Between the Yankees’ World Series win, last week’s marathon, and the Rangers’ games, it was hard not to be thinking about the Big Apple last week.
My friend and colleague, CBC Sports producer Mike Dodson, did more than just think about it- he took a bite out of it. Read his Guest Post, and comment on your own favorite New York story.
By Mike Dodson
I traveled to New York to catch up with an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in far too long. Chris was born and raised in Brooklyn and Staten Island, and the second he opens his mouth, you know he’s a true New Yorker.
When it comes to sports, he worships at the altar of the city’s holy trinity: the Yankees, the Giants and his beloved New York Rangers. As sports weekends go, last week was a sort of high holiday in Gotham.
We started out Thursday night at an Irish Pub in mid-town with Game 2 of the World Series between the Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies. Former Montreal Expo and Yankees nemesis Pedro Martinez was on the hill at Yankee Stadium, facing former Blue Jay A.J. Burnett. Burnett opted out of his contract with the Jays at the end of last season. As a spurned Torontonian, I was quietly pulling for the Phils. It was a pitcher’s duel, but with homers by Mark Teixeira and Hideki Matsui, the Yanks won 3-1 and tied the Series at 1 game apiece.
The Series shifted to Philadelphia on Halloween Saturday and the Yankees slugged out an 8-5 win. As we watched A-Rod crank a home run off a camera in left field, Chris and I planned our excursion into Manhattan the next day. We’d managed to grab a pair of tickets to a Bruins/Rangers matinee at MSG. Problem was it was Marathon Sunday in New York. That morning, the largest marathon in the world with over 43-thousand runners would be starting off at the foot of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in Staten Island and wind its way through all five boroughs. Our most direct route to the city was blocked.
Our only other option was to head through Jersey and the Lincoln Tunnel. That route wasn’t without complications as the Jets were hosting the Dolphins at the Meadowlands that afternoon. We watched the marathoners head over the Verrazano on TV and headed out for the game. Mercifully the traffic in Jersey wasn’t that bad and we made it to MSG in time to grab a deli sandwich before heading in and taking our seats.
NHL players are creatures of habit and a 1pm start throws them off their rhythm. To prepare for a night game, players get up, head to the rink for a light morning skate at 10 or 11am. Go home, or back to their hotel, have lunch and a pre-game nap before heading back to the rink at about 5pm. Well, both teams looked like they missed their naps, sleep-walking their way through a 1-0 Rangers win. With three-time Vezina Trophy finalist Henrik Lundqvist and last year’s Vezina winner Tim Thomas in the nets, I guess a low-scoring game was to be expected, but the notoriously raucous MSG crowd was also somewhat subdued. Even the booming “Potvin Sucks!” chants didn’t have their usual vigor.
I should explain. Denis Potvin is a Hall of Fame defenceman who played for the rival Islanders in the 70’s and 80’s. To this day no matter what team the Rangers are playing the fans whistle and chant “Potvin Sucks!” It is truly hilarious.
Well at the least the home team won and as we left the rink and walked toward Stout Bar on West 33rd St we kept passing post race marathoners wrapped in foil blankets, still sweating, most with huge smiles and looks of pride and satisfaction on their faces. As they would pass, Chris would good naturedly ask, “Did ya win?” Most would laugh, one quipped back, “Nah, finished second.” One girl we passed reflected for a moment, smiled and said, “Yeah I did.”
That was the feeling that seemed to permeate the afternoon. As we stood at the bar watching NFL games, and later game 4 of the World Series, runner after runner would stumble in and raise a glass to their accomplishment. I can only imagine how good a beer must taste after running 26.2 miles. A little later in the evening a 46-year-old mother of four from Rochester, NY walked in proudly wearing her finisher’s medal around her neck. It was her sixth marathon, and nothing could wipe the ear-to-ear smile off her face.
Whether using their shoes, skates, or cleats, New Yorkers were winners on the weekend, and winning is contagious! It was a tough weekend NOT to have a lot of fun in the Big Apple.
Mike Dodson is a producer with CBC TV Sports. Enjoying the game from a fan’s perspective is something he doesn’t get to do often enough.