Friday, January 31, 2014

How Long It's Been: Seattle Won a World Championship


The Seattle Seahawks will be playing the Denver Broncos on Sunday, at MetLife Stadium in the New Jersey -- not New York -- Meadowlands, in Super Bowl XLVIII (48).

The Seahawks have played since 1976, but have never won a title.

In fact, Seattle's record as a sports city is pretty pathetic. To wit:

* In 38 seasons of play, this is only the 2nd time the Seahawks have won a Conference Championship, only the 3rd time they've reached a Conference Championship Game (1983-84 in the AFC, 2005-06 and 2013-14 in the NFC), and until 2003 they'd made the Playoffs only 5 times. Even with those 2 trips to the Super Bowl, in those 38 seasons they've won a grand total of 11 Playoff games -- a little better than 1 every 4 years.

* The Seattle Mariners have played 37 seasons, and have reached 4 postseasons, winning 3 American League Western Division titles, and reaching 3 AL Championship Series. But they've never won a Pennant. Only 3 teams have ever had longer Pennant droughts: The 1901-44 St. Louis Browns, the 1919-1959 and 1959-2005 Chicago White Sox, and the 1945-present Chicago Cubs -- meaning that, if the M's conclude the 2022 season without winning the Pennant, they will have the longest drought in AL history.

* The Seattle SuperSonics played their last 29 seasons without winning an NBA Championship, a period in which they only won 1 Western Conference title and only made the Conference Finals 3 times. Then, in 2008, they were moved, to become the Oklahoma City Thunder.

* Seattle has never had a team in the National Hockey League. Nor did they have one in the World Hockey Association -- surprising, considering the WHA was looking for untapped NHL markets and Seattle was very much one, is very much a Northern city, and had a hockey history, long in the minors if distant in the majors. The Seattle Metropolitans played in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association from 1915 to 1924, winning that league 5 times, and in 1917 beating the Montreal Canadiens to become the first American-based team to win the Stanley Cup. The team folded with its league, and for 90 years Seattle hasn't had anything that could be called a "major league" hockey team. Since 1977, the Seattle Breakers began play in the Western Hockey League; in 1985, they became the Seattle Thunderbirds. But only once, in 1997, did they reach the WHL Finals, and they got swept.

* If you count soccer in North America as a "major league sport," the first version of the Seattle Sounders drew big crowds to the Kingdome (in fact, they opened it), but only once did they reach the North American Soccer League's title game, losing Soccer Bowl '77 to the New York Cosmos.  They had 2 legitimate excuses, though: The game was played at Civic Stadium (now JELD-WEN Field), home of their arch-rivals, the Portland Timbers; and the Cosmos were loaded, with legends like Pele, Carlos Alberto, Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Neeskens and Giorgio Chinaglia.

* The new version of the Sounders won the Supporters' Shield, Major League Soccer's regular-season title, in 2011, and in 2009-11 won 3 straight U.S. Open Cups (the American equivalent of the FA Cup) and nearly made it 4. But they've never won the MLS Cup; as New York Red Bulls fans found out in 2013, MLS is the one league on the planet where finishing the season in first place overall doesn't make you "League Champions." So, in spite of their superb pre-Playoff play and having the best attendance in MLS, the Sounders haven't brought much glory to Washington State, either.

Indeed, in the entire history of major league sports in Seattle, they've won only 2 World Championships: The 1917 Stanley Cup, by the Metros; and the 1979 NBA Championship. In 1978 and '79, both seasons, the NBA Finals featured the Sonics against the Washington Bullets (now the Washington Wizards); the Bullets won in '78, the Sonics in '79.

That title happened on June 1, 1979, a 97-93 win for the Sonics over the Bullets at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland.

That's 34 years and 4 months. How long has that been?

*

The Sonics were coached by Lenny Wilkens. The leading athletes in Seattle were Sonics stars Dennis Johnson, Gus Williams and Fred "Downtown" Brown; Hawks players Jim Zorn, Steve Largent, and, for that one season, former Minnesota Vikings legend Carl Eller; and Mariners players Ruppert Jones, Danny Meyer and Bruce Bochte.

