Happiness Is An Option

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 1.59.57 PMI wanted to give myself a few days before fully addressing how I felt about the New York Rangers’ 2014-15 season.  I’ve gone through the emotions of of sadness to anger and being pissed off and near tears at the same time.  I saw a guy wearing a BLUESHIRTS playoff tee in the supermarket, and I got all choked up.  A friend of mine told me (not a Rangers fan, to say the least) that this is the most upset he’s seen me as a Ranger fan yet.  And it’s true.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt this way about this team, and it’s not even disappointment, though that’s part of it.

It’s not even my wanting the Stanley Cup – damn, how I wanted that fucking trophy this year – it’s more of a squandering an opportunity kind of thing.

This is the year I realized that it’s getting close to the later years of Henrik Lundqvist.  Glen Sather and James Dolan have dicked around to the extent that they could have possibly wasted his best years as a top flight goalie.  Guys like Henke don’t grow on trees.  He’s a one of a kind player and goalie, someone we’ll be rare to see in our history of Rangers greats.  And believe me, there are more players who were *great* but never got the championship than special players who actually did win a championship.  But I also think of losing guys like Darren Turcotte and Tony Amonte in 1994, great role players who were traded away for a “win now” attitude that did “win now,” yet ultimately set the team back decades.

Yes, I do realize that they won their only championship that year those two guys were gone.  They could’ve forfeited years of multiple titles had they held onto them too.  We’ll never know.

So my tears after the last horn sounded, signaling the end of the season, was not because of a loss of a game or a series.  It’s almost something of a loss I felt, like it’s the end of an era.  I don’t think things will be as storylike as they were this season.  When they lost in OT to the hated Devils in the ECF in 2012, I was optimistic.  Sure, I hated losing, especially to that team, but I was future thinking.  They had the goods, finally, it seemed.  Then 2013 rolled around and the abbreviated season just seemed like a wash and the team knew it.  Last year, that was a special year.  Though I was disappointed in their performance in the Stanley Cup Final, I knew they could hold their head high by being so close to elimination and never gave up till they ran out of gas.

See, THIS was supposed to be the year they had the axe to grind.  Losing this game and series, in my opinion, was nothing to be proud.  The same old, “Blah blah just to play there is an honor.”  Anyone who says they are “just proud to be nominated” is a lying BITCH.  My friend Will says that he hates losing more than he likes winning.  I could see on the faces of some of the players that the loss got to them.  So they could get that emotion, hated losing more than loving to win.  That loss last year was supposed to make them hungry for this year.  Then backs against the wall and turning it on against the Capitals this year.  Every fan I knew was confident that this was the motivation they needed (not, you know, the motivation of accolades and a championship and being beloved by the best city in the world).

And this was just more than how I felt after, say, the Seahawks lost the Super Bowl earlier this year.  It was more than a loss of the season or a championship, especially they way they lost.  A Seahawks blogger by the name of Ramona over at Dave Krieg’s Strike Beard summed it up eloquently after SB 49: “The sadness I’m feeling isn’t just from the defeat in XLIX, but also from the sudden absence of this wonderful team in my life.”

I felt exactly the same for that Seahawks team.  But the absence of the Rangers team from this season…yeah, not one I’m particularly endeared to right now.

I know it’s incredibly difficult to “blow the fucker up,” with salary caps and being able to move guys easily, but if there’s anything close that can be done for the New York Rangers to get Hank some players who aren’t treating GAME FUCKING SEVEN of the ECF like it’s a Tuesday night game in December, or as Will likes to say, “Get Hank some real bitches who can play.”  Because the lack of killer instinct or wanting to win or PLAYING NOT TO LOSE (I am a Mets fan…I have enough to deal with regarding that shit), that’s what gets to me.

We live in a world where Ryan Callahan, Brian Boyle, Anton Stralman or Brad Richards all have a chance for that crowning glory.  And we live in a world where Henrik Lundqvist may join the pantheon of great players who may never have an opportunity like this year to win it all.  And that just sucks.

If that doesn’t anger you as a fan, I hate to play the “you are not a real fan” card, because that shit pisses me off when it’s said to me…but it should make you upset at the very least.  Or as another Twitter buddy Cristina likes to say, it should make you feel as though a part of you has died.  Because I know that’s how I felt this year.

I’ve been through a lot of things, being a sports fan.  I got over the 2000 World Series pretty quickly.  The funny thing was, I felt like that Mets team was on the precipice of something great, then they did a complete 180 and by the way, fuck Steve Phillips and Mike Bordick (hey, my blog, my rules).  Yet, most fans would tell you that the 1999 team was the one that fell short and was disappointing. And I will always maintain that losing John Olerud was the hit the Mets should not have taken.  And I’m about to get all worked up about what an idiot asshole dickface Steve Phillips was, so I’ll just stop while I’m ahead.

So back to this year.  LAST Year was the “rah rah feel good get-em-next-year” year.  THIS was the take no prisoners, winner takes all year.  I almost threw a shoe at my computer when I read that Martin St. Louis said something to the effect of being proud and waiting till next year.  OH FUCK NEXT YEAR.  NEXT YEAR WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THIS YEAR.  My goodness, I am so angry right now.  I could probably throw something else in addition to my shoe.

And the regular season was a feat in and of itself.  They lost Henrik for a spell, and the team really stepped up their game to give Cam Talbot, who really has endeared himself to most Rangers fans for his performance in Hank’s absence.  It was really a lot of fun to watch them in the regular season.  No one seemed to pass the memo onto the team that the President’s Trophy means dick if you can’t bring home the real trophy.

My friend for over 20 years, NotGlen Sather handled it all in stride.  Like many, though, I want it to be just more than the 1994 Rangers.  But he takes comfort in it, saying that it’s something many generations of Rangers fans ONLY have too.  I was also kind of hoping that the year he expects his first child to coincide with a championship for his favorite sport.

I can’t say it wasn’t meant to be.  It could’ve been.  And that’s what makes me still so angry, two days later.

This one is going to sting for awhile.

