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Posted: Thursday, April 3, 2003 12:00 am

The Rangers’ slim playoff chances ended for all intents and purposes last Wednesday night when they were humiliated at Madison Square Garden by the lowly Pittsburgh Penguins who came into the contest winless in their last 16, that’s right, count ’em, 16 games. To add insult to injury, the Penguins played without their best player, team owner Mario Lemieux, who was out with back spasms. As one veteran hockey writer said, “The Penguins are a minor league hockey team and they are still better than the Rangers.” The Broadway Blue Shirts, despite their $80 million payroll, are now likely to miss the NHL playoffs for the sixth straight year.

While Canada has not received the vitriol from Americans which France has, our neighbors to the north for the most part are not in agreement with President Bush’s decision to take military action in Iraq. “The Star Spangled Banner” was loudly booed when it was played at Montreal’s Molson Center prior to the start of a recent Islanders-Canadiens game. Wayne Gretzky, who fully supports President Bush’s decision, has taken heat from a lot of his countrymen. A few fans even desecrated his statue outside the Edmonton Coliseum by spray painting “U.S. Lackey” on it.

The field of sports vision is a growing field in the world of optometry and ophthalmology. Dr. Donald Teig an optometrist who regularly consults both the Knicks and the Yankees, was at the International Vision Expo held last month at the Javits Center. Surprisingly, visual acuity, the ability to see 20/20 or better without corrective lenses, is not a prerequisite for athletic achievement, according to Dr. Teig. Half of the players on the Knicks’ 1994 team wore contact lenses and they made it to the seventh game of the NBA Finals.

“The key to an athlete’s success is eye-hand coordination and that kind of motor skill can be taught and constantly improved upon,” he states. Dr. Teig is also wary of laser vision correction surgery for professional athletes although he is not surprised by the number of celebrity athletes who are paid endorsers for eye surgeons. “While laser eye surgery does improve your distance vision, there have been studies which show that it also diminishes depth perception and increases problems with glare,” Dr. Teig claims. That certainly does not bode well for outfielders or wide receivers.

Congratulations to the St. John’s men’s basketball team for making it to the Final Four. OK, so it’s the NIT Final Four and not the more famous and lucrative NCAA version. Hey, let’s not quibble over details. No one is happier about the Red Storm’s NIT success more than the executives at host Madison Square Garden who frankly haven’t had much reason to smile this year. The NIT has not been well-attended in recent years and having a New York college playing in it can only help.

Former Hollis resident, NBA legend, and current CBS college hoops analyst Kareem Abdul-Jabbar interviewed recently for the position of Columbia University men’s basketball head coach’s job. The vacancy was created when Columbia fired Armond Hill last month. Most people feel that Hill was canned because the Lions failed to win a single game in Ivy League competition last season. Since losing is the norm, and some cynics might even say a tradition at Columbia, I have my doubts that was the reason for Hill’s dismissal. My guess is that not enough of Hill’s players were getting into top-tier law and medical schools.

Why do I get the feeling that the Middle East will be a region of tranquility before the YES Network and Cablevision are able to do business with each other.

Welcome to the discussion.