At that point, the Houston Rockets, the Detroit Pistons, the Chicago Bulls, the San Antonio Spurs, the Miami Heat, the Dallas Mavericks, the San Francisco 49ers, the Denver Broncos, the New England Patriots, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the New Orleans Saints, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Kansas City Royals, the Minnesota Twins, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Braves since they moved to Atlanta, the Florida/Miami Marlins, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the team now known as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Giants since they moved to San Francisco, the New York Islanders, the Edmonton Oilers, the Calgary Flames, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New Jersey Devils, the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche franchise (unless you count the 1977 WHA title), the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes franchise (unless you count the 1973 WHA title), the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings had never won a World Championship.

The Rockets, the Pistons, the Bulls, the Spurs, the Heat, the Mavs, the Seahawks, the Niners, the Pats, the Bucs, the Saints, the Isles, the Oilers, the Flames, the Pens, the Devils, the Lightning, the Canes, the Ducks, the Kings, the Orlando Magic, the Utah Jazz, the Indiana Pacers (unless you count their 3 ABA titles), the New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets (unless you count the 1974 and '76 ABA titles), the Buffalo Bills (unless you count the 1964 and '65 AFL titles), the San Diego Chargers (unless you count the 1963 AFL title), the Atlanta Falcons, the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans franchise (unless you count the 1960 and '61 AFL titles), the Carolina Panthers, the Royals, the Braves since they moved to Atlanta, the Jays, the Marlins, the D-backs, the Angels, the Milwaukee Brewers, the San Diego Padres, the Houston Astros, the Colorado Rockies, the Tampa Bay Rays, the Texas Rangers, the Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars franchise, the Vancouver Canucks, the Florida Panthers, the Washington Capitals and the new Ottawa Senators had never reached their sports' finals.

And the Magic, the Mavs, the Heat, both sets of Panthers, the Marlins, the Rockies, the D-backs, the Rays, the Lightning, the old Charlotte Hornets (now the New Orleans Pelicans), the new Charlotte Hornets (formerly the Bobcats), the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Memphis Grizzlies, the Toronto Raptors, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Baltimore Ravens, the Houston Texans, the San Jose Sharks, the Nashville Predators, the new Winnipeg Jets (formerly the Atlanta Thrashers), the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild didn't even exist yet.

As of Super Bowl XLVIII, those facts are no longer true.

The NBA of 1979 has often been retroactively described as being "in trouble." And then, the next season, came Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. This is nonsense, as the league already had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Julius "Dr. J" Erving.

The Los Angeles Clippers were still playing down the coast in San Diego, the Kings in Kansas City, and the Jazz were about to move from New Orleans (where their team name made sense) to Utah (where it doesn't). The New Jersey Nets were playing on the Rutgers campus, as the Meadowlands arena was just beginning construction. And while the Portland Trail Blazers and Milwaukee Bucks had both won NBA titles within the last 8 years, neither saw any problem playing in an arena with no more than 12,880 seats -- in the Bucks' case, only 10,938.

In the NFL, the Colts were still in Baltimore, the Cardinals were still in St. Louis, the Rams were still in Los Angeles, the Titans were still the Houston Oilers. In MLB, the Brewers were still in the AL, the Astros still in the National League, and the Washington Nationals were still the Montreal Expos.

The ideas of the NBA using international players, MLB using Asian natives, and the best players from Eastern Europe being allowed to leave for the NHL (unless they successfully defected, like the Stastny brothers) were far-fetched.

Not one player on the Seahawks' Super Bowl roster had yet been born; for the Broncos, only Peyton Manning, Champ Bailey and Paris Lenon had, and Quentin Jammer was about to be born. Current Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was the secondary coach at Ohio State University, while Broncos coach John Fox was a graduate assistant at San Diego State. Tom Brady was about to turn 2 years old. Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers hadn't been born yet.

In addition to the Sonics, the defending World Champions were the Yankees, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Montreal Canadiens. Muhammad Ali had retired as Heavyweight Champion of the World, the WBC was recognizing Larry Holmes as Champion, while the WBA hadn't yet made up its mind, and the IBF didn't exist yet.

Since that last Seattle title, the Olympic Games have been held in America 3 times, Canada twice, and once each in Russia (and are about to be again), Yugoslavia (post-breakup, Sarajevo is in Bosnia), Korea, France, Spain, Norway, Japan, Australia, Greece, Italy, China and Britain.

