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It’s been 30 years since the New York Islanders won their last Stanley Cup, and frankly, they have been abysmal for most of the years between 1983 and now. During this labor-dispute-shortened National Hockey League season, the Islanders played respectably enough to earn their first playoff berth in seven years as they clinched the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Islanders drew the unenviable assignment of playing Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins, long an NHL powerhouse, in the first round. To their credit, the Isles showed that they weren’t merely happy to be there, as they battled hard to force the series to six games. Unfortunately for the Isles, they lost two overtime games at the Nassau Coliseum, including Saturday night’s finale.
After the great comeback World Series win of 1986, the Mets stayed a strong team for years and broke new attendance records, but a dynasty was not to be. Injuries were to blame in 1987 — sound familiar? As the eighties turned into the nineties, some of the team’s biggest stars were traded, and Manager Davey Johnson, who couldn’t get them into the Big Show again, was fired.
The Mets celebrated their 25th season with their second world championship, coming from behind to beat the Boston Red Sox in seven games. The most unforgettable highlight was the two-strike, two-out, bottom of the 10th inning moment in Game 6 when announcer Vin Scully of NBC called out, “It gets through Buckner!” as a Mookie Wilson roller got past the Boston first basemen, Bill Buckner, scoring Ray Knight to win the game and setting up Game 7.
It’s the Big Eighties. Ronald Reagan’s in the White House, fans are flocking to see the third Star Wars movie, “Return of the Jedi,” Cabbage Patch dolls are flying off the store shelves — and the Mets are building what will become their best team since the Miracle squad of 1969.
When Howard Beach’s Pia Toscano was surprisingly voted off “American Idol” last Thursday, in spite of all of the insider scuttlebutt that had her as the sure winner, it wasn’t the only time last week a safe bet in South Queens suffered a surprise loss.
That same illusion of inevitability appeared to exist in the thoroughbred world as Uncle Mo, owned by Middle Village native Mike Repole, founder of Vitaminwater, Energy Kitchen and Pirate’s Booty, was being touted as the favorite for the Kentucky Derby. Uncle Mo was even drawing comparisons to such past Triple Crown winners as Secretariat and Seattle Slew.
Even though the Mets had just dropped eight out of their last nine games before taking on the Yankees in the Bronx last Friday, the mood in their clubhouse was upbeat. Even their normally taciturn manager, Willie Randolph, was joking around.
It all came down to the towels.
Rational Mets fans have to be satisfied with the results of the 2006 season in spite of the fact that their team failed to advance to the World Series. If anyone had told you in June that the Mets would be without the services of two of their best starting pitchers—Pedro Martinez and Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez—the odds are that you would not think that they would make it out of the first round of the playoffs, let alone force a seven game series with the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series. Mets fans can take solace from the terrific job both John Maine and Oliver Perez did filling in. Neither one of those two was on the Mets’ radar screen at the beginning of the season.
ýThere is no crying in baseball,” uttered Jimmy Dugan, the crusty baseball manager played by Tom Hanks in the 1992 film about women’s professional baseball during World War II, “A League Of Their Own.” I guess that now-famous line does not apply to hockey, as Mark Messier went through a truckload of Kleenex at his Madison Square Garden press conference to formally announce his retirement the day before the Rangers would formally retire his number “11.”
Even before the seventh and deciding game of the World Series took place last Sunday night between the Yankees and the Diamondbacks, it was clear who the losers were going to be, namely CBS and ESPN. CBS was hoping that the twice-postponed 53rd annual Emmy Awards would be a ratings bonanza while ESPN was seeking higher than usual ratings for its lackluster Sunday Night Football as they had the Jets make a rare appearance in a game in New Orleans against the unpredictable Saints. You can’t blame Fox Sports executives for grinning like Cheshire cats at the success of the surprising Arizona Diamondbacks.