**********************************************************************

It is not easy
the war within us
but it gets easier
the more we learn
I don’t need to win
You don’t have to lose
We can choose
happiness is an option

I bought a small bottle of Prosecco for the Super Bowl this year.  Needless to say, I did not open it.  While I had entertained using it for mimosas on a lazy Sunday morning, I decided to hold it for what I felt to be a formality in getting to the Stanley Cup this year for the Rangers.  I will be moving in a few weeks, and it looks like the Prosecco will be making the move as well.

I’ve always used sports as a form of escapism, and this hockey season has left me void of something.  The Chicago Blackhawks won their game seven last night and will be advancing to play the Lightning as well.  But I will always believe in my heart of hearts that this could have been the Rangers’ season.  You can’t even say they got beat by the better team.  They got beat by themselves.

That’s the worst loss of all.

My dad said he’s been a fan for over 45 years and bleeds Ranger blue.  This one sucked, but he said losing games like that doesn’t get easier over time.  I could choose happiness as my option, but the reality is, I’m too angry to even consider being happy.  I guess come back to me when the season starts again.  But I’ve learned to not get my hopes up with this team, ever.  And that, my friends, really sucks.

A Red Letter Day

All I want is what you want
I’m always waiting for a red letter day
Like Christmas morning when you’re a kid
Admit you love me and you always did
Baby, I’m hoping for that red letter day today

A red letter day is any day of special significance.  Of course, I was alerted to its meaning by a Pet Shop Boys song.  I can’t ever really say I used the term just for shits and giggles before now, however.

For the Rangers and specifically Henrik Lundqvist, May 13th has held special significance in their history.  According to some folks on Twitter and the Rangers forums I follow (I’d like to attribute this stat to someone, so if you can get me a link, it would be greatly appreciated), this is something interesting:

5/13/13: Henrik 35 saves, Rangers win Game 7
5/13/14: Henrik 35 saves, Rangers win Game 7
5/13/15: Henrik 35 saves, Rangers win Game 7

Two things stand out: 35 saves.  Game 7s.

If I had known that this was a series that Rangers like to extend to Game 7 if only to give us all agita, maybe I could’ve  handled a 3-1 deficit a little bit better.  But it seems like when a few of us were about to give up (namely, myself and Ranger buddy KB – we were just disgusted, and she was about to start hanging up her Ranger skates and follow the Lightning more closely, I was just pissed off they didn’t LOSE), the Rangers score.  And they score again.  And they win.  They win again.

They win again.

And the number 35 is significant or a “red letter” number if you will for the Rangers: our last Stanley Cup winning goalie WORE the number 35.

11231096_10206842438684770_2496654098570330887_n  Other red letter days in Rangers history took place that Stanley Cup winning year as well.  A team they owned in the regular season fought back, and clawed their way to a seven game series.  Only to have the Rangers win in OT in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Kind of funny how that works.  See, in that round, a player by the name of Stephane Matteau scored that game winner in a very stressful series.

In this series, a player by the name of Derek Stepan scored the game winner.

Stephane? Stepan? Stepan! Matteau!

Backs against the wall, Captain Mark Messier makes a declaration, and backs it up with a champion’s performance.

Backs against the wall, Captain Ryan McDonagh scores a definitive goal to keep his Rangers team alive.

Back in 1994, when the Rangers were down 2-0 in what could have potentially been an elimination game against the Devils, I guess I was naive enough to think that somehow the Rangers would pull it off.  My dad on the other hand gave me the “talk” about what it’s like to be a Rangers fan.  Then they win, and I’ll never forget the Dad-man singing, “Happy days are here again.”

This year, I’m on Twitter just SKEWERING the team for not showing up in the playoffs.  I told someone in a forum that I guess he hasn’t been watching the series because this team hasn’t been demonstrative at all.  Then they score a tying goal.  Then a winning goal in OT.  And then they shut me up by winning the goddamn thing.

So I guess my point is, we have days of special significance in our lives, they stand for something important and meaningful.  For me, that day proved that I can’t ever doubt this team, ever.  Someone is going to come through, someone is going to carry the team on their back, someone is going to stand up and say, “We’re not going to take this.”

Oh, and remember that whole thing about a team owning another in the 1994 Eastern Conference playoffs?  The Rangers had a phenomenal record against New Jersey that year, yet a Game 7 was forced.

This year, Tampa Bay basically annihilated the Rangers in the regular season.  By the way, the Rangers also were Regular Season “Champs.”

What does that say?

This series is about to get really interesting.

What, you thought it ended last series??? You thought this would be easy?

MUHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

What Have I Done To Deserve This?

Coop is officially too old for this shit.

Coop is officially too old for this shit.

My life is an open book.  My sports fandom, especially if you follow me on Twitter, is worn on my sleeve.  I live and breathe (and sometimes, have a mild heart attack) with every win or loss.

Over the years, baseball has gotten easier for me to handle, mostly because I’m not expecting much from the Mets.  My reactions good or bad is usually of the, “My, what a lovely surprise” variety.

I never gave a crap about football until recently.  Even so, the stakes are a little bit higher because there are fewer games.  Even the playoffs are a one-and-done type of deal.  Don’t let the door hit ya on your way out either.

Hockey has always been a different animal for me.  The game is so fast paced, and because of that, I can be very reactionary.  My reactions are incredibly visceral.  You go crazy and cheer a goal.  You goad two goons fighting.  You boo the opposing team’s star center.

Every so often (okay, more like, every day of my life being a sports fan), I want to give it all up.  You know what? Just FUCK IT ALL, and I’ll take up a hobby that’s boring and doesn’t leave me feeling all empty inside.  Like knitting.

Last night’s shit sandwich of a game against the Washington Capitals was one of those nights that knitting really seems like a good hobby for me to take up now.  I am getting way too old for this shit.

*************************************

It’s that time of the year, folks.  It’s the time of the year where two of my favorite sports collide and overlap.  Prioritizing hockey games over baseball games now, because it’s the Cup.  Rather, because…playoffs.  These games are clearly not of the One-and-Done variety like football, but the high stakes of elimination are evident in every game.  Lose one game, I am a big sour puss.  If the Rangers can firm up a victorious round before the seven games…AWESOME!  Go to seven, I will hate everything and everybody.  No offense.  I just take this time of the year very seriously.