The President of the United States was Jimmy Carter. Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, their wives, and the widows of Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were still alive. Ronald Reagan was beginning his 3rd run for President, George H.W. Bush his 1st. Bill Clinton was in his 1st year as Governor of Arkansas. George W. Bush had recently lost his 1st run for public office, for Congressman from Texas. Barack Obama had just graduated high school, and Michelle Robinson was still in it. Joe Biden had just been elected to a 2nd term in the U.S. Senate from Delaware, and John Boehner was working for Nucite Sales, apparently believing the line in the movie The Graduate about the future being "plastics."

The Governor of New York was Hugh Carey, of New Jersey Brendan Byrne, and the State of Washington had one of the earliest women to be elected Governor without her husband having previously held the job, Dixy Lee Ray. The Mayor of New York City was Ed Koch, and of Seattle Charles Royer. He was in the 2nd of 12 years on the job, and is still alive.

The Prime Minister of Canada was Pierre Trudeau, but had just led his Liberal Party to an election defeat, after winning 3 times. Just 3 days after the Sonics' title, Progressive Conservative Party Leader Joe Clark would be sworn in as Prime Minister. The next day would be his 40th birthday, making him the youngest person ever to be head of government in either Canada or America. But his government would quickly fall apart over a budget impasse, and early the next year, Trudeau would lead the Liberals back to victory, and serve another 4 years as Prime Minister, for a total of 15.

The monarch of Great Britain was Queen Elizabeth II -- that hasn't changed -- but Margaret Thatcher had just been elected Prime Minister. (Thatcher in Britain in May 1979, Clark in Canada the same month, Reagan in America in November 1980 -- a pattern, the difference being that Canada wised up a lot faster to the fact that conservatism doesn't work.)

England's FA Cup was won, 3 weeks earlier, by Arsenal, after blowing a 2-0 lead in the last 5 minutes against Manchester United, but Alan Sunderland's last-gap goal won the Cup for the North London club. The Football League had just been won by Liverpool, dethroning Nottingham Forest, which won the European Cup (now the UEFA Champions League) by beating Swedish club Malmo in the Final. They would win it again the next year, too, beating Hamburg in the Final, making them, to this day, the only team in all of Europe to win the European Cup more than it's won its domestic league. Forest manager Brian Clough, after winning the League with Derby County in 1972 and failing spectacularly with Leeds United in 1974 before moving on to Forest (ironically, Derby's arch-rivals), had proved the point he made after that '72 title: "I wouldn't say I'm the best manager in the country, but I'm in the top one."

Among Clough's acquisitions that 1978-79 season was Birmingham City player Trevor Francis, the first player in the English league to be purchased for at least one million pounds. My, how times have changed.

Major books of 1979 included Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Jeffrey Archer's Kane and Abel, Barbara Taylor Bradford's A Woman of Substance, Stephen King's The Dead Zone, Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song, William Styron's Sophie's Choice, and Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff. All were made into major motion pictures or TV-movies. So was Peter Shaffer's play about Mozart, Amadeus, which debuted in 1979.

The day of the Sonics' title, Joy Division released their album Unknown Pleasures. In the days before, The Who played their first concerts since the death of Keith Moon, with former Faces drummer Kenney Jones in his place, and Elton John played 8 concerts in the Soviet Union. In the days after, rock and roll pioneer Bill Haley made his last recordings, fellow rock pioneer Chuck Berry was sentenced to 4 months in prison on tax evasion charges, the first Sony Walkman went on sale in Japan, to be released in the U.S. a year later, the Bee Gees sold out Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, and, in an officially unrelated event but a totally welcome counterpoint, Disco Demolition Night (a.k.a. Disco Sucks Night) was held at Comiskey Park in Chicago.

"The World Series of Rock" was held at Cleveland Municipal Stadium (as opposed to the World Series of baseball, which was only held there once, in 1948), and Ted Nugent was one of the headliners. That's how long it's been since Nugent was relevant in music, unlike in politics, where he has never been relevant. Also on the bill were AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, rising bands Journey and the Scorpions. The headliner was Aerosmith, but after the concert, an argument developed among the soused, coked-out members, and lead guitarist Joe Perry quit. It would take 5 years and a lot of rehab for the original lineup to reunite.

