What my sports year of dreams would look like
Well, I guess this is one way to stanch our disappointing string of championship-free seasons around here: stop having any kinds of seasons.
I prefer the alternative, even if it takes place in an alternate universe, a fantasy world in which we are allowed to have the sports year of our dreams. What would that look like? Well, here’s what it would look like to me. But this is nothing if not a democratic column. If you have other candidates, let me hear them. For now, for me:
1927 Yankees: It says a lot about this franchise’s history that a team that won 110 games, that swept the World Series, that had Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig hitting 3-4 in the lineup every day, actually has competition for the title. But there’s 1961 — 109-53 record, Maris & Mantle — and there’s 1998 — 125 wins, including 11-2 in October. But the ’27 Yankees were Murderers’ Row, the original Bronx Bombers, and they basically terrified the Pirates into that Series sweep simply by taking BP before Game 1 at Forbes Field.
1986 Mets: Fewer choices, of course, but there will always be an element of Mets fan who will find it impossible to put the 1969 Miracle Boys anywhere but No. 1. And while it’s true that the ’69 team isn’t given as much credit as it deserved for being a fantastic team — you don’t win 100 regular-season games by accident, and they were 7-1 in the postseason — the ’86 team ran roughshod over the sport, winning 108 games in the regular season and eight more in October, most in exhilarating fashion.
1986 Giants: Some of the older teams might’ve captured the fans’ imagination more. The two Tom Coughlin championship teams provided two of the most satisfying sports experiences ever, foiling the detested Patriots. And against the Bills in Super Bowl XXV they played a virtually perfect game. But the ’86 team went 14-2, absolutely steamrolled two championship-quality teams in the NFC playoffs (the core of those 49ers and Redskins teams each won titles) and then obliterated the Broncos in Super Bowl XXI. They are the best of the blue.
1968 Jets: OK, we are now accepting applications for most appropriately sarcastic response to this team occupying the franchise’s personal Everest. It’s the only title in team history so it stands alone, without much company. If only the ’98 team could’ve held off the Broncos in the AFC title game, they would’ve almost certainly slaughtered the Falcons and won the title … but they didn’t. Same with the ’82 team that ran into the Mud Bowl in Miami.
1973 Knicks: Now this one will spark some debate, because it’s the ’70 team that always draws the most praise. But the Knicks were a far deeper team in ’73, with two extra Hall of Famers (Pearl Monroe, Jerry Lucas), a healthy Phil Jackson and an occasionally brilliant local star in Dean “The Dream” Meminger. The ’70 Knicks didn’t have to face a team nearly as tough as the 68-win Celtics the ’73 Knicks knocked off, and it took the ’70 Knicks seven games to beat the Lakers in the Finals when it only took the ’73 team five.
1974 Nets: Two years later, Julius Erving was at the very peak of his career. But in 1974, the Nets had what may have been the deepest 1-8 in ABA history — Dr. J, Larry “Mr. K” Kenon, Billy “The Whopper” Paultz, Super John Williamson, Brian Taylor, John Roche and Bill Melchionni — and blitzed through the playoffs, 12-2.
1994 Rangers: The thing to remember about the ’94 team that ended the curse was that it was no Cinderella story. It was loaded with talent, it was loaded with players (many ex-Oilers) who’d won before, and it probably should’ve won the Stanley Cup two years earlier, too. What was as impressive as ending the Curse was winning the Cup when they were the prohibitive favorites to do so.
1982 Islanders: The best of an epic four-year run. They were 54-16-10 in the regular season (including a 14-game winning streak) and after escaping Pittsburgh in the first round and outlasting the Rangers in a tough six-game series, they absolutely annihilated the Nordiques and Canucks in two sweeps, outscoring them 36-19. Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, Denis Potvin, John Tonelli, Clark Gillies, Bob Bourn and Bobby Nystrom were all under 30 and virtually unstoppable.
2000 Devils: After falling behind the Flyers three games to one in the Eastern Finals, coach Larry Robinson administered one of the most savage postgame tirades in hockey history. It remains legendary among a roster of dynamic players anchored by Martin Brodeur, Jason Arnott and Scott Stevens. These Devils bore little resemblance to the zone-trap warriors of 1995 that bored teams into submission.
Last Monday’s episode of “Better Call Saul” was one of the greatest hours of television imaginable, and if it doesn’t yield Emmy nominations for Bob Odenkirk (right) and Jonathan Banks, there’s something very wrong with the voting process.
If there is one good thing about a dearth of actual baseball games, it is a resurgence in people playing Strat-O-Matic again. One of many remarkable stats backing that up: Traffic on Strat-O-Matic.com on March 27, 2020, was 472 percent higher than March 27, 2019.
Hiring Ed Kull as its interim athletic director is one of the smartest athletic decisions Fordham has made in an awfully long time.
If I’m the Knicks, I would be quite delighted to have Cole Anthony still available at whatever draft slot they get.
Whack Back At Vac
Warren Wilhide: I think all of our heroic health care workers, police, firefighters, military, emergency teams, grocery clerks, transportation workers who go to work now wearing masks and gloves would little fear going to a sporting event if they wore gloves and masks with some social distance, and I think sports leagues should give them free tickets. It would show who are the real heroes in our country.
Vac: I can’t possibly believe there is even one citizen who wouldn’t sign up for this the moment the games come back to us.
John Twomey: As a senior at Fordham in 1971, and good friends with most of the guys on that team, I put Digger Phelps’ jumping his contract to go to Notre Dame as an equivalent of O’Malley stealing the Dodgers. Perpetually unforgivable.
Vac: And Digger heard about that every time he walked into the Garden for the rest of his career.
@mediamatt: One of the best things about watching old “This Week In Baseball” shows and baseball games from the 1970s and ’80s? Seeing highlights of great defensive plays, base stealing and tremendous pitching performances. Far less emphasis on home runs.
@MikeVacc: And, man, is it ever fun to hear Mel Allen narrating it all. By this point, I’d say there are more people who remember Mel as the voice of “TWIB” than the voice of the Yankees.
Mike Zingarelli: I was a freshman at St. Francis when Maurice Stokes’ funeral was held there. I still remember Jack Twyman and Oscar Robertson leading the procession. The friendship between Maurice and Jack has been an inspiration to all who know the story. They are a great example of the Franciscan ideals espoused by St. Francis University.
Vac: It was such a privilege to tell that story to a new generation of readers who’d either never knew it before or heard about it only vaguely.
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