July 1, 2022

The Only Football

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New York sports finally on the way back up after…

5 min read
New York sports finally on the way back up after...

“I always turn to the sports section first. The sports page records people’s accomplishments; the front page has nothing but man’s failures.” — Earl Warren

The former Chief Justice might have been confused if he’d been living in and around New York City the past few years. Oh, there’s been plenty of misery on the front page, sure, because there’s never a shortage of that. 

But our back pages? 

Yeah. There’s been an awful lot of failure there, too. So much so there’s no need to recount it all. Let’s just call it an extended malaise. A persistent pall. A depressing descent. Accomplishments? On our sports pages? Please. 

But to borrow and paraphrase another applicable quote out of Bartlett’s: It is morning in New York City. It is 60 degrees and clear with a high expected of 80, tempered by a cool breeze, backlit by a sun so bright it all but chuckles in the blindingly blue sky above. 

Or at least it feels that way, doesn’t it? 

Look around: The Rangers are the talk of the town, and the talk of the NHL — a bunch of kids and veterans who have begun to click at the precisely perfect moment. We kept hearing: Wait till they play someone. We kept hearing: Wait till they have to face better than a third-string goalie. We kept hearing: They’re a year or three away. 

The Rangers celebrate during their Game 2 win over the Lightning.
The Rangers celebrate during their Game 2 win over the Lightning.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

And will you look at what we’ve gotten: a couple of comeback playoff series victories. Two games against the two-time defending champion Lightning in which they’ve looked like they’ve been skating 7-on-5, helping to turn Andrei Vasilevskiy into a no-checking adult league slice of Swiss cheese. And a new sense of, “Why NOT us? Why NOT now?” 

But there’s more, so much more. 

The Yankees win every day. They beat you on the mound now, with pitching that is shake-your-head dominant. Aaron Judge is on pace for 60 home runs and for $40 million per year. They pound you some days. They break your heart with 5 o’clock lightning some days. They look awfully … ’98ish, for lack of a better term. 

The Yankees own MLB’s best record.
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

The Mets were winning every day until a couple of hiccups in Los Angeles the past few days, but they have already built themselves such a cushion in the NL East that they can survive it. They find different ways to win, different heroes every day, and already know they have lined up the best deadline-deal addition that anyone’s ever had: Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom, sometime (hopefully) in July. 

But there’s more! 

Jets and Giants fans are taking a moratorium from hating their teams. As bad as professional football has been around here, as angry as the masses have been, there seems to be genuine hope fostered on either end of the city’s NFL divide. The Jets drafted well, are building things the right way, and sure look like they’ll be at the least competitive despite a brutal schedule that’ll greet them right away. 

Giants fans? Just the exile of Dave Gettleman alone would’ve improved their moods, but the fact is that it is impossible not to believe the team is in capable hands now with the Joe Schoen-Brian Daboll tandem. Things have been so bad for so long that the fan base not only willingly but willfully accepted the notion of a total rebuild, and all a fan asks is that the caretakers of that plan know what they’re doing. That seems to be the case. 

Brian Daboll
Brian Daboll
Noah K. Murray-NY Post

Heck, if you’ve been paying attention, things are even heating up nicely on Utopia Parkway, where Mike Anderson has reshaped his roster into one that — at least on paper — sure seems like it should occupy the upper realm of the Big East next winter, and things around here are always brighter and better when the Johnnies have a crack at the NCAAs. 

Is it perfect? 

Of course not. Ask a Knicks fan. Ask a Nets fan. Ask a Devils fan. Ask an Islanders fan. But, then, we’ve long been well past hoping for perfection. All we’ve wanted is the reassembly of Earl Warren’s perfect newspaper: skells and crooks on Page 1, good stuff on the back. Lately, we’ve started to get the good stuff back. Morning in New York City.

Vac’s Whacks

I don’t want to add to Knicks’ fans depression, but if the Celtics do what it seems like it’s their manifest destiny to do, that’ll make four entirely different iterations of Boston teams — Havlicek-Cowens (1974, ’76), Bird-McHale-Parish (1981, ’84, ’86), Garnett-Pierce-Allen (2008) and now Tatum-Brown-Smart — to hang banners since the last Knicks title. 

Speaking on behalf of some simmering Islanders fans I’ve talked to the past few days: Where was this Lightning team last year? 

Nice job by Nestor Cortes — who’s learned his own difficult lessons this year about how impactful words can be — going out of his way to let Jim Kaat off the hook for that ill-advised rhyme the other day. 

Nestor Cortes, Jim Kaat
Nestor Cortes, Jim Kaat
Getty (2)

Not quite hate-watching “The Staircase” on HBO yet. But getting there.

Whack Back at Vac

Kevin Bryant: It’s a treat watching the entire Yankees starting staff play “Anything you can do I can do better.” 

Vac: If they are going to throw six and seven perfect innings every game, I would declare the Yankees a very difficult team to beat. What a run they’ve been on. 

John Cobert: The Mets have a barehanded fan carrying a baby who fields better than the Phillies. 

A Mets fan catches a homer while holding a baby in his other hand.

Vac: I couldn’t have been the only one who saw that guy catch that ball and immediately wondered what the missus was going to say to him a few hours later, right? 

@BonniesFan6543: Did Brian Kelly really just say an LSU football player wouldn’t want to be traded to St. Bonaventure? Did he say it in his super-fake Cajun accent? 

@MikeVacc: Fun fact: St. Bonaventure football has won just as many Division I FBS championships as Brian Kelly. And St. Bonaventure football has been defunct since 1953. 

Mike Salogub Sr.: It’s a sad reality that there was no Yankees game scheduled on Memorial Day and none on July 4. Rob Manfred isn’t to blame wholeheartedly, but the buck stop with him. What would the Boss have done? All I know he would not be happy! 

Vac: Every time I see a team has an off-day on those days I swear it’s a typo.