Month: January 2012

All-Star Follies

I haven’t been a fan of the MLB All-Star Game for a few years.  I think my tipping point was in 2006.  I remember reading some quotes from some players on the Houston Astros who were like, “I won’t be losing any sleep if the NL loses, ha ha.”  Yeah.  My ass.  That’s what happens when you make something that is a glorified exhibition game between players whose team more than likely won’t be making the playoffs to determine home field advantage for a game that the All-Star game has no bearing on.  If you can follow that circular reasoning.

Anyway, I’d had enough of the game when I saw Miguel Cabrera Dorn an easily playable ball in the 9th inning when the NL was leading, and Trevor Hoffman successfully blew the save and the NL went on to lose.  Hoffman’s team had made the playoffs later that season; Cabrera’s team had no shot.  It didn’t matter.  There is a disconnect between what the game actually means in the long run to what the players are actually playing for.

Well, fuck that noise.   I’d had enough of the All-Star Shit Show.  And it’s not much different in the other sports I follow.

My dad once told me of an NHL All-Star Game that one of the teams won by a margin of like 2-1.  It sounded like a great game.  There was a level of competitiveness that the players had and maybe a sense of pride.  You don’t really see that anymore.  It’s now more of a “I can score more goals that you can.”  It’s a combination of “I don’t want to deface this property” or Roger Dorn-ism that these players are voted in.  It’s supposed to be an “honor,” but at the end of it, all it becomes is a shit show.

Like the NHL All-Star Game.  I didn’t know if I should have been happy that Marian Gaborik was the MVP…or upset that he owned our Henrik Lundqvist, among others.  I have to say, I was talking about that whole players choosing their own teammates thing, it’s basically Fantasy Hockey.  On one hand, it’s a novelty, and at the end of the day, it’s just an exhibition game.  On the other, I guess I did like the whole Eastern Conference vs Western Conference.  It’s got kind of a Old Timers’ Feel to it (especially when they encouraged Gabby to mimic Artem Anisimov’s “shoot the duck” pose after scoring and a “mini-brawl” broke out, sort of).

It doesn’t count, unlike the MLB game, so that’s cool.  Yet, I have a hard time saying, hey, Gabby was MVP.  Gabby was MVP of what…crap?

And don’t get me started on the Pro Bowl.  Nobody gives a crap about it!  It’s literally just filler for the week between the Conference Championships and Super Bowl.  And that’s it.  Judging from the amount of people who actually watched it, seems like others could give a crap either.

I kind of like the week off of NHL games though.  As a fan, the break is a little welcome, so I can reflect.  But I was ready to jump because there were no sports on Sunday.  No sports!  I’d rather watch nothing than the All-Star Games or Pro Bowl or whatever shit show there is.  But that’s just me talkin’.

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How Swede It Is

How did the Rangers get so many delicious Swedes on their team?

Besides our King Henrik, one of the unsung heroes of this year’s team has been the young Carl Hagelin from Sveeden, ya?  Hagelin has been getting his due, being named to the NHL All-Star Rookie Roster, and narrowly edging out Colin Greening on the Ottawa Senators (in his hometown for the All-Star Game!) in the fastest skater competition last night. He won’t let this go to his head, these titles are more for the bragging rights of fans anyway (which is why I’m writing about it).

Described as a “precocious rookie” by the Daily News, Hagelin joins his countryman Lundqvist along with Marian Gaborik and Dan Girardi in Ottawa to represent the Rangers in the All-Star Game.  In the short-time I’ve seen him though, I’ve walked away very impressed with Hagelin’s skills on his skates and how he can surprise the competition by coming out of nowhere.

Hagelin seemed to click right away with the Rangers’ senior offensive players, like Gaborik (who, in all fairness, has been clicking with everyone this year).  The New York Times provided some good insight into how Hagelin has come into his own in the NHL, given his background and gritty work ethic from his days at University of Michigan.  I’d say 16 points in 29 games, that’s pretty impressive for a young dude.   The law of averages will give us a better idea of what he can do later on.  You can look at it from both sides of the equation, though.  Does he have great support around him?  Yes, of course.  He also seems to be a victim of being young, but in a good way.  It seems like whenever I watch him, I don’t doubt he’s going to do something daring, and when he does it usually benefits the team.