Don't Keep Calm

This is usually every other word that comes out of my word. Actually, just “fuck.”

I’ve mentioned previously that in the playoffs, not only have the Rangers faced the Washington Capitals an extraordinary amount in the playoffs, I’ve seen them play the Caps an extraordinary amount.  I saw a game in 2011 that the Rangers lost in OT.  A game, I will point out, they should have won in regulation.

I saw another game in 2012.  A year, by the way, the Rangers made it all the way to the Eastern Conference series.  They lost THAT game.

When NotGlen Sather invited me to the 2013 playoffs, I initially told him no.  Not that I could not or did not want to go.  I absolutely won’t turn down a ticket that he graciously paid for (but had a cancellation, I believe).  I told him, I couldn’t bear the burden of a loss.  The Rangers were down 2-0 in the series.  That game was a “must win.”  He said, he’d take his chances with me.  And they won.  They ended up taking the series too.

So I thought, maybe that dragon was slayed.  I dislike the Capitals a lot because of this playoff history.  But as I said last night in a tweet, I’d have straight up died before Game Two had this series been against the Islanders.  Don’t get me wrong: I’d have enjoyed it.  I preferred it, actually.  But I don’t think I would last long.

Anyway, I was telling my dad how positive I felt going into this series.  If you know me and follow me, you know that is the LAST thing I think about with this team.  Even though they won the President’s Trophy, it is simply not enough.  It’s #CupOrBust for me in 2015.  Otherwise, this year will be an ultimate disappointment.  There, I said it.

But I told my dad, I felt as though the playoffs were just a formality.  (I also said that about the Seahawks this year.  They did make it to the Super Bowl.  The ending wasn’t what I wanted…but I digress.)

Then I made the cardinal mistake of mentioning that I felt like the Rangers would be a little “rusty” having had no hockey for almost an entire week.

The game was interesting from the get-go.  The Rangers certainly had their opportunities early on in the game.  When Ovechkin gets a “surprise” goal (meaning: no one really believed it went in), I found it hard to believe that would be the only goal scored until late third period.

What’s more: the Rangers did not bring their A-game.  AT ALL.  Missed set ups and passes, futile breakaways.  Of course, there’s the inevitable save here and there by Braden Holtby.  But still, there were plenty opportunities, hardly any were fruitful.

The crowd was in rare form.  For all the renovations have done regarding the fan experience, some people have complained that the fans don’t do *enough*, they are too quiet, etc.  I beg to differ.  Before opening face off, the crowd was raucous and fun.  It reminded me of the old days.

The guys sitting behind me, though, they had a difference of opinion. An alcohol-induced opinion, for sure, but opinions nonetheless about how bad the fans were. In fact, one of them generated a laugh from me when he said in so many words that all the fans were doing amounted to “playing with their dicks.” If you follow me on Twitter, you know those words have come out of my own mouth from time to time. When they started picking fights with other Rangers fans (Seriously…YOUSE ARE ROOTING FOR THE SAME TEAM), it was time for the bros to go.

Right after they were tossed from the game though, a miracle happened…The Rangers finally scored! Who cares they tied up the game late in regulation…they scored!

But looking back at the entire evening, the fact that the Capitals scored the go ahead goal with less than 2 seconds left in the game, it was pure poetry.

Whether it’s the week off, missing Mats Zuccarello, Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis taking a dump, I’m not sure.  Something was certainly off this entire game.

Anyone who says the Rangers should have won that game clearly knows nothing about hockey nor watched the game.  They had no business winning that game.  Even if they did, sure I’d be in a better mood than I have been all day, it certainly would have been in spite of their previous play.

Seriously, they lost significant leads in the Stanley Cup fucking Final last year, and this year, they let their guard down in Round Two.  I may have felt at the beginning of the game that it was merely a formality to play these games.  I mean, that’s how confident I felt as a fan in this series.  Now, not so much.  I hope Alain Vigneault threw the book at these assholes.

*************************************

I bought you drinks, I brought you flowers
I read your books and talked for hours
Every day so many drinks
such pretty flowers, so tell me
What have I, what have I, what have I done to deserve this?
What have I, what have I, what have I done to deserve this?

Every year around this time, I get a little nostalgic.  The summer of my 18th year, I discovered the Pet Shop Boys, and one my “desert island albums” is an album that come out the year before, Very.  I wrote about this at length last year during their run to the Stanley Cup Final.

When I was in California a few weeks ago, I was on a train from Sacramento to Oakland while the Rangers played in game two against the Pittsburgh Penguins.  It was the only game the Rangers lost in the first round.  I was joking around that on my playlist, a song from Very came on shuffle.  We had this one.

For some reason, I have not felt like listening to the album this time around.  Which surprises me because as sure as death and taxes and the Rangers being in the playoffs on the road to the Stanley Cup, I listen to Pet Shop Boys Very.

Last night, though, after walking a zombie march essentially from the Garden to the Port Authority Bus Station (where my dad had taken the bus from New Jersey several hours before), I felt like listening to some music on the train ride home.

A Pet Shop Boys oldie came on.

“What have I, what have I, what have I done to deserve this?,” the familiar refrain repeated.

Yeah, I thought, what the fuck exactly have I done to deserve being in sports futility????

Seriously, I had great luck, rooting for teams that hadn’t won championships in a long time, and being a fan for like five minutes in the grand scheme of things, they win championships.  The Mets and Rangers won in short periods of time in relation to my becoming a fan.

And yet, each year, something happens that raises my disappointment to an art form.

While I don’t believe the point of sports is to win but rather to entertain (and Flying Spaghetti Monster knows, I’ve been entertained more often than not with these bar raising disappointments), I’d still like a bone thrown my way.

And I can only surmise that after last night’s shit show, things can only go UP from here.

So please, get out of the bathroom, stop taking a shit, and just fucking PLAY BETTER.

You assholes.