New in theaters when the Sonics' won what remains Seattle's last title were Alien and The Muppet Movie. One featured weird creatures. The other had Sigourney Weaver kicking ass, with her own barely covered. Just wrapping up their first seasons were the TV shows WKRP in Cincinnati, The White Shadow, The Dukes of Hazzard, Diff'rent Strokes, Taxi, Mork & Mindy, and the original version of Battlestar Galactica. Preparing for a fall debut were Hart to Hart, Benson, Trapper John, M.D., Knots Landing and The Facts of Life.

But 1979 was a disaster for NBC. They also launched the super-campy, body-suited version of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, a lame attempt to capitalize on Star Wars and Star Trek that did no one, least of all the original character, any good, that show was still a gem compared to their disastrous Hello Larry, Brothers and Sisters, Turnabout, and, yes, Supertrain. NBC was desperate enough to advertise these shows on what were then "independent stations": In New York, you could turn from WNBC-Channel 4 to WNEW-Channel 5 (now WNYW, Fox 5), and see a promo for Supertrain, an obvious Love Boat ripoff. Or Brothers and Sisters, not to be confused with the later ABC drama of the same title: This was a ripoff of Animal House, which ABC had tried to officially do, taking some of the actual actors from that film and making the ill-fated Delta House.

It was so bad that, on one of the few NBC shows that was still successful, The Tonight Show, Johnny Carson said maybe the network should use the same method that floundering Chrysler Corporation was using, with NBC sportscaster Joe Garagiola faking a smile throughout the commercials: Pay off viewers to accept a lousy product: "Watch Hello, Larry, get a check!" It would have been no use: Hello, Larry ran 38 episodes in 2 seasons; between them, Brothers and Sisters, Turnabout and Supertrain aired 28 episodes.

There were desktop computers, but, as yet, no taptops. Mobile telephones existed, but they were as big as Army walkie-talkies. AIDS was around, but not yet discovered. "Chronic fatigue syndrome" was hardly known, and even more rarely were doctors, who hate to admit that they don't know something or can't cure something, willing to diagnose it. NASA was still trying and failing to get the first space shuttle off the ground. A few weeks after the Sonics' title, Skylab fell out of orbit, broke up, and crashed into the ocean.

In the late spring and early summer of 1979, a civil war began in El Salvador, and power was democratically transferred to the first government made up of Rhodesia's black majority, which would later rename the country Zimbabwe and make democracy there a cruel joke, Robert Mugabe being no less brutal a dictator than his white predecessor Ian Smith. John Paul II visited his native Poland, becoming the first sitting Pope to visit a Communist country. President Carter and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev signed the SALT II treaty. A DC-10 crashed at O'Hare Airport in Chicago, killing 273 people, still the deadliest air disaster in American history. Former San Francisco Supervisor (what most cities call a Councilman) Dan White got a light sentence for killing fellow Board member Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone the preceding November, and the gay community rioted. McDonald's introduced the Happy Meal.

A. Philip Randolph, and Mary Pickford, and John Wayne died. So did baseball legend Duffy Lewis, and hockey legend Fred "Cyclone" Taylor. Rosario Dawson, and Andrea Pirlo, and LaDainian Tomlinson were born.

June 1, 1979. The Seattle SuperSonics won the NBA Championship, for the only time in their history. It remains the last World Championship won by any Seattle-based team.

Now, the Seattle Seahawks are 2 days away from playing in the Super Bowl. The Denver Broncos are currently favored by 2 1/2 points, in spite of the Hawks' vaunted defense. Can they win their city's first World Championship in nearly 35 years? Stay tuned.

 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

How Long It's Been: The Denver Broncos Reached a Super Bowl (Or the Atlanta Falcons, For That Matter)


I'll be doing this for their opponents, too -- not just the Seahawks, who are going into the game having never won a title, but for the entire city of Seattle.

It took the Denver Broncos 5 tries to win their first Super Bowl. It took them only 1 more to win their second. Back-to-back Super Bowls didn't erase the memory of their 4 losses, but it did mark them as one of 17 teams to win back-to-back NFL Championships... 13 separate teams to have done it... 12 current teams... and 7 teams in the Super Bowl era. (The 1997-98 Denver Broncos prevented the Green Bay Packers from doing it for a 4th time, a 2nd time in the Super Bowl era; only the 2003-04 New England Patriots have done it since.)

But then John Elway retired, and the Broncos hadn't been back since.

Until, upon Elway's recommendation, they signed Peyton Manning, who had been cut by the team for whom he had been the greatest player ever (since their move away from Johnny Unitas' Baltimore, anyway), the Indianapolis Colts, who had seen him miss an entire season with a neck injury and, panicking because of that injury and his age, took Andrew Luck with the first pick in the next year's NFL Draft.