I’m really liking this team right now that the New York Rangers got going on for them.  I love the tough “I-Don’t-Give-A-Shit” attitude from John Tortorella.  I love the hard-work, blue-collar ethic that these guys show by example, like Captain Cally, Gabby, Henrik, Del Zotto and Girardi.  Just this nose-to-the-grindstone stuff that fans can really get behind.  Hagelin fits right into that ethic.  His teammates at Michigan and coaches all agree that he’s a tough player and went above and beyond.

I’m excited to see how Hagelin pans out.  I love watching rookies as they want to pay their dues, and do so by good old fashioned hard work.  Go Hagelin.  And Go Sweden.  Perhaps we can share in some Swedish meatballs and lingonberries some day soon.

Fuckin’ Franco

I was never a John Franco fan.  Don’t get me wrong: great guy, local boy gone good, a St. John’s guy (my husband’s alma mater), fun dude.  When the Mets went to the NLCS in 1999, I’ll never forget Franco’s reaction as he ran towards Todd Pratt.  Franco was, in a sense, one of us.  But I still was never a huge fan.

Besides the rumors of his meddling in the clubhouse (which he staunchly denies, but I believe there is an element of truth to it), his part of Jeff Wilpon’s inner circle in his later years, I kind of felt like he overstayed his welcome.  Even in the beginning of his Mets career, he was just okay.  I felt like he was overrated.  But I was outnumbered (see: local boy gone good).  Plus, how can we forget that he was part of the reliever combo that my Aunt Melissa referred to not-so-affectionately as “The Heart Attack Twins” (along with Armando Benitez).

Like most Mets fans though, when he returns, I give him his due.  Nobody likes a party pooper, after all.  Yet, it’s a respect thing.  He spent 15 seasons with the organization.  He’s like the later generation’s version of Eddie Kranepool.  Today, we found out that Franco will be memorialized in the Mets Hall of Fame this summer.

But I mostly cheer him because I have a funny memory surrounding Franco.  It had to do with a game I attended with my dad in 1996.  It was a Sunday doubleheader in I think July of 1996.  NO ONE went to games back then.  Meanwhile, we had tickets in Row X in the Upper Deck.  The usher did take pity on us though, he told us we could move down to wherever we liked since no one else bothered to show up.

The first game was a real snooze fest, but the Mets had the lead going into the 9th inning.  As legend has it, John Franco comes in to “close” and lo and behold, blows the lead, leaving the game tied in the 9th, for the Mets to not come back at the bottom of the inning.

This had to have been one of the most boring games I’d have ever attended.   Meanwhile, Franco blows a perfectly good 9th inning lead.  We didn’t even stay for the end of the game, or the second game of the doubleheader for that matter.  The Mets ended up giving up a few runs in extra innings.  But the greatest gift of the day was from someone sitting in Row X in the Upper Deck.

“FUCKIN’ FRANCO!!!!!” is all we heard after the Mets gave up the runs.  Franco wasn’t in the game at the time, but he gave up a perfectly good lead that led to this.  And led to us not staying for game two.  It was just too exhausting.

Even though Franco is a good dude, I usually say, “Fuckin’ Franco!” whenever I see him or talk about him.  John “Fuckin'” Franco.  Congratulations on making the Mets Hall of Fame.  Despite my personal opinion of you, this is well-deserved and you do a lot for the organization.  I will be at the ceremony, since I celebrate all Mets, and I still like Franco as that “good guy.”  But to me, I’ll always add an “F” as his middle initial, unlike my Aunt Melissa’s term of Franco and Benitez, it is in a loving manner.

Hitting Close To Home

I have friends who are Mets and Reds fans.  I know someone who is a Flyers AND Isles fan.  I have a good friend from the West Coast who is an Oakland A’s fan and a Mets fan (Hi Jess!).

I don’t get it.  I have enough trouble following my one baseball team around the country, and some people are following two, maybe three for each sport!  And it’s not like these people I know who root for these teams have had marginal success over the years.

Something in common for those teams though: They’re geographically insignificant to each fanbase.  Rooting for geographically close teams in the same sport, though, is beyond my method of comprehension.  Mets AND Yankees.  Jets AND Giants.  I feel like there is too much of a conflict of interest, even if, as the saying goes, these teams don’t impact one another directly.

I’ve been fortunate.  Two of my teams won championships in a very short amount of time in my fandom.  Whether they will again in my lifetime remains to be seen.  The Jets constantly tease me and it pisses me off.  Part of my 11-year old mind in 1987 told me to become a Giants fan.  I guess being naive and not understanding the futility of being both a Mets and Jets fan (and Rangers, who at the time, hadn’t won a championship since 1940), I thought they’d just win some other time.