A “Friend of Bill” Is A Friend Indeed

“The saddest thing in life is wasted talent, and the choices that you make will shape your life forever.” – “C” Anello, Bronx Tale

bronxtale2John Belushi needed a “bodyguard” to help him resist the temptations of the Sunset Strip.  When his bodyguard went on to other things, Belushi used this newfound “freedom” as an excuse to do 8-balls, and subsequently died of an overdose.

Belushi, and many other live-fast-die-young entertainers, were used as an example by Denis Leary when he joked about how the really super talented die young like Belushi, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.  Yet, Motley Crue could be locked in a room with two tons of crack, come out an hour later and record a double-live album.

Sure, I’m poking fun right now, but let’s be fair: addiction, particularly of alcohol and drug variety, is no laughing matter.  In baseball, we are seeing some of the ramifications of illegal drugs, namely with Josh Hamilton.

And this guy was a sad story from the get go.  Someone with oodles of natural baseball talent, just got tempted one too many times.  Here’s the other part though…many addicts, especially in the public element, don’t like to talk about it unless they are in their comfort zone.  Hamilton was to be the great redemption story.  He has won an MVP, and as a Texas Ranger participated in many playoff runs.

Being a sports fan, there’s that one guy you LOVE, and then there’s that guy you LOATHE.  Hamilton was a “good guy,” someone who admitted to his mistakes and seemed to have learned from them.  Someone like Alex Rodriguez though, did PEDs for personal gain (despite what his play did for the rest of the team), he’s in it for himself and does not deserve our sympathy.  Funny how that works, right?

Yet, in the offseason we hear about Hamilton and a relapse.  I’m not sure what kind of rehabilitation he underwent previously (whether it’s Alcoholics Anonymous or N.A. or just rehab and psychotherapy), but it’s been stated that he trusts himself so little that he won’t carry credit cards or cash.  In this last bender, he wrote a check out to himself and blew it on cocaine at a strip club.  I have no idea what kind of fight he and his wife might have had that led to this behavior.  My point of view?  He needed an excuse.

Despite the fact that the Texas Rangers held his hand all those years, even had “champagne celebrations” with ginger ale so that the team could celebrate together without upsetting him. Despite the fact that the Angels were not as public with their assistance of him, they did hold his hand as well.  Here is the problem with an addict and what no one else is saying: they have to WANT to change.

la-sp-sn-josh-hamilton-angels-arte-moreno-2015-002The Angels could have assigned bodyguards or literally called every restaurant in Orange County and warned them to remove alcohol off the premises because Josh Hamilton was coming.  He could have stayed in Texas where he had great success.  Something tells me though, especially since he chastised the Texas fans for liking football more and not “owing them anything,” he either did not want to stay or wanted the California star quality.

I can’t tell Hamilton what he needs to do. He has to figure that out himself. But I can give some advice: stop blaming others for your issues. Despite all of his money, despite all the redemption stories and forget about all the fame and accolades he has received from being an incredibly gifted baseball player, one thing is for sure: he likes drugs more.

The help he needs is probably not what he was getting in Texas or in Anaheim. Addicts will be the first to tell you that they need a support system. Hamilton has “thanked g*d” and given his praises multiple times. What about his AA sponsor? I know he or she cannot be named. Yet if Hamilton is not in the rooms now, this is where he should be. REAL people (not just millionaires who have more money than they know what to do with) who have hit rock bottom several times. People who can support him, not enable him.  Yet the success stories, the redemption stories are there too. Hamilton does not or did not speak for the regular people. Whatever policies his teams have put into place were NOT enough.

My unpopular feeling is that the Angels front office is frustrated and have every right to be. Does that mean Arte Moreno and the Angels needed to shame Hamilton in the Angels press release? Of course not. Empathy can go a long way. Yet I think all Hamilton’s empaths have inadvertently been enablers.  From his wife not giving him cash or he himself even believing that he cannot be trusted to carry cash…first line of defense is to trust someone.  Most of all, yourself.  If he can’t trust themselves around alcohol or drugs or strippers, perhaps the deep work has not yet occurred?  Ignoring the problems won’t make it go away.

The first step is to recognize he’ll always be an addict. He can recover, but it will never not be a struggle. From my point of view, unfortunately he does not want that right now.  Until this happens, expect to see more of these stories from Hamilton for many many years to come.

Up Against It

News in this city
Breaks without pity
Long after the war has ended
We’re still in fatigues

I survived Cliff Floyd swinging away per Jerry Manuel’s suggestion.  I survived a Mets collapse in 2007, and a denouement in 2008 (suffering PTMD aftereffects today).  I had to face New Jersey Devils fans the day after losing a dramatic Game 6 overtime Eastern Conference Final.  I had to face the world after the Rangers lost the Stanley Cup Final to the Los Angeles Kings the next day because I didn’t have a choice.

It’s different this time because I am not only relatively new to being a 12th man, I’m relatively new to the whole football experience. Despite having an allegiance to the Jets really since the 2000s (simply because my dad told me as much), I’ve never been so invested in something as rooting for a city that I loved, that in turn turned me into a football fan.  It’s a part of my identity that I struggle with and alternatively makes perfect sense to me.  It’s only fitting that while I wouldn’t trade being a Mets fan and Ranger fan for anything in the world, despite the agony they bring me most of the time. I was also born to be a Seahawks fan. I just didn’t know it till three years ago.

Until last night, the Super Bowl was just a way for me to watch commercials and an excuse to eat bad carbs and to hate on a team like the Patriots (which was only solidified last night) and the half time shows.  When the game ended in the past, I would look forward that baseball season was literally right around the corner.  I know, I have my hockey team, but as you all know by now, baseball is my first true love.

Last night, I paid attention to every single play.

And like watching Henrik Lundqvist crestfallen after losing to the Devils and Kings, like seeing Carlos Beltran’s face in the Mets dugout on the last play at Shea in 2008, I saw the faces of my adopted home city team. And I felt *it* all right.

I am a 12.  For better or worse, I am a 12th Man.  And there’s nothing I can do about it but accept it.

