natural, and most common pairing...but those of us in Queens who find it easier to go to the Garden than go to Uniondale prefer the Rangers (and the first game I ever saw on TV was a Rangers/Atlanta Flames tie, and I was hooked ever since.) There are more of us than you might think.

There are Yankee/Islander fans also, but they weren't formed out of geography, they were congealed out of front running.