By 2008, I had some choice words for my dad.  “It’s bad enough you’ve made me a Mets and a Rangers fan…but a JETS fan?  What were you thinking?”  Like most of 1969, I’m sure my dad rooted for them in a drug-induced haze and just stayed because he knew nothing else.  But the Giants on my watch have won three Super Bowls, and the Jets none.  But I don’t root for the Giants.  They’re not my team.

Throughout my football fandom, though, I never hated the Giants.  They had more success than us.  Hell, my friend Sully over at Sully Baseball says that New York gets this aura of “championship town,” but it’s hard when you’re a Mets, Jets or Rangers fan (though the Mets and Rangers did have ONE parade in my lifetime) because it’s mostly Yankees and Giants.  So naturally, like many Yankee “fans” I know (because I know fans without the quotes), it’s easy, in my opinion, to root for the Giants because they’ve won many championships.  Especially in my lifetime.  I get angry with my dad and I get upset with myself.  Because goddammit, I couldn’t even make a sport I’m the least invested in easy for myself.

People who root for the Mets and Yankees…okay.  TOTALLY don’t get it.  The rivalry doesn’t make as much sense as it did when it was clearly the NL town versus the AL town, but it’s deeply rooted in history.

Now, most Mets fans had the nine layers of hell series in 2009, when the hated Phillies faced the hated Yankees.  I didn’t watch.  Scenarios occurred that I was happy with, like Cole Hamels being exposed to be the bitch he was, Jimmy Rollins shutting the hell up and Chase Utley owning the Yankees (I’m one of the few Mets fans who actually likes Utley).  But there were some fans who felt the need to root for the one or the other.  Why?  WE HATE BOTH OF THOSE TEAMS.  WHY WOULD WE ROOT FOR ANY SIDE OF IT?  I was rooting for an epicenter to form at Yankee Stadium and suck both teams in and they never got to play.

But there were still some fans who momentarily forgot that they should never ever say the “Lets Go Yankees” chant, because they feel the need to root for someone.  What’s worse, some of these folks became the dreaded “homers” that these fanbases consider their own.  I call those people “frontrunners.”  Just to have something to cheer for.  But it’s more than just cheering.  It’s being happy AND reveling in the victory like it’s your own.  Is it a water cooler topic?  Is it a bragging rights thing?  If these teams are hated so much, why bother cheering at all?  Either way, as fans of a rival, whether manufactured or not, it doesn’t make sense to me.

Now this gets me to the Super Bowl.  Once again, we are faced with a dilemma, if you will, as Jets fans.  The hated Patriots face the Giants.  Notice I didn’t say “hated” Giants.  Because I don’t hate them.  For whatever reason, Giants fans have taken a HUGE dislike to the Jets fan population, at least those who are vocal on Twitter.

So most recently, it’s Giants fans who have made a Jets/Giants rivalry a “real” one, when it never was one.  Or maybe it was bubbling underneath and needed to come up.  Why would I actively root for a team that dislikes my fan base so much?  There are exceptions to every rule, but you get my drift.  It’s a Super Bowl where I could care less really about the teams.

It goes to the whole rooting for two teams.  I don’t get it.  Especially teams so geographically close.  My husband is a Seattle Seahawks fan.  If they went to a Super Bowl, and they weren’t playing my team, I’d be thrilled and excited.  The Seahawks don’t matter to me.  The Giants do and it’s geography, not to mention the success they’ve had in playoffs that the Jets do not have.  It’s easy to root for them and don’t deny it.

I do not buy the “Jets/Giants rivalry isn’t anything like Mets/Yankees.”  If one is a Jets AND Giants fan, one is taking the easy way out because chances are, you will have a local team to support when the going gets going.

This is not a Miss Manners post on who to root for.  Just don’t be a homer.  I don’t like the Patriots, but I respect them.  I don’t dislike the Giants, but I respect them.  It’s an easy situation for me.  I’ll watch the game.  I’ll eat carbs.  And that’s it.

A fan is someone who sticks with their team through the good, bad and ugly, and doesn’t cherry pick a team to root for during the playoffs.   I would say that besides being a Mets/Yankees “fan,” a Jets/Giants “fan” is more of the same, since the Giants have had more success than the Jets ever had or look to have.  It’s an insurance policy, plain and simple.  If it was easy, we’d all be Yankees fans, and we’d all be Giants fans (in New York of course…and Boston fans need to stop complaining!).