It was a good result for the Colts, and Luck has done just fine in his first 2 seasons, and has made the Colts relevant again. A title could well be in his future.

It was an even better result for the Broncos, as, this coming Sunday, they will play in the Super Bowl for the first time since...

January 31, 1999, Super Bowl XXXIII (33), at the Miami Dolphins' stadium, whatever it was called that year. (I think that stadium has now had more names than the Dolphins have had trips to the Super Bowl, not counting years when they've hosted it.)

The defending champion Broncos, who went 14-2 in the regular season and came from behind at halftime to beat Bill Parcells' New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game, came in as 7 1/2-point favorites over the Atlanta Falcons, who had never reached a Super Bowl before -- and, like the Broncos until now, haven't since. No, not even with Michael Vick as their quarterback. (If you believe in karma, it's not that, unless we can prove he was already involved with dogfighting.)

Ironically, the Falcons' coach was Georgia native Dan Reeves, who had previously coached the Broncos to 3 of their Super Bowl defeats. In fact, as a player with the Dallas Cowboys, as an assistant coach with the Cowboys, and as a head coach, Reeves was involved with 11 NFL Championship Games or Super Bowls, from the 1966 to the 1998 season. That's a record, unless you count 1943 when George Halas, owner, head coach, and former player of the Chicago Bears, was away in the Navy during World War II, then it's 11 for him between 1932 and 1963. (He also played on the Bears when they won the 1921 title, before there were championship games.)

The Eugene Robinson prostitution scandal was a bit of a distraction for the Falcons, and Elway's pass to Rod Smith, which Robinson was unable to stop, was a big reason why the Broncos won, 34-19, making Elway the rare player, in any sport, who won a World Championship in his last game. But the Broncos would have won anyway.

That's 15 years ago, effective tomorrow. How long has it been?

*

Needless to say, neither team has any players left from their 1998-99 season. Elway and Shannon Sharpe have been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and cases can also be made for the elections of Terrell Davis, Mark Schlereth and Steve Atwater. (One could also be made for that of Bill Romanowski, but do you really want to see him enshrined?) None of the Falcons has yet made it, although it's possible a Hall of Fame career for Jamal Anderson was short-circuited by injury, as has thus far been the case for Davis. The Falcons' Cornelius Bennett (a member of the Buffalo Bills' 4 straight Super Bowl teams) and Jessie Tuggle should also be considered.

At the time, the Patriots, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the New Orleans Saints, the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans franchise, the Rams since they moved to St. Louis (though they had won a title in Los Angeles in 1951), the Baltimore Ravens since they moved from Cleveland, and he Colts since they moved to Indianapolis, had never won a Super Bowl. The Bucs, the Saints, the Ravens, the Oilers/Titans, the Colts since they moved to Indianapolis, the Carolina Panthers, the Seattle Seahawks, and the Cardinals since they moved to Arizona (though they had won titles in Chicago in 1925 and 1947) had never even been in one. In each of those cases, that is no longer true.

The Cleveland Browns were still on hiatus, between Art Modell moving them to Baltimore and the arrival of their expansion team. Houston was also on hiatus, between Bud Adams moving the Oilers to Tennessee and the expansion Texans arriving.

Half of the NFL's teams, 16 out of 32 (if you count the San Francisco 49ers, whose Levi's Stadium will open this coming fall), have since replaced the stadiums in which they played the 1998-99 season.

NFL trailblazers Sammy Baugh, Marion Motley and Johnny Unitas were still alive. Don Hutson, Sid Luckman and Doak Walker had died within the past 2 years.

Peyton Manning had just finished his rookie season with the Colts. Tom Brady was a backup quarterback at the University of Michigan, Drew Brees the starter at Purdue University, Ben Roethlisberger at Miami University of Ohio, and Michael Vick had just led Virginia Tech into the National Championship game, losing to Florida State. Troy Polamalu was a freshman at the University of Southern California. Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Larry Fitzgerald were in high school. Mark Sanchez and Adrian Peterson were in junior high school. Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck were in elementary school. Johnny Manziel had just turned 7; Jameis Winston, 5. 

