My friends out there in Forever Blueshirts Land: How are you holding up without sports? How many times per day do you scroll through YouTube looking for something, anything, to give you that rush of adrenaline normally supplied by changing the channel on your television set on any given day and watching your athletic heroes compete? For sports fanatics like you and I, the complete and absolute shutdown of all professional and amateur sports caused by the insidious Covid-19 outbreak has taken something very valuable away from us and that is what I refer to as “The Sanctuary of Sport. “
The kick-off, first pitch or drop of a puck allows die-hard sports fans to distance ourselves from reality. Having that highly important and much needed diversion ripped away from us through no fault of our own has left throngs of enthusiasts with no elongated escape from the perpetual doom-and-gloom news cycle. So, I came up with an idea to help all of us take our collective minds off social distancing, ventilators and N-95 masks.
In 2019, I published an EBOOK called, “Long Suffering-The Trials & Tribulations of a Mets, Jets & Rangers Fan.” A couple of years ago, a friend of mine, who also takes sports way too seriously, asked me to list my five most heartbreaking losses. As a fan of the New York Jets, New York Rangers and New York Mets, I certainly have a plethora of heart breakers to choose from. I mean, the more I thought about it, the MORE I thought about it. I could easily list five devastating losses for each of these floundering, frustrating franchises. That simple question from my buddy was the impetus of my project.
So, I began what ended up being a year long process, to not only divulge my most heartbreaking losses, but to also state distinctly and unequivocally, how much my sports teams mean to me. While I cannot disclose which infuriating Mets, Jets and Rangers defeats made my list, you’ll have to read the book to find out (shameless plug) the good people at Forever Blueshirts have allowed me to post some excerpts.
Here is a portion from the Mets chapter:
I was 7 years old when I attended my first baseball game at Shea Stadium in Queens, N.Y. The Mets played the San Diego Padres on that warm July evening back in 1982. The Mets gave away tote bags that night to all the fans in attendance. Shea Stadium was packed to the gills, so they must have been giving something away. The Mets stunk during those years. So much so that they had to bribe fans into making the trek out to the ol’ ballpark.
When we arrived, and I saw Big Shea, I was in awe (as most kids are when they attend their first sporting event). I don’t remember every single detail about the evening, but I do recall Ellis Valentine and Dave Kingman homering for my beloved baseball team on the way to a 9-7 victory.
As was the case with most children my age, I had the baseball fever. My dream was to play for the Mets.
My mother signed me up for Little League in the Long Island, New York town of Oceanside where we lived. I have to admit, I was a really good player. I made all-star teams and won awards. I would emulate my favorite players of the day. I would slap my glove on my thigh like Tug McGraw. I would stretch before an at-bat like Lee Mazzilli. I wanted to be as cool as Darryl Strawberry. I wanted to be as fast as Mookie Wilson. I wanted to be as clutch as Keith Hernandez. I wanted to be admired like Gary Carter.
The Jets chapter:
As we leave the baseball diamond and hop over to the football gridiron, I am reminded of that iconic comedy routine by the legendary, the immortal, the incomparable, George Carlin. He compared baseball and football in an absolutely ingenious way. I won’t even begin to plagiarize or even paraphrase his excellence. All I will say is, Carlin’s brilliance was on full display and the differences between the two sports are numerous. Yes, baseball and football are starkly different athletic endeavors, but the teams I root for and franchises I follow in those respective sports are mirror images of one another.
The similarities are, among other things: They entered the New York sports scene in the early 1960s. They shared two stadiums (Polo Grounds and Shea Stadium). They each have one-and only one- truly indigenous super star (Tom Seaver for the Mets and Joe Namath for the Jets). They each scored a massive upset in 1969 over a team from Baltimore (the Mets upset the Orioles in the World Series and the Jets shocked the Colts in the Super Bowl).
Pertaining to the topic at hand, they each, also, take turns driving me completely bonkers. Even if you’re just a mild football fan, I am sure you’ve heard the term, “Same Ol’ Jets.” This moniker has been used to describe the plethora of truly infuriating losses and off-the-field blunders that this franchise has become synonymous with. Every time they crush our spirit on a Sunday, we say it’s the “Same Ol’ Jets.” Every time they whiff on a high draft pick, we say “Same Ol’ Jets.” Every time they spend money on the wrong free agents, we say “Same Ol’ Jets.” Every time they hire (or fire) the wrong coach we say, yup, you guessed it, “Same Ol’ Jets.”
From the Rangers chapter:
People ask me all the time how and why I became a fan of the hockey team that called Manhattan home over the squad that played its home games just eight miles from the Long Island town of Oceanside where I grew up. The honest answer was and still is, I don’t know. That is the gospel truth. I don’t know exactly when or exactly why I chose the Rangers as my hockey team over the Islanders.
Remember, from 1980 through 1983, the Islanders were winning Stanley Cups and knocking off the Rangers in the earlier rounds of the playoffs in three of those years. My older brother was (and still is) a huge Islander fan. I can recall listening to Islander games with him on the radio. I can remember in 1984, when the Islanders were competing for their fifth consecutive Stanley Cup, seeing “Strive for Five” memorabilia everywhere. That rhyming credo was omnipresent. Everyone I went to school with were Islander fans, or so it seemed. Everywhere, it was nothing but the New York Islanders. The Rangers were persona non grata in our neck of the woods during those years.
Since we are sponges as young children who’ll absorb what surrounds us and since we become creatures of the environment we grow up in, you’d think I would bleed the orange and blue colors of Long Island’s hockey team.
I had never been to Manhattan as a young child, much less to a Rangers game. The Rangers had not won a championship since 1940. They hadn’t even finished first in their division since 1942. The Rangers were truly an impotent franchise. Their history post-1940 was that of unparalleled ineptitude and relative futility. Here I am, at the tender age of 6 or 7, listening to and watching the Islanders win every year with my older brother on Long Island and yet, I choose to root for the New York Rangers instead. Doesn’t make sense, right? One day I want to go sit down with a psychiatrist and be hypnotized back to the early 1980s and hopefully, be able to pinpoint exactly when and why I chose the Rangers.
Folks. if you’re looking for a sports fix, diversion, or just a good read, you can click on this link and grab your copy:
My EBOOK is available on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble. However, you do not need a Kindle or a Nook to download. Any mobile device will do. I tell my readers all the time to submit lists of their own and we can compare. My editor was also a Jets and Rangers fan. His lists were starkly different from mine. He is a Yankee and he said he took great joy (tongue in cheek) reliving my pain as a Mets fan. Perhaps. if you are so kind as to download this book, you can tell your friends and they can tell their friends and all of you can compare lists? As we cope with stay-at-home orders from our government, any and every diversion and time occupier is greatly needed.
Thank you all for your support for Forever Blueshirts and I pray we all stay safe and healthy!