And I still don’t get it.  I don’t know.  Must not be in my DNA.

Son of Beech. Sheet. Shoot Out.

I hate shootouts.

If there’s one thing you need to know about me is that I really really dislike shootouts.  I say it every time on Twitter when I have to watch one on TV.  I attended one live a few weeks ago, and I’m just getting to it now, here.  BlondiesJake said that I may not like it, but if you’re a fan in the stands, you aren’t leaving till it’s over.

I guess he has a point.  I didn’t leave till it was over.  But I still hated every second of watching it.  But luckily, I was in good company, so it was worthwhile.

Back in December, at my annual joint birthday party with Dee, our friend AM came to celebrate with us.  I have to say, that I didn’t know AM very well prior to this night. In fact, I had only met her twice prior to this night, evidenced by these photos below.

 

But we had so much fun at the party, we wondered why we hadn’t hung out till then.  So it was settled: a few days later, we decided to go to the January 11th game against the Phoenix Coyotes at the Garden.

It was a pretty boring game.  It was scoreless most of the game, and went into overtime anyway.  The most exciting parts were when AM and I walked around, as she hadn’t yet been to the “new” Madison Square Garden yet.

 

Though we passed sausage stands and a kosher Mexican stand, AM wanted a pretzel, and we were having trouble finding them.  One of the beer guys was selling popcorn.  We asked if he knew where to get pretzels.  He shrugged, said, “They’re hard to come by on this level.”  They were right behind him.

SMH.

We took a trip to the sky bar in the 400s, and we saw our boy Dancin’ Larry.  We got a dance from him later on too!  The biggest find of the night thought was AM finding the “Yoo-ling” beer.  (It’s an inside joke, let it go).

 

Up to the point of the shootout, the most exciting part of the night was seeing Mark Messier introduce the Pee Wee Rangers in between periods.

 

(And a shameless photo of us two girls)

But to get to the point of the shoot out.  My friend Rob and I have this saying when it comes to them.  “Son of beech.  Sheet.”  It’s from the movie “Stripes.”  Not one of my favorites, but a good quote from it.  But I kept saying it every time there was a shot on goal.  “Son of beech.  Sheet.”

To Jake’s point earlier, I know it keeps fans in seats, it’s not a “tie,” which is sort of boring.  But honestly, I guess I’m just old school.  Give me “Sudden Death,” or give me liberty.  Or something like that.  I guess I just feel like a season or a game should be decided on luck.  Then again, I guess one could argue that the game is predicated on that.  So there’s that.

I just don’t care for it.  Till the Rangers won one live.

There were tons of things that could have gone differently in the game.  But I guess that going with a new friend, and rooting for the Rangers, and seeing a Ranger win…there are worse things in life I suppose.  Like being a Jets fan.  Or a Mets fan.

Yeah.  Son of beech.  Sheet.

Go Rain-juhz.

IDK

I am a Jets fan.  I’ve made that clear on several occasions.  Hell, I even have a blog dedicated to my fandom of three teams, one of which is the Jets.  But football is a curious sport.  I came around late on football, although I always followed the Jets, it took me a long time to get into the rivalries and playoffs implications and having to pay attention to what other teams do.  Football is really for the ADD addled masses of our society.  It’s a one day thing (potentially spilling over to Mondays), and it gives you an excuse to drink beer, eat wings and go to bars on Sunday.  Not that a nice girl like me does things like that.

Okay.  You can stop laughing now.

Anyway, my point is, I never got Jets and Giants hating on each other.  I mean, whatever, I don’t dislike the Giants, I don’t exactly go out and buy their logo-emblazoned stuff, but I know many Giants fans and always am happy to see them happy.  This year, while watching Jets/Giants, I was at my mom’s.  Her boyfriend is a Giants fan (though if you ask me, he’s just a big NFC guy, he’ll make a special exception to the Baltimore Ravens because he likes their stadium.  Go figure).  She asked me what it was like watching a game with a Giants fan.  I shrugged.  He isn’t an idiot on Twitter, talking shit like they won the fucking Super Bowl.  But I was fine with it.  Besides, I knew the Jets season was over, win or lose.  It could have been, I dunno, the Packers for all I cared and I still would have felt “whatever” about it.