Don’t want to discuss it
I think it’s time for a change
You may get disgusted
And think I’m strange
In that case I’ll go underground
Get some heavy rest
Never have to worry
About what is worst and what is best
Oh oh Domino

Ed_Coop_Safeco There were several different angles I could’ve taken for this post.  Had the Seahawks won last night, this post would’ve been called “The Hawking Dead.”  The premise of it was my Seattle trip in November, which was borne from ironically my baseball fandom.  I never had a chance to write about it, and I figured, it would be repetitive anyway.

Picture it: summer of 2014, Ed and I went to Seattle to follow the Mets.  We had another mission: to get as much Seahawks merchandise as we could.  When we tried to plan another baseball trip to Cincinnati, to see the Mets, we found the prices to be staggering.  To go to OHIO.  Driving wasn’t really an option.  And I started joking that, oh hey, we can probably get cheaper airfare to Seattle in November for your birthday to see the Hawks.

I opened the travel websites.  “OH LOOK HONEY! It IS cheaper!”  Then the snowball got bigger and bigger, till finally we couldn’t ignore the fact that we didn’t just want to go back to Seattle, we wanted to see the Seahawks at home the year they were still Champions.  The Cincy trip was scrapped till 2015.  The Seattle trip was on.

The Hawking Dead was the working title because I had likened my turn to the Seahawks side as turning into a zombie, something I couldn’t control, something I didn’t think I wanted till I got it. Well, maybe being a walker isn’t something we want, but whatever. When I went to the game this time, it was natural.  It felt right.  We get off the light rail, and walk to the stadiums (Safeco Field is open with beer and food specials, and highlights from the “morning” games).  Yet, we weren’t the only people.  It was like a march, people doing their rituals, but everyone (save the few New York Giants fans, who also made the trip) was dressed in their Hawks gear and chanting and doing their gameday rituals.

My husband and I have some game day rituals too.  Last year, the championship season, we made it a point when there was a nationally televised game, we’d order Domino’s.  I know, it’s sacrilegious, living in New York City, but during the Super Bowl in 2013, I saw a Domino’s delivery guy in our lobby.  I told Ed, “You know, I want their bread sticks.”  Ed doesn’t eat pizza, but he likes their pasta bread bowls.  That night, though, they had a modified menu, and he had to get chicken nuggets and plain bread sticks.  Last year, they did away with their bread sticks, only cheesy bread.  But the pasta bread bowl/cheesy bread thing worked for a good year.

This year, the juju stopped working.  Against the Cowboys, we did our thing, and it didn’t work.  So I said, we need to find something else, because it’s officially “weird.”  He said, well, maybe we need to get something else instead of our “usual”.  So I started to make my own pastas, and lo and behold, they were winning again.  OF COURSE our game day ritual had something to do with it.  And we even changed our bars for the non-televised games.  We stopped going to a place we really loved and started going to, ironically, a Patriots bar, but they always had the Seahawks game on for us.

Going to the games, you can’t describe the feeling.  If you’re not a football fan, and I will always maintain I never really cared for it, but I loved tailgating and live games, you can’t help but get caught up in the 12-ness of it all.

Not to mention, I love Seattle, can see all my favorite sights from the stadium, and love to take walks after the game.  It’s not like you can do anything else.  Try jam packing nearly 70,000 people in one area, and have them all go to the train at the same time!  Just writing about it, I can visual it, and FEEL the area.  I miss it right now.  I really wish I was there right now.

We figured, maybe there was a glitch in the matrix, and that’s why they lost that game.  Also, we did have to take into consideration that, well, our superstitions don’t mean jack, and they only make US feel better.

Till then, we kept the ritual.  And on Super Bowl Sunday, we had breakfast at the same place we did last year, and I grabbed coffee with a friend like I did last year.  Then we watched Law & Order: SVU until time for the pregame show.

Our rituals may give us comfort.  But in reality, that’s the only thing.  It’s a defense mechanism, just like my stupid hashtag, #GivingUpSportsForKnitting.

Because I was so invested in football this year, I started to muse if I wasn’t a sports fan, what would like be like?  Instead of, “It’s A Wonderful Life, Coop,” it was more of a thinking that, I need a new hobby that’s less stressful.  Like knitting.

So by now, I’m sure most of you know the risky call that blew up in the Seahawks faces and literally caused them to lose the game. The narrative shifted from, the Seahawks are the real deal and Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll et al have built a dynasty and blah blah blah. Yet it’s all about Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and blah blah blah. I’ve always had an unhealthy hate for the Patriots. Now I have to hear about it from all their shit talking fans who don’t show up during the game and gloat only after they win.

By the same token, though, if the Seahawks use the Patriots “dynasty” as a model – in 13 years and winning four championships. I think most of us wouldn’t trade that for any of our teams.

Last night was different. Last year, Ed sat watching the game, even with a significant lead, late in the game, he wouldn’t let himself believe until the very last second. Last night, he was cool and collected. Me, I felt off. Even with a lead, I didn’t feel comfortable. So many things didn’t go the way of the team. And if you look at the rest of the game, you’ll realize that it’s not the last 30 seconds that made the game. Marshawn Lynch even said it was a team effort, and they win as a team, they lose as a team.

Even as a die hard Mets fan, I never blamed Tom Glavine for his shitty ass performance on the last day of 2007. It didn’t help, of course. Yet, when I look at the team performance in September, THAT was why they lost. It shouldn’t have come to that game. Last year, when the Rangers were in the Stanley Cup Final, they blew not one, not two, but THREE late leads that led to overtime wins for the Kings. THAT was the difference. Not that they lost game five. They were lucky there WAS a game five.

Instead, our Domino’s ritual became a punch line, since I threw a plate of breadsticks with hot sauce and blue cheese after the blown play, and well, I had some cleaning up to do.  Thank goodness for Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.  And paint.  And strategically placed artwork.

Yes, I realize now it wasn’t just about the last minute of the game.  Try rationalizing that while you’re watching.

I could never give up sports for knitting. I wouldn’t be able to keep it real with assholes like Shane Victorino (#BlameShaneVictorinosMothersUterus) or Cody Ross (you’re GARBAGE), and well, if I have one place to be an asshole fan, it’s CitiField.

