Sunday, April 3, 2011

Brace Yourself, Friends, For This Is The End Of Days

What I'm about to write might seem somewhat odd considering that the two ominous portents I'm about to discuss are, in theory, really good news. Really, they are. But I'm having difficulty coping, and considering there are bizarre occurrences aplenty popping up all over the globe, I'm inclined to believe that we're just days away from frogs dropping from the skies.

I mean, seriously. It's a statue of Michael Jackson at a Premier League soccer stadium. A goddamn scare one at that.

So yeah, that's the first incident of late that can really make you think, but in my life the more immediate things to notice are not so much colored by a diamond-studded glove as they are colored by, well, blue and orange. I refer of course to those two apples of my eye -- and by apples of my eye I mean, "those kids who disappoint you because they develop a drug addiction but you love them anyway".

Ah, curiosity, the name is the Mets ... or Knicks.

So what is my point here? Well, I'll get to it. After the Mets dropped their first game of the 2011 season in uproariously bad fashion, they somehow crafted a comeback Saturday night in an eventual 10-inning win over the Marlins to even the record at 1-1. Today with the rubber match looming, the Amazins didn't have to worry about making things close as they completely smacked around Javier Vazquez in a 9-2 romp. So what we have here is a Mets team that, despite its expectations for being utterly terrible this season, actually has a winning record three games into the season.

I know. I know. There are 159 left for them to lose disastrously, but for the time being, New York is on pace to go 108-54, and I'm perfectly fine touting that. Granted, this would hardly be the first time I've decided to relish in a flukish early-season run -- if three games could even be called a run -- but lease, let me enjoy it while I can.

So where do the Knicks fit in? Well, not only did they finally get over the bizarre hump tonight of actually defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers, but in doing so the Knicks sealed their first playoff berth since 2004. Ah yes, the heady days of 2004. When men were men, women were women, Barack Obama was a little-known state senator in Illinois, the Boston Red Sox were still eight and a half decades removed from their last World Series and I was but a freshman in college who thought it was ridiculous to assume the Knicks would go seven more years before reaching the postseason.

So, you know, it's been a while. But what might be more bizarre to wonder is just how long it's been since these both happened at the same time.

That would be the night of April 5, 2001, when the defending National League champion New York Mets beat up the Atlanta Braves 7-1 at Turner Field to go 2-1 on the season, and the Knicks were heading toward an eventual first-round loss to Vince Carter and the headband bedecked Toronto Raptors.

That would be the first time since 1991 that the 'Bockers failed to get out of the first round, but surely, I thought, that was just a blip. Ever since the Knicks had seduced me with their wild run to the 1999 NBA Finals, I had assumed sustained success would be the norm. Even with the uneven trade of Patrick Ewing, Kurt Thomas, Latrell Sprewell, Allan Houston and Marcus Camby formed a core that would continue contending much like the Knicks of Ewing, John Starks and Anthony Mason.

Good one, right?

But see, I had generally assumed that things would always go well for me because I was in the midst of the best stretches of sports fandom my life has known. The Knicks' run to the 1999 Finals was a precursor. First the Devils won the 2000 Stanley Cup and then a 10 month stretch starting in October of 2000 saw three of my favorite teams reach their respective championship rounds.

At the time I didn't even realize it, perhaps because all three of them lost, but the Mets reaching the 2000 World Series foreshadowed the Giants surprising run to Super Bowl XXXV, which begat the Devils once again getting to the Stanley Cup Final in June 2001 before falling in Game 7.

Yes, they lost, but this was an unprecedented run of success for me that I foolishly took for granted at the time. I won't go so far as to assume this is a sign of sustained success. After all, only a fool would expect the Mets to finish this season with a winning record, but it is nice to dream. This is, as far as my life is concerned, a rare time. And it gets even rarer when I take note of the fact that the Devils, who I was desperately pushing for the comeback to end all comebacks on, were officially knocked out of the playoff hunt with a loss to Montreal Saturday night.

Clearly, that's not a positive thrown into this, but two teams doing well is better than just one. The last time New Jersey missed the playoffs was 1996, but they weren't eliminated until the last day of the season when former-Devil Tom Chorske capped a surprising win by the Ottawa Senators, but that wasn't until April 13, at which point the 1996 New York Mets had already fallen below the .500 mark ne'er to return. That means the last time this particular troika occurred was in 1989, and since I was not even at my fourth birthday in April of 1989, it may as well have never have happened as far as I'm concerned.

In fact, it was so long ago that this guy hadn't even been drafted yet.

Of course, I'm not too worried about the Devils making it back next season. Anyone who watched how they played in the second half can clearly note that the abysmal first 33 games were a bizarre fluke.

The Mets and Knicks both being on the upside of things, however, that is a much rarer thing to note. It is so rare, that it may just not last the week once New York makes its first visit to Philadelphia for the season. Hopefully that isn't a case, but I'm a realist. My only real hope is that the next time that rare combo of the Knicks making the playoffs and the Mets having a winning record occurs isn't 10 years from now.

Also, I pray the rapture hasn't happened first.

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