So now, I am walking around New York City, and EVERYWHERE I look, there is some kind of Giants thing around.  Whether it’s a booster, or someone posting a photo of Times Square, the Empire State Building…it’s everywhere.  This isn’t sour grapes or jealousy, it’s just something I thought of.  I was either ignorant to it or just maybe I was thinking of not jinxing anything (Yeah, remember what I said about the whole neuroses of sports fans earlier? I didn’t eat ANYTHING that was remotely Boston related when they played New England last year, and I also wouldn’t eat Heinz ketchup during the conference championship against Pittsburgh…yeah, I know)…but I don’t remember all this hullabaloo last year.

Yes, I know that the Jets practically “guaranteed” a Super Bowl entry.  I also like to point out that Mark Messier “guaranteed” a Rangers win almost 18 years ago, and ever since then, EVERYONE has “guaranteed” a win of fill-in-the-blank.  So whatever haterade coming towards the Jets is deserved.  But I seriously don’t remember such a big deal being made over the Jets last year.  I’d have barely known about it, except, I was a fan and the bar around the corner had beer specials.

I was talking to my Jets blogging touchstone, Jon Presser, earlier on Twitter, and we started off talking about the Mets, then I asked if there was this much attention being paid to the Jets last year.

I got a kick out of that.  After all, I’ve seen it myself.  I really don’t get it.  Football fans can hate whomever they want, but I’m sure there are teams that Jets fans should hate, and they’re not in the NFC.  I also don’t mind when Jets fans root for “New York,” though I don’t particularly do that myself.  Depending on the matchups, I decide who I am rooting for.  But that’s besides the point.  My issue is that Rex Ryan has said he doesn’t want the Jets to be “little brother” in this town.  They fell short, but I see what he means.  It wouldn’t have friggin mattered if the Jets went to the Super Bowl or won last year.  Because they didn’t make it this year, and the Giants are one game away from it, well, that is everything.  I know, woe is us, but I can’t catch a goddamn break with my teams. UGH!

When I said I didn’t dislike the Giants or their fans, yet it seems there’s an incredible amount of hatred towards the team in green, this was the response I got.

Well, look, here it is.  I wish my friends who root for the Giants the best of luck.  All I know is I will be a happy camper-ette if the Patriots lose.  Like Jon said, would the hypocrites come to roost, or because the team wasn’t expected to “do anything” this year, and they’re in the championship game, does it mean it was a success?

IDK.  But according to those same folks, the Jets not making it past the AFC conference game two years in a row meant nothing.  Well, I have to agree.  I would have liked it to go further and they didn’t do shit this year.  But if NYG’s don’t make it to the big show after Sunday, I don’t want to hear it.  Goddammit, anyway.

STFU Dolan

About seven (and change) years ago, my dad sent my uncle and me an email.  The Mets were doing well (as can be expected, with Art Howe at the helm), and he wanted to get excited about something.  Meanwhile my beloved Uncle Gene made the cardinal sin of writing in blue and orange caps in a very large font “LET’S GO METS!”

A few days later, “Black Friday” occurred and the Mets went on a losing streak, and that season was never to be.  Of course, my dad spent a majority of the time blaming Uncle Gene about his email.  To which Gene-oh replied, “Well, if you had written, I’d have blamed you too.”

Something else about the superstitious nature of fans.  When the reality is, it doesn’t matter if we wear a certain shirt, or hat, or as my friend Rob during the Rangers 1994 Stanley Cup run, forbid his bartender to clean out the ashtray where he was putting out his butts.  But I guess if we’re rooting for a certain outcome, and we’re a part of something larger than ourselves, I guess we need to shoulder some of the blame, or at least feel like it anyway.

The Rangers lost last night to the Pittsburgh Penguins.  It wouldn’t so entirely bad if it wasn’t two games after losing to the Canadiens.  By the same score.  4-1.  And almost the same situation occurred: Rangers fall 1-0 early in the game, come back to tie, then the opposition scores three in the last period.  If they hadn’t won the game before, maybe it would be a downer.  But it’s funny because everyone is talking about the “slump” that the Rangers are supposedly in.  Yes, they’ve lost three out of the last five games.  But they’ve still had a successful month, somewhat.

Yet, I go back to my dad’s “Black Friday” email, Rob’s cigarette refuse and our quirks that make us fans.  Some of us are dopes, that’s no doubt.  But the biggest dope of them all, our fearless owner James Dolan basically made sure that the Rangers wouldn’t get to the Stanley Cup Finals by referring to a pact that Glen Sather made with him a while back.  In this pact, there was an item exchange, and Dolan replied that Sather wouldn’t be able to return this item until the next time the Rangers won the Cup.