As Mrs. Senor Solly said earlier, there she is.  Or rather there I am.  I’ve always been here.  I’m not going away.

The game ended, Post Seahawks Win at CenturyLinkand I start hearing about Super Bowl Champions The New England Patriots, and I told Ed, can we please watch some baseball or something.

So MLB Network was on, and I got to hear familiar strains of my favorite season of all.  Lo and behold, pitchers and catchers is right around the corner.

It’s 64 days till Opening Day, it will soon be spring, the Stanley Cup playoffs are right around the corner, and before we know it, we’ll be following the Seahawks to Baltimore for our first “road trip road trip” (since all our Seahawks games are road trips, technically, for us anyway).

I woke up this morning, and it was snowing.  Perhaps it would’ve been more appropriate if it was raining.  It rains every time we go to a sporting event in Seattle.  But, rain also means change, it means growth, it means renewal.

Win or lose, last night, it was the end of a fun fuckin’ year for football.  And it’s really the first time I’ve genuinely meant it.

In the great game of life, you win some, you lose some.  Being a 12 is a lot more than rooting for the Seattle Seahawks.  You have to genuinely understand the amount of pride this team brings to the city and the Pacific Northwest region.  It’s a state of mind, maybe not unlike being a “walker,” but a conscious and very much alive walker.

Like many of the losses I’ve witnessed with my teams, it’s tough but you rationalize it.  You accept it.  It gets better.  Well, it BETTER get better.  The feeling can’t get much worse than what we all felt last night.

This team will be motivated and not let the loss get to their heads.  They’ll learn from it, they’ll have a chip on their shoulder because of it.  And hopefully, put the finishing touches on another winning year next year.

Till then, baseball and hockey will be a place holder.  The celebratory champagne will wait in the fridge for another day. It’s okay to hurt.  We’ll be up against these feelings throughout the years, it goes with the territory of being a fan.

 

Mets Lounge Podcast – TONIGHT! The Mets Billboard

Join us in the Mets Lounge tonight (where the cool kids hang out) where the Coop will be joined by Gary Palumbo, aka Salty Gary, the brains behind the Mets Billboard movement.

Dial into the Lounge at (914) 338-0314 or simply listen in and throw us stuff in the chat room!  I’ll also be doing a QBC wrap and how the Mets were not as quiet this week as we thought…

QBC Preview In the Mets Lounge TONIGHT!

Hey kids!  If the cool kids hang out once a week on Wednesdays in the Mets Lounge, then you definitely won’t want to miss the cool cats at the second annual Queens Baseball Convention, being held this Saturday at McFadden’s CitiField.

Join the Coop and special guest Mark Healey from Gotham Baseball, who is moderating the State of the Mets panel at the QBC.  Oh and the Coop will be on the panel as well.

Mazzy Gunslinger of the Year recipient Healey along with the Coop will be an entertaining show for sure.  So dial in or join us in the chat room starting at 9 pm!

Doing It For David

If you remember, back in 2012, I trained for the New York City Marathon and raised funds for the Tug McGraw Foundation, a cancer charity that supports brain cancer survivors and those with traumatic brain injuries to have a better quality of life.  I chose this charity because not only did I have a good friend who also raised funds for them and spoke very highly of them, I wanted to mix my Mets fandom in there somewhere.

Of course, I knew many who were afflicted by brain cancer and traumatic injuries to the brain as well.  I had a friend who was running the marathon because her father had a traumatic brain injury.  Not only did my uncle pass away from a malignant brain tumor, my friend’s nephew passed away just a few days before the non-marathon (which was never run, because of a bitch named Sandy).  And my hero Gary Carter passed away earlier that year due to brain cancer.

When Gary Carter was alive, and playing with the Mets, I remember I made my mother donate something like 75 cents to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation, to get the signed Gary Carter poster I coveted.  Carter’s mother had died when he was a child of leukemia, and he made it his life’s mission to support and promote a cure by being active in the charity. He even had his own fundraisers, mostly golf tournaments, and I remember reading about these tournaments each year in the Mets Yearbooks when Opening Day would come around.

We know there have been many technological advances to treating cancers since Carter’s mother passed away.  But there is no cure. Whether we like to think about it or not, it impacts every single one of us.

And cancer sucks, big time.

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Leukemia impacted my family as well.  My dad had an older brother (half-brother, technically, but no one worried about those semantics while they were growing up.  They were brothers, period) who passed away several years before I was born.  So technically, my dad wasn’t my *dad* then, so I’ll just refer to him as Mr. E periodically for these purposes.

This was my Uncle Larry.  I didn’t have the opportunity or the pleasure to know him.  I’ve seen enough pictures of him to know what he looked like.  I also knew his wife Mary Lou, who is still close with the Cooper side of the family to this day, and his only child, David Alan Hicks, whose name I believe honored not only Larry’s best friend but my Pop Pop, who looked after Larry like he was his own.

I am a Mets fan because my dad introduced me to baseball as a very young age.  I was about seven years old, and I sat down and watched a Mets game, or what I found out was to be a Mets game.  I was in first grade.  I decided to root for the guys with the big blue letters on their uniforms because D-Man was.  That night, I had to write a “theme” (think: A Christmas Story) about what my likes and dislikes were (I believe likes included: cats and chocolate, dislikes included: spinach probably – but only because my mother force fed the frozen watery stuff to me. I’m a big fan of spinach salads, as an adult who works in wellness).  I also had to include what likes and dislikes my parents had.  A big “like” for D-Man was the New York Mets.  I had no idea what baseball actually was.  But my first grade teacher did.  And she wrote on my paper that her dad was also a Mets fan.

Back then, the Mets were bringing people together, even before social media did it, or made it easier to that end.

My dad took me to my first game on May 6, 1984, versus the Houston Astros.  It was a Sunday, and I got to see Dwight Gooden pitch against Nolan Ryan.  Of course, I have no idea how significant that match up until MUCH later.  But I also knew that I loved Gooden, just the few times I watched him on TV.  And begged my dad to take me to a game, which he was more than happy to oblige.  I guess he lucked out with me, that he was able to enjoy a pastime such as this with his only child, a daughter, whose mother would rather she take ballet classes and comb her hair properly and go shopping.