In addition to the Broncos, defending World Champions were the New York Yankees (coming off their 125-50 season), the Chicago Bulls (who haven't won one since), and the Detroit Red Wings. The Heavyweight Championship of the World was divided between Evander Holyfield (WBA & IBF) and Lennox Lewis (WBC).

Since the Broncos and Falcons last appeared in a Super Bowl, the Olympic Games have been held in Australia, America, Greece, Italy, China, Canada and Great Britain, and are about to be held in Russia.


The President of the United States was Bill Clinton, and he was in the middle of his impeachment trial in the Senate. He would be acquitted by majority vote on both counts, as there was no admissible evidence that he had committed any crimes.

The Governor of New York was George Pataki, of New Jersey Christine Todd Whitman. Newly sworn in as Governors of the States involved were Bill Owens of Colorado and Nathan Deal of Georgia. Rudy Giuliani was Mayor of New York, Wellington Webb of Denver, and Bill Campbell of Atlanta.

The Prime Minister of Canada was Jean Chretien. The monarch of Great Britain was Queen Elizabeth II, that hasn't changed, but the Prime Minister was Tony Blair. London club Arsenal were the holders of the Premier League title and the FA Cup (a.k.a. they had "done The Double"), but Manchester United were on their way to winning both and the European Champions League (the only time an English club has done the "European Treble"), coming from behind in stoppage time to beat German giants Bayern Munich, a highly symbolic victory considering the 1958 Munich Air Disaster that killed 8 Man United players and injured 2 others so badly that they never played again. The current holders of the Champions League's trophy, the European Cup, were Spain's Real Madrid, having beaten Italy's Juventus. France, led by Zinedine Zidane and also featuring a young Thierry Henry, had recently won the World Cup, defeating Brazil on home soil in the Final.

The films The Thin Red Line and She's All That premiered in January 1999, while the Mel Gibson film Payback premiered the week after that Super Bowl. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was on its way.

Major TV shows that debuted in the 1998-99 season included Sports Night, Will & Grace, The King of Queens, Felicity, Becker, MTV's Total Request Live, and some shows that weren't set in New York City, like The Sopranos (okay, it was in North Jersey, and some of it happened in New York), Farscape (which didn't even take place on this planet), V.I.P. (which frequently seemed like it was on another planet), The Hughleys, Charmed, the disastrous The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer, and cartoons like Batman Beyond, The Powerpuff Girls, Jay Jay the Jet Plane, The Wild Thornberrys, Rolie Polie Olie, Ed, Edd n Eddy, Family Guy, Futurama, SpongeBob SquarePants, and the U.S. premiere of Pokémon.

In music in January 1999, Britney Spears released her debut album, while Eminem's would follow the next month. Rod Stewart and Rachel Hunter split up. A&M Records and the German industrial band KMFDM disbanded. (Sadly, their initials did not stand for "Kill Mother-Fucking Depeche Mode. It stood for "Kein Mehrheit Für Die Mitleid," German for "No pity for the majority.")

At that point, we did have the Internet, but not yet Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. A movie released the next year, Frequency, had a storyline where a 1999 New York police detective found his father's old ham radio set (sort of like the Internet for the middle of the 20th Century), and, through a sci-fi phenomenon, is able to talk to his father, a New York fireman in 1969, and warn him of his impending death in a fire. Remembering his best friend complaining about not buying stock in Yahoo! when it was cheap, he uses the ham set to tell the 7-year-old version of that best friend to remember the word "Yahoo!" When (spoiler alert) the movie's happy ending happens, the cop is shown hitting a baseball that breaks the headlight of the best friend's car -- a Mercedes with a New York license plate reading YAHOO1. (The Mets' '69 World Series win becomes a major plot point in the film.)

Mobile phones were now quite common, but they were still the flip-open kind, bringing to mind the communicators on the original Star Trek series -- except that show took place 300 years in the future, and the new "mobiles" were smaller. This was around the time that cellular phones began to be called "cell phones" more often, and were already becoming, in some cases, so annoying that New York Daily News writer Pete Hamill described them in his column as "yell phones."

In early 1999, in addition to President Clinton's enemies embarrassing themselves more than him with the impeachment process, America's economy was booming like never before -- and, sadly, like never since. The single European currency went into effect. An earthquake killed over 1,000 people in the South American nation of Colombia. Amadou Diallo, an unarmed black immigrant in The Bronx, was shot at 41 times, hit 19 times, by 4 New York cops. All of whom were acquitted in a criminal trial. They should have all gone to prison, at the very least for criminally negligent homicide. None of them so much as lost their jobs for being lousy marksmen -- after all, they didn't just hit him 19 times, they missed him 23 times. 