Bold statement, being at the time, the Rangers hadn’t made the playoffs in seven years.  But then he sweetens this piece of information by saying, “I think we’re pretty close to getting that thing back.”

I’d like to say that’s the first time an owner of one of my team’s has said something stupid.  After all, Fred Wilpon has had many of those moments, that keep getting repeated to this day.  Such as “skill sets” or “meaningful games in September.”  But, meh, whatever, Dolan made a bold statement, and possibly the media got out of hand by taking what he said out of context.  He didn’t say, “We’re a lock for the cup this year.”  He just said he expected to get that item back very soon.  “Very soon” could indeed be in the course of a few more seasons.  We don’t know.  This was a pact made years ago, and perhaps soon is just relative, right?

Oh, who am I kidding?  This is the type of drivel that Rangers fans are a) dying to pounce on and b) beat the crap out of Dolan for even THINKING it, not to mention saying it out loud.  Look, I’ve said that I love watching this team, because I feel like they can’t lose.  I go into every game as a fan thinking they have a shot to win.  This is a game, and we take the wins, we take the losses.  And it seems like Glen Sather finally took an opposite drink of whatever he was doing in previous years and actually built a good hard-working team that wants to win and wants to earn something.  I think that’s great.

Just don’t fuckin’ SAY it, Dolan.  Okay?  I mean, if they were on their way on the playoffs, I’d say it was fair game, even then ill-advised.  Since this is a guy who never opens his mouth except to put a bottle of alcohol in it.  Bold, yes.  Ill-advised, hell yes.  Just don’t say it.  They’ve lost two games by the same amount and everyone is freaking out.

We all do and say stupid shit as fans, that’s nothing new.  But when your owner says it, it’s easy to point and say, “It’s HIS fault this is happening!”  I would be lying to tell you I wasn’t thinking of the Cup this year, with the way this team has been playing.  Then there are games like the last few that make them seem like a real inconsistency.  Then again, you don’t win every game.  But next time, Jim, just shut your mouth.  No one wants to hear what you’re saying, especially a neurotic fan base.  Kthxbye.

A Time WARner

I have to admit, when in December I saw people standing around Time Warner Center (at Columbus Circle here in NYC) with signs protesting a future “break” of Time Warner with MSG, I didn’t think much of it.  Although I am a Time Warner customer, I thought for sure they wouldn’t or couldn’t be that stupid…that a midnight deal would be at hand certainly.

Of course, I was wrong.  On January 1, 2012, MSG went dark on Time Warner.  Not to fret, the channel wasn’t totally dead, but they introduced an NBA channel.  I guess that was a double-whammy for me: I don’t like basketball all that much, and they screwed me with my hockey.

I wasn’t totally hopeless.  For the most part, Time Warner did what it was supposed to do, and I figured they wouldn’t be gone long.  We’re more than half-way into the month, and still nada. I haven’t been able to find much headway into how the negotiations are, but at the end of the day, I haven’t felt more screwed as a customer.  I pay you, goddammit.  You should bring me what I need.  If you think about it, look at what these asses are arguing about: MONEY.  Like sports/entertainment/media channels or owners are hurting for that.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned…and taking away her hockey games to boot.  I took matters into my own hands, and in a few hours, I will be a new RCN customer.  This has SNY, MSG and MLB and everything a gal for all seasons could possibly want.  With their three-year locked in prices, I wonder what took me so damn long to switch over.

Well, Time Warner, it was nice knowing ya.  You really didn’t give me though what I need or anything over the top that no one else can provide.  So take your little WAR with MSG and stick it.  You lost a customer, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.  Now if only our owner would stop making claims about Stanley Cups.  After all, it’s something of a tease when a majority of your fanbase cannot watch the games on TV because you and other cable owners are too much of an asshole to get stuff done.

Something In The Air That Night

Coop and Metstradamus at Dodgertown, 2008

Mets buddy Metstradamus may have beaten me to the punch about this already, but I don’t remember him singing Fernando by ABBA when I saw him first time at Spring Training in 2008.  Okay, fine, it might have been me singing it…but that’s besides the point.