The Mets lost that game.  A score of 10-1.  But hey, 30 something years later, I am still attending games, usually with the Mets on the blow out bad end of the game.  So I guess it didn’t mar my decision to be a Mets fan one way or another.

And I’m sure my husband, Ed, whom I met in 2009 after meeting the Mets 26 years prior, will appreciate that this game was 25 years and 364 days prior to us getting married.

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What I do know about my Uncle Larry and Mr. E is that they had an incredible bond.  They were about 10 or 11 years apart in age, but that didn’t stop them from hanging out together.  When Mr. E was six years old, the Dodgers and the Giants both left town for the west coast.  For the next five years, there was no National League baseball close by, and my Pop Pop would not STAND for rooting for an American League team (according to Pop, New York was a “National League city,” end of story).  When the Mets came around, and they went to the Polo Grounds, though Larry was a St. Louis Cardinals fan like my grandmother.  Shea Stadium opened was considered “state of the art” and all that jazz.  Mr. E was 10 years old when the Mets came into existence, and was 12 when they moved to the home we know now, in Flushing.

As I write that, I find it ironic that I became a baseball fan when I was seven, and my dad didn’t even HAVE a team to root FOR when he was that age.  He became a fan at the same age I was when I went to game seven of the 1986 World Series.  That’s something we’ll never get over.

But in the Kevin Bacon six degrees of life scenario, I am a Mets fan because my grandfather and Uncle Larry took Mr. E to baseball games and really got him to understand the nuances of the game.

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So I guess that I have Uncle Larry to thank for my baseball affiliation, since he got my dad into baseball, and I highly doubt I’d be the crazed lunatic fan of this sport if he was not one himself.  Yet, like my Pop Pop who passed away when I was three years old, he serves as a ghost in my life, someone I’ve heard so much about and would have liked to have known, but sadly did not get the opportunity to do that.

Larry and Mary Lou’s son, David, was himself about five years old when Larry passed away.  I never got to talk with David about his memories about his old man, basically because I didn’t know David all that well.  That is truly my loss.  But as many people who read my site or know me personally, my parents split up when I was in middle school.  And as things usually happen in a divorce, some familial relationships suffer as a result.  For years, it was my relationship with the Cooper side of the family.  There were literally cousins and family members that I did not know at all.  It wasn’t until I was in college, and after I graduated that I got really curious about my family.  I started asking questions, and got to know Mary Lou and my Aunt Babe and started a relationship with my cousins.

Christmas Time, 2007. One of the last times all the cousins were in the same room.

Christmas Time, 2007. One of the last times all the cousins were in the same room.

David was 10 years older than me.  I remember him when I was old enough to start having memories.  There’s a picture somewhere in my mother’s scrap book in Jackson, NJ, that has a pic of David, Michael and me.  I’m guessing I wasn’t quite a year old.  Michael is three months older than me.  David was 10 years older than both of us.  So I guess David was about 11, and Michael and I were roughly a year old.  I have a close relationship with our mutual cousin Michael and his sister Chrissy, then there’s my dad’s brother’s kids whom I also have a relationship with now.  David was married and lived pretty far from me, and I didn’t know him as an adult.

If I remember correctly, my dad stayed in David’s life to the extent that they themselves went to baseball games at Shea Stadium (I know that my dad did that to bond with my mom’s little brother, my Uncle Mike, around the time they got married).  I also know that David was a huge Nascar fan.  So is Mr. E.  I went to a race once in Dover, Delaware, just to say I went to one.  The next year, I had a big final to do for my masters, and decided it wasn’t in my best interests to go.  David took my ticket instead.  He was a huge Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan, like I am.

 

 

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Michael’s sister and my beautiful cousin Chrissy took up running and decided to run a marathon a few months ago.  Like many who run races, there’s an emotional meaning behind it, and it keeps one focused while they train.  Chrissy ran to raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation.

She decided to do so after David, our cousin, was diagnosed with a very aggressive yet treatable form of leukemia.  The same type of cancer that had taken his father from us over forty years prior.  Chrissy kept her running journal on a blog called Do It For David!

Chrissy was able to finish her race and raised a respectable amount of funds for the foundation.

Training for a marathon is incredibly emotional (not to mention physical, of course).  Believe me when I tell you, it consumes your life, everything you eat, drink or think about.  To tie that training into a family member who is diagnosed with a scary disease is something unfathomable to even me.

My family lost David Alan Hicks on Tuesday, December 23, 2014.  Chrissy has closer memories with David in her life than I did, and she was able to craft a very meaningful and heartfelt tribute to our cousin, who unfortunately was just too weakened to fight the blood cancer anymore.

I didn’t know much about David except that he was truly a decent man, a good person, who loved his wife, Lori, his daughter, Courtney and his mother, Mary Lou, who is just about one of the nicest people you will ever want to meet.  Please keep them in your thoughts this holiday season.  He also loved his Nascar, but I also know that my family loved him very much.

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When George Harrison (you know, the Beatle) passed away, the first person I called was my dad when I found out.  I left him a message.  Mr. E, who had taken up the guitar again that year after probably a 30 year hiatus, would tell you that Harrison was his favorite Beatle.  He would also tell anyone who wanted to hear about how he first heard the song, “I Want To Hold Your Hand” on his transistor radio, and the energy from the radio parted his hair down the middle.  When he watched the Beatles make it to the Ed Sullivan show, he sat in front of the TV, wanting like millions of teenage boys did who also watched that night to play the guitar like George, bang a drum like Ringo or have a hair cut like John or Paul.

When D-Man called me back several hours later, he left a long message about how George was at peace now, he wasn’t suffering anymore, and that he was a spiritual guy.  If anyone was going to find peace in the afterworld, if there was one, it would be George Harrison.  But in the middle of all this, my dad said, he felt like part of his youth was gone.

I know that when my favorite Mets player from the 80s era, Gary Carter, had died, I had a podcast the next night, and I cried on the air. (There’s no crying in baseball, Coop!!)  I also know that I thought of my dad and what he said about his youth being gone with the passing of George Harrison.  I knew what it meant because when Kid died, a part of me did too.