In early 1999, King Hussein of Jordan, and Iris Murdoch, and Star Trek doctor DeForest Kelley died. There are not, as yet, very many famous people who were born in 1999, who would be turning 15 this year. Among them are Cameron Boyce and Karan Brar of the Disney Channel series Jessie, and singer Madison Beer. Modern Family actors Ariel Winter, Nolan Gould and Rico Rodriguez were born the year before, as were Elle Fanning (Dakota's sister) and Steve Irwin's daughter Bindi. Justin Bieber was about to turn 5, while Miley Cyrus had just turned 7.

January 31, 1999. The Denver Broncos beat the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl. Neither has been back to the game since.

Now, the Broncos are back. The Falcons? Well, they were a dismal 4-12 this season, but the season before, they got all the way to the NFC Championship Game. So, who knows?

Peter Vescey E-vesc-erates David Stern

Just saw this on Twitter, and although I almost never post about the NBA (and rarely did so even when the Nets were still in New Jersey), I had to mention it.

Peter Vescey, NBA honcho at the New York Post, did this:

With all due disrespect 2 Letterman's Top 10 things David Stern learned during his 30 years as commissioner, my 'staph' created its own list:

10. When in doubt, lock 'em out.

9. There are 71 ways to genuflect at the third-world shoes of Michael Jordan.

8. When it's a slow news day, fine Mark Cuban.

7. The Maloof brothers are not as annoying as Silna brothers. (The Maloofs own the Sacramento Kings. The Silnas owned the ABA's Spirits of St. Louis, and got paid off for not keeping their team going in the 1976 ABA-NBA merger with a percentage of NBA TV revenue, which is the NBA's equivalent of the deal the Mets have with Bobby Bonilla. On the other hand, speaking of the Mets, the Silnas did lose a lot of their money to Bernie Madoff.)

6. Donald Sterling has developed a tolerance to propofol.

5. Charles Barkley is a full-service idiot. (No, he's not, Peter. That comment was, as Charles would say, "Turrible.")

4. There are actually Hebrew words for "tats" and "posse." (Maybe, but the same Book of Leviticus that bans homosexual acts also bans tattoos in the very next chapter. Awkward for the guy who got a tattoo of that verse.)

3. How to have more people working on Christmas Day than the Vatican.

2. Baby mamas are people, too.

1. And the No. 1 thing David Stern learned during his 30 years as commissioner is...You can't rig enough lotteries to make the Knicks relevant.

*

Well, the Knicks will always be relevant. But it's been 40 years (nearly 41) since they won a title. Stern may have been able to fix things for Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, but never for the Knicks.

Unfortunately, he taught Gary Bettman too well.

*

UPDATE! As soon as I retweeted his #1, Vescey followed me on Twitter! Hot damn, that's a nice score.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Devils Disgrace in Da Bronx

Disgraceful. Da Devils were a Disgrace in Da Bronx.

I was so pumped for this game: The home of my favorite team in all of sports, hosting my 2nd-favorite team. And we were going to beat the team I hate the most!

In the immortal words of Jim Steinman (as sung by Bonnie Tyler), "Once upon a time, there was light in my life. Now, there's only love in the dark."

Rangers 7, Devils 3 at Yankee Stadium II. The Devils had a 3-1 lead with 3 minutes remaining in the 1st period, on 2 goals by Patrik Elias and 1 by Travis Zajac, and then they completely melted down.

It would have been bad enough if the Devils had given a good effort and that lot across the Hudson had simply outplayed us. I would have hated it, but I would have understood it. That's sports, you know: Sometimes you don't lose, sometimes the other team just plain beats you.

That was not the case this time.

This was an unacceptable performance.

This was the biggest embarrassment at Yankee Stadium since Kevin Brown and Javier Vazquez made it so easy for the Red Sox to put their cheating to good use on October 20, 2004.

The Devils embarrassed all of us today, from Hoboken to Hackettstown, from High Point to Atlantic City, from Trenton to the Tunnels, from Route 94 to I-195, from Route 29 to the Palisades Parkway.