Once can’t-miss-prospect, Fernando “F-Mart” Martinez has been waived by the Mets…to make room for Scott Hairston.  I had to chuckle a bit at the irony.  For one, Hairston is a “buddy” of mine (and if you don’t believe me, check the picture on his Wikipedia page).  Second, I have a soft spot in my heart for F-Mart.  The last is that I’ve seen this story play out before, when Omar Minaya left Jesus Flores unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft for the likes of Julio Franco, the 1,000 year old man, for “veteran protection.”  Yet, I can’t disagree with this move because F-Mart has been a huge disappointment.  I place that blame squarely on his development with the organization.

Yet, I have a soft spot in the my heart for F-Mart.  He’s another cautionary tale of a can’t-miss-prospect yet at the same time the failings and flailings of the Mets minor league organizational cultivation.  If you look at Mets history, Roosevelt Avenue is littered with the bodies and ghosts of these once promising players only to see them flounder due to mishandling.  Billy Beane, Gregg Jefferies, Lastings Milledge, Aaron Heilman.  Most of them make us cringe with the thought of “MAKE IT STOP!!!!!”

F-Mart was different to me.  I never saw him as that golden boy status, because I guess in my heart I knew he wouldn’t amount to much.  I always saw him as that prototypical trade bait or someone who would move around to suit the likes of Carlos Beltran (the guy who ironically put the stop to Milledge and Martinez’s development with the big team).

Since CitiField opened in 2009, we’ve been waiting for that moment to stand up and cheer.  To that end, we’ve had three very disappointing seasons, and 2012 looks to be no different.  At the same time, we’ve all missed Shea, but I think that Shea provided those warm, fuzzy, mushy memories that we can all identify by being in the same house at the same time.  But in 2009, there were some glimmers of “maybe this place won’t be that bad.”  And one of those memories was Fernando Martinez making his big league debut.

Now, his debut didn’t amount to much.  I remember maybe his second or third start, he was caught not running out a foul ball, or what he thought was a foul ball, and it was an indication that maybe the minor league development teams weren’t doing their job in fundamentals.  By the time 2009 ended though, I called this game one of the Met-Nificent Moments of the year.  Why was that?  Well, my list, my rules.  But the game for me is what being a Mets fan is all about: making memories of your own.

We found out that day that F-Mart was being called up to make the start.  This was really the beginning of the end for that season: the AAA team being called up because of all the injuries.  That said, I had tickets to the game, and my friend Anthony who went by the moniker “Dykstraw” agreed to go with me.  We found out in the meantime that our friends El Duderino and Fort Greene Met Fan from the Brooklyn Met Fan motley crew were also going that night…the first time since Opening Day when I ran into them.  This was a coincidence: seeing F-Mart and seeing each other? Score.

By the time we arrived, it was close to first pitch.  El Dude and FGMF had texted me already, letting me know they were on the bridge, since they wanted food from Catch of the Day, the new seafood-themed food stand at CitiField, and it was right by the bridge.  Also bear in mind at this point, it wasn’t called the “Shea Bridge,” but it desperately needed a name.  This was the first game for me that I felt like CitiField could, indeed, be home.  When Anthony and I saw that Gene and Mia were going to be at the bridge at the beginning of the game, we figured we’d be near the food stands, and it was better than going to Guam for our real seats (up in Promenade).

Also, F-mart was starting right field that night.  We figured, if there was a play in the first inning, we’d see it better from the bridge anyway.  Oh, but wait, there’s more.  He would be batting in the first inning.  Well, we may as well stay put, since by the time we get to our seats, we’ll miss his first at-bat.

By the end of the game, we had spent the entire time on the bridge.  It’s moments like this that make me a Mets fan.  Mia and Gene bought calamari at the Catch of the Day stand, and we passed it around.  We passed around Box Frites.  Someone bought beers and passed them down.  I felt like we were at an Italian family gathering, and the baseball game was simply a backdrop.  Someone else from Brooklyn Met Fan noticed me and yelled, “Hey Co-Op!”  I was like, “Uh…it’s COOP!”  Another point, I struck up a conversation with another fan, who in turn bought us all beers, but asked me if I knew Joe from Mets Today.  Well, not only was I friendly with Joe…I was leaving him tickets for the next day!  Talk about a coincidence.

I’m pretty sure the Mets won that night, but it was really the fan camaraderie that made me really believe that, the team may be bad, F-Mart may not amount to much or anything really, but this was what kept me returning for more.  The beers, the food, the conversation, the jokes, the self-deprecating humor.

