Monday, December 5, 2011

So This Is Like The Opposite Of A Hat Trick Night, Huh?

Some of you who know me may have noticed that a few years ago I started taking note of what I liked to refer to as "Hat Trick Nights". They are an obnoxious concept to be sure, but they're pretty fun, and essentially the idea, which you could probably piece together if you know what a hat trick is, is that on any given date that three teams you root for all win, you have a hat trick night. Bizarrely, I've found that hat trick nights happen both more frequently and less frequently than you expect, though it is easier when you like two different teams in a particular sport as I do in the NHL. The New Jersey Devils are my primary team with no equivocations, but given my brief internship with the Chicago Blackhawks in college, I have a soft spot for team No. 2.

That makes it easier to have a hat trick night in general, but without a doubt, the easiest night to have one is on a Saturday in the month of October or November. Why? Because on any given Saturday during that span I might have the Devils, Blackhawks, Northwestern football, Knicks, Mets or, hell, even Geelong FC or Southampton FC playing. That's a lot of chances to get three wins.

However, I've noticed lately that Hat Trick Nights have been in short supply. The Devils have been a streaky, mediocre outfit, the Mets did not make it to October (again), Northwestern forgot how to win for a solid month of the season and the Knicks, well, I can at least say they didn't lose any games even if they didn't win any either. So despite the fact that Southampton is off to a superb start in the nPower Championship and Geelong won its third Grand Final in five years, this has been a rough season for cumulative victories -- particularly if we choose to limit it to just North America.

But this Sunday something truly special happened -- and by special I mean "awful". This just my have been the denouement of Hat Trick Nights as I know them because while it isn't uncommon for multiple teams I root for to lose in a day, nor unusual for three of them to lose in a day, it is unusual that I have three sports-related events happen to me in one day that all quite so awful.

Allow me to count the ways.

The first big craptacular moment of the day came when Northwestern tipped off at 4 p.m. ET against Baylor. Normally a Northwestern basketball game is nothing to get excited about, particularly considering they are the only team in the six major NCAA conferences never to have reached the NCAA Tournament. That's a drought that spans more than seven decades. The next longest? 21 years.

So yeah, we're good.

Every year these days we flirt with being a bubble team, however, and with expectations high, many felt this, at last, could finally be the year, and with a home game Sunday afternoon against No. 7 Baylor, this was our chance to show we could play with the elite. An when all was said and done, the Wildcats proved that, uh, yeah, not so much. On the plus side, Northwestern did accept a bid to play Texas A&M in the legendary Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas in Houston on December 31. Even more exciting about this was that for a brief period the Boston Herald had a story up quoting Northwestern coach Randy Walker, which is a hell of a get for that reporter considering that Randy Walker's been dead for over five years.

Next up came my Giants, who looked like they had everything breaking for them on a day where they just had to win. This wasn't easy of course, because as I noted last week, the Giants were playing the undefeated Green Bay Packers in a game that may or may not determine if New York goes to the playoffs. In New York's bid to spoil a third perfect season in the last 13 years, the Giants gave the Packers everything they had and were it not for several minor breaks -- and perhaps one particularly tough to swallow incorrect call -- the G-Men might have ended Green Bay's dream of 19-0. Unfortunately, however, when New York managed to tie the game with 58 seconds left, that meant there were 58 whole seconds for Aaron Rodgers to make short work of the Big Blue defense. And he did so easily. On the plus side, because Dallas lost, the Giants, on a four-game losing streak and at 6-6, somehow control their own destiny for the NFC East crown.

Of course, while those two games were frustrating or disheartening, the real pain in the day came in the early hours of the evening, when word broke that Jose Reyes, homegrown Met and perhaps the most exciting player in the history of the franchise, was leaving for the beautiful new stadium, horrendous new uniforms and, oh yeah, $106 million of the Miami Marlins. Now to be fair, this is a player who has averaged some 90 games out of 162 a year over the last three seasons. He has a tendency to spend a significant amount of time on the DL, had an unusually high BABIP last year when he became the first Met ever to win a batting title and also bases his game around speed, something that won't exactly be improving as he gets older -- and he's already 28. For a rational thinking baseball fan, it's very easy to see how that contract could become a massive albatross after the first two years and from that perspective, I'm quite happy the Mets avoided committing so much money on such a risky investment. But that doesn't change the fact that Reyes was electric, dynamic, originally a Met and, most of all, fun. When Reyes was on, when he was healthy, he was so much fun to watch sprinting around the bases.

Even though my brain tells me the team is better off in the long run not committing that much money to a player with his injury history and style of play, losing Reyes physically hurts if you're a Mets fan.

And so when that final capitulation on the day fell, it occurred to me that days like Sunday, December 4, 2011, are the kind that you dread as a sports fan. Perhaps this was simply a hubristic payback for all the other times I had bragged about my hat trick days. Or perhaps it was just an unfortunate luck of the draw. Either way, I hope it's a feeling I don't have to suffer for quite some time again.

And if I wind up with a Hat Trick Night this weekend, well, that might make me forget all about it.

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