Wednesday, April 24, 2013

You know, I really can't believe it took this long

As I documented here some time back, my first New Jersey Devils game that I ever saw in person was Dec. 7, 1995. I was 10 years old, seeing hockey games in person were still an exciting novelty as opposed to a enjoyable run-of-the-mill activity, and the Devils had called up some young pup for a one-game cup of coffee named Patrik Elias. The Devils lost that game to Toronto, 2-1. I distinctly remember Ken Daneyko getting called for a penalty in the final minutes that effectively sealed the game and Daneyko angrily banging on the glass as he was being locked into the penalty box. The AP recap makes no mention of this, though Daneyko did have 14 penalty minutes in the game, but it does misspell Elias' first name as "Patrick".

That was 17 and a half years ago.

For perspective, in that span of time my life has changed in the same dramatic number of ways that anyone's could between the ages of 10 and 27, and perhaps most insanely, the man who scored New Jersey's first goal that night, Petr Sykora, was one of several players I interviewed last spring at the 2012 Stanley Cup Final Media Day. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey's starter that night in 1995, was also one of them.

I'm not sure if that says more about how my life has changed than it does about the remarkable longevity of those two particular players, but either way, it has been a long, long time since I saw that first game at Brendan Byrne Arena. Since then I've seen the Devils play in several different buildings with even more names and and I have been at dozens of games. In that span, New Jersey has won nine division titles, four conference championships and two Stanley Cup championships in addition to the one the team won six months before my first game. I have been at a number of games that were pivotal in both the regular season and each of those runs. I was in the stands at both the Conference semifinals and the Stanley Cup Final in 2003 and I went to a total of four playoff games during the Devils' run to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final a year ago.

Last night, however, was a first. I went to a game that was completely meaningless.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Easy to be Harv

I'm pretty sure that like most Mets fans, I woke up this morning attempting to forget that the last four days ever happened. Sure, there was the one bright moment when the Mets briefly donned Frank Tanana-era throwbacks, but after two snowstorms, three delays or postponments, a blown six-run lead and, oh right, three losses in three games, it would probably do us all a bit of good to forget about the most disastrous trip out west since the Donner Party got stuck. It was a brutal 96 hours in which New York's offense slowly started to fall back to Earth and the bullpen pitched if not worse than I would have then certainly no better.

So, yeah, that was fun.

As New York comes home and licks its wounds, a 7-4 start that seemed strangely filled with promise is now a discouraging and mediocre 7-7, and the truth is becoming readily apparent that not only will the Mets not compete this season, but it seems like the only joy in watching them might come from watching Matt Harvey.

But, boy oh boy what joy that looks like it'll be.

Harvey just might be the only light at the end of the Mets' tunnel right now, which isn't to say the roster is bereft of quality talent. Obviously David Wright is still an All-Star caliber third baseman and the face of the franchise, but Wright, Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy and any other mainstay that has an opportunity to stick around for the franchise's (hopefully) impending renaissance is a known-quantity; they are the intimacy between a married couple that is still enjoyable but without the excitement and mystery that once made everything special.

Until Zack Wheeler makes his debut in the Major Leagues sometime this summer and until top-tier catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud joins him -- which apparently could be much further away than anticipated -- this will be the Harvey show as we all look to learn more about him and make his starts appointment viewing. In not instance is that fact more clear than tonight when Harvey's spot in the rotation is coming up in the Mets' return home opposite Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I forgot that these words could be put on paper in this order

Ladies and gentlemen, the New York Knicks have won the Atlantic Division Championship.

Yeah, I know. It sounds weird, right? In my rational, probability-driven point of view I know that it was probably unlikely I would go the rest of my life without seeing the Knicks win an NBA title, let alone a mere division crown, and yet, it still seems a bit odd. After all, last year when the 'Bockers won their first playoff game since I was a sophomore in high school and that alone was a bizarre sensation, which I detailed at length. But when you take sheer odds into account, and then add in the multiple biases in New York's favor (a big market rife with marketing opportunities that attract top players, general franchise cache that does the same, the ability to spend large amounts of money), it would be silly to think the Knicks were forever doomed to the mediocrity I had grown accustomed to.

And yet, it still seems strange. But here we are.

Last night, by virtue of their 120-99 thrashing of the Washington Wizards, the Knicks, winners of 13 in a row and of 50 games for the first time in 13 years, clinched their first division championship since 1994, when, in case you're wondering, I was a few months shy of my ninth birthday.

Now, if we're being honest, this is a largely meaningless distinction given how little of an advantage division winners have when it comes to seeding, matchups or even home-court advantage in the NBA Playoffs. But it's still a nice little reminder that most tunnels, no matter how long, have some light at the end. Unless you root for the Chicago Cubs. Still, while the Knicks have made playoff appearances the last two seasons and a start (and apparently a finish) to this one that makes them look like a championship caliber team, in many ways as a fan you still need concrete tangible signs that the franchise is taking decisive steps in the right direction. This, even though it will never actually be signified with a banner in Madison Square Garden, most certainly qualifies.