The Shea Bridge didn’t have a name that night.  Yet, secretly I still call it the “F-Mart Bridge,” because of that night.   Since I told all of you, it’s not so much a secret anymore.  Some people point to the fact that because the Mets don’t have a lot of quintessential Mets-ian players that their history might be flawed.  But it’s nights like this that give us a counterpoint in one another, the very idea that makes a Met fan a Met fan.  Good luck to F-Mart wherever he may go.  I won’t forget that first night you played.  You may have underwhelmed, but just know there were several people on the bridge rooting for you and wanting to see you do well.

The Unsung Hero

In baseball, some positions often are called “premium” or positions that can easily be “platooned.”  As an example, the 1986 Mets had a “platoon” at second base between Tim Teufel and Wally Backman (now, ironically, coaches within the Mets system).  It’s easy to get away with platoons at positions up the middle of the infield, and yet at catcher, a so-called “premium position,” there’s less guesswork.  Gary Carter was possibly one of the best defensive (not to mention offensive) catchers of his generation, and the Mets were lucky enough to have him.  At a premium position, it’s tougher to platoon since you technically need that strong play at every moment you can.  When Carter was hurt for a spell in ’86, Ed Hearn jumped in.  Hearn, though, was purely a “backup” catcher.  And there was technically enough offense to cover where he lacked in it.  Same goes for Barry Lyons the next season.  Or Todd Pratt and Jason Phillips when they, at one point or another, backed-up starter and All-Star Mike Piazza.

Hockey is different.  The elite goaltenders are few and far between, and more of the game hinges on their spectacular play.  They need to be smart, they need to be agile, and furthermore they need to combine all that to stand on their heads at times to make saves.  We’ve been fortunate that in the past, Mike Richter was one of those guys for the New York Rangers.  His back-up in the 1993-94 Stanley Cup run was Glenn Healy — a guy who could have by most standards been a starter someplace else.  As lucky as we Ranger fans are to have Henrik Lundqvist as our starter, it was a foregone conclusion that he needed a break every now and then, since a majority of the success of the team in 2010-11 was based on his performance.

Yes, hockey folks, a backup is just as a important for the goaltender spot on teams as their starter.  And luckily, the unsung hero of this 2011-12 team is none other than Marty Biron.  It’s comforting when your #1 goalie isn’t in the game that the backup can do a hell of a job not only filling in, but winning.

In baseball, the pitcher gets the stress of the whole win-loss thing, but some will argue that the W/L stat is one of the most overrated, while WHIP or ERA can provide a better picture.  In hockey though, much rides on the success and bulletproofness of a goalie.  Our King Henrik may be the guy we want starting every night, but John Tortorella has the right idea to give Biron the starts since theoretically, we’d rather save those crucial starts for the star goalie when it’s truly critical (like later in the season and in the playoffs).

The number of games Biron has started may skew the sample set a bit, but right now he’s sporting a 2.06 Goals-Against-Average (GAA), very respectable in its own right.  Our own Henke is according to the leaderboards fourth with 1.92 (the gold standard seems to be right around 1.90).  True Biron’s only played in 11 games, but it’s better to not give up many goals in those small amount of games, am I right?  As for others in this same position, the Boston Bruins have Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask in almost a straight platoon, and very similar numbers.

I’m the only one who has thought that Marty Biron’s performance has gone above and beyond the call of duty.  Blueshirt Banter believes the Rangers are doing right with Henke and Biron. Tortorella gave his vote of confidence by starting Biron three out of seven games as late as last month, not only spelling the rumors of giving Henke regular rest, but to give Biron some credit that he’s doing a good job.  Lastly, the Rangers have a lot of depth — at many positions.  NHL.com has eight reasons why the Rangers are in first — depth is one of them, Marian Gaborik’s performance is another, but Biron’s performance has given them a comfort level that they can still lean on Lundqvist, but it’s not as evident as it has been.

It seems the recipe for a good hockey team is to have a strong net minder.  This much is true.  I make no bones that I watch this team with a lot of excitement and enthusiasm, and they portray that on the ice each night, even on crappy nights.   To me, though, Marty Biron is one of the reasons why they are performing the way they are.  Perhaps the stepping up of Ryan Callahan as the “true” captain of the team, the pressure of free agent signing Bradley Richards is nonexistent, and likewise the pressure off Henrik Lundqvist having to be on this A-game every single night is out the window.  Marty Biron deserves a lot of credit for why the Rangers are where they are right now, and hopefully it’s the base for the future of this team for the year as well.