I can’t be with my family today, physically, but I can understand the loss they are all feeling today as they say goodbye to David for the last time.  My dad was very young when David’s father, his brother Larry, passed.  I also remember him telling me that because they were so young, it was sad, and they had their lives to live.  Five years later, my cousin Michael and I were born within months of each other, my aunt got remarried, Chrissy was born, and my parents got divorced.  We went to college, got married, had kids, and honored lost family members along the way.

We all know that death is a part of life.  That doesn’t make it easier with the loss of a loved one.

Yet, we also know that life does indeed go on.  David may be gone, but we have our memories of him, no matter how close or far apart we may be.

In a world full of coincidences, fate, sliding doors, six degrees and other minutiae, he may not have known it, but David is in part responsible for helping me be the person I am today.  So thank you for that, David.  And as my dad once told me, we have our lives to live, and our own battles to face even with the loss of a loved one, no matter how hard that loss is.  It’s all right to be sad, and our loved ones are never truly gone when we have their memory to honor.

Mets Lounge 30th Anniversary Trade Celebration TONIGHT

Upcoming Mets Lounge shows tonight and next Wednesday 12/17…

Tonight’s show is a celebration of Metstory past, being the 30th anniversary of one of the most significant trades in the history of the franchise…that brought Gary Carter here and set the wheels in motion to win the world championship!

Next week’s show is Metsivus for the rest of the us…yes, it’s the annual airing of grievances towards our team and how they’ve disappointed us (but there can be some bright spots, too).  Why let Winter Meetings ruin your mood for spring…look at the bright spot!!!

Hang in the chat room tonight!!

The Mets and the Myth of the Milquetoast Good Guy

Matt Harvey takes in Derek Jeter's last ever home game in 2014 .  His hat may as well say, "#ZeroFucksGiven"

Matt Harvey takes in Derek Jeter’s last ever home game in 2014 . His hat may as well say, “#ZeroFucksGiven”

I’m looking forward to the end of the regular baseball season.  Though I’m kind of excited to see teams like the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles play in the postseason, and even more relieved that teams like the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are NOT going to be playing, I’m a little sick of the marketing overdrive campaign of Derek Jeter’s retirement tour.  Gosh, any amount of constructive criticism or objective opinions about Jeter, and people act like you kicked their dying dog.  But in all the accolades, all the sensation, one piece of rhetoric gets repeated-repeated-repeated again.  The idea that “Derek Jeter is SUCH a GREAT GUY.”

Now, I don’t have much of a strong opinion either way on that sentiment.  What I will say is that on Thursday, at the last Yankee home game that Jeter played, the Mets own (season-ending injury) Matt Harvey sat in the field box, tweeting and Instagramming the shit out of his #RE2PECT experience at the House that Juice Built.

Once again, you’d have thought Harvey kicked someone’s dying dog or on the other end of the spectrum, malaise.  I was on the end of the malaise spectrum.  Harvey’s team was mathematically eliminated.  Harvey was injured all season.  I’m sure if this was a meaningful game with playoff implications, he’d have been in D.C.  And it wasn’t like Harvey was living out and proud.  If he had never tweeted or Instagrammed, we might not have realized it was him.

Who cares?  Derek Jeter may or may not have given Jessica Biel herpes or gave gift baskets to his conquests.  Matt Harvey has dated supermodels and flashed his middle finger prior to getting Tommy John Surgery and put it on Instagram for all to see.

See, though that is what makes Matt Harvey a “bad guy” in Mets lore.  This is also the same guy who got a quote tattooed on him to honor his aunt who died from cancer several years ago.

Sometimes, things aren’t what they seem.

Horrible, HORRIBLE person, that Matthew Harvey.

But this was what I absolutely love about Harvey, and what I think most fans like about him too.  He has a #ZeroFucksGiven attitude.  He’s a rock and roll bad ass.  And to thrive on a New York Mets team, one has to have that attitude to not only be embraced by the fans, but also to not be afraid to win.

For too many years, the Mets have invested their energy and not to mention money on players who have some kind of milquetoast bland personality, a counterpart to the tenured guy in the Bronx.  But when have Mets fans EVER responded to guys like that?  History has dictated that we like the assholes.

Tom Seaver, the Franchise himself, is revered in Mets culture; yet he is widely known as an insincere douchebag.

Jose Reyes and the Mets parted ways a few years ago, yet most fans loved his “play hard” attitude.  However, I think his play hard and **shock horror** fun attitude towards the game rubbed the highers-up the wrong way.

Mike Piazza loved heavy metal guitars and classic rock.  He was feared when he came to the plate, and had VooDoo Child as his entrance song and you just KNEW he was gonna kick some ass.  I said last year at his Mets Hall of Fame induction ceremony that we needed another rock n roll bad ass like him on the team.  Though in 1999, he was surrounded by characters with whom we could all find someone to identify.

Look no further than the boozing, brawling, drugging 1986 Mets as the most bad-ass of them all.  Shit, four guys got ARRESTED in a barroom brawl, and we fuckin loved it.  Funny how we point to a guy like Kevin McReynolds sucking the personality out of the team, while he was an incredibly underrated player, his lack of an attitude rubbed us the wrong way.

This is what gets me, though.  The Mets have positioned themselves as like this “family friendly alternative” with milquetoast boring guys like David Wright as the “face of the franchise,” when the teams we’ve endeared ourselves to had panache and shitloads of personality.  Much like New York City itself.  The only thing the Mets have failed at is being a poor man’s version of the Yankees.  And it’s an insult to poor men everywhere. Not to mention, an insult to most Mets fans’ collective intelligence.

Here’s my take.  Let’s stop trying to be this milk-drinking-wow-wee-golly-gee-whiz-milquetoast team.  Embrace the weirdness that is being a Mets fan, and let’s love the rock-n-roll bad asses for bringing something different to the table.

Do we really want a lot of boring David Wrights on the team?  Or bad ass Matt Harveys with a “IDGAF” attitude?

You decide.  I like the Zero Fucks Given personality on my sports teams, myself.