It was bad enough that it was against The Scum, that lot across the river. But for the last 43 minutes (at which point 3-1 Devils became 3-2 Devils), there was no effort at all.

Don't blame Martin Brodeur: He got no help from his defense. Blame such stiffs as "captain" Bryce Salvador, Eric Gelinas, Peter Harrold, Anton Volchenkov and Marek Zidlicky.

"That wasn't on Marty," Elias said. “We gave up way too many odd-man rushes.”

Jaromir Jagr: "It wasn't his fault. We gave him 3 on 2s, 2 on 1s. Of course, I feel bad for him, but it wasn’t his fault."

Gelinas: "We were letting some odd-man rushes and making some bad decisions, me especially on one of the goals, and we can't make those mistakes. It wasn't a nice feeling seeing him leave the game. I felt bad for him."

Fair play to Gelinas, who, despite being a rookie, took more responsibility than Captain Salvador, who offered this weak effort: "You don’t want to him to have one of these games in an environment like this." Sure sounds like Salvador was blaming Marty.

A lot of "Devils fans" on Twitter did blame Marty, and demanded that he be pulled after 2 periods for Cory Schneider. Well, he was, and it didn't work.

You can also blame head coach Peter DeBoer, for messing with the forward lines, again. The Jazz Line -- Jaromir Jagr, Travis Zajac and Dainius Zubrus -- works well together. None of the others that DeBore has tried has. He doesn't know what the hell he's doing.

Can't blame the refs: They didn't change the outcome, although Derek Stepan holding Zajac's stick and then getting a bullshit penalty shot (on Schneider in the 3rd period) didn't help.

Can't blame the weather: Both teams played in the same conditions.

Can't blame the delay, of an hour and 10 minutes because of the glare of the sun: Both teams had to deal with that, too.

This was a team wobbling, and then going through the motions, not even coming close to giving enough of a damn. This game was lost, a lot more than it was won. The Rangers only had to expend a minimal amount of effort, because the Devils expended none. I can't credit them for the win because a college team could have beaten us today.

The Rangers still suck, which is a reflection on personality rather than performance. Today, we flat-out stunk.

If you're a Giants fan, you'll recognize the date: For the Devils, this was November 19, 1978. This was John McVay losing the plot, and Joe Pisarcik handing off the ball to Larry Csonka instead of just taking a knee and running out the clock, leading to a fumble that got returned for a touchdown by future Jets coach Herman Edwards, leading to a stunning game-winning touchdown by the Philadelphia Eagles, the Giants' biggest rivals (and I don't want to hear that the Dallas Cowboys are).

After that game, which Eagles fans call the Miracle at the Meadowlands (and Giant fans call nastier names), offensive coordinator Bob Gibson (no relation to the Baseball Hall-of-Famer of the same name) was fired the next day, and has never worked in football again; head coach McVay was fired after the season, and although he has worked in an NFL front office since, he has never coached at any level again; and Andy Robustelli, Hall of Fame defensive end and by that point the G-Men's director of operations, was also fired.

Ray Perkins was named head coach, with Bill Parcells as one of his assistants. George Young became general manager. When Perkins was offered the job at the University of Alabama, Parcells succeeded him. And the rest is history: Except for the Ray Handley interregnum, the Giants have usually been at least good, on occasion excellent, and nobody has ever again been taken seriously while laughing at them.

Speaking of things worth laughing at, unless you're a Jets fan. If you are one, you'll get this reference: Peter DeBoer is Rich Kotite on ice.

DeBoer should not have left The Stadium with a job. GM Lou Lamoriello should've given him a MetroCard, and told him to get back to Jersey on his own. Granted, he still would've had to pay $5.00 to get from New York's Penn Station to Newark's, but at least El Baldo (whom I've also called El Cheapo) would have paid for his $2.50 back to 33rd & 7th, which is more than he deserves.

Oh, wait, New York's Penn Station is under Madison Square Garden, home of the Rangers, and would be crawling with Ranger fans.

Yeah, well, DeBoer deserves to face their reactions, too. After all, it's not like Ranger fans have a history of being violent assholes, do they?

Uh... Yeah, there was some extracurricular activity in Yankee Stadium II today.

But you know what?

The Stadium was about 75 percent Devils fans.

The Scummers say we can't fill the Prudential: Today, we filled Yankee Stadium.

Devils fans can be proud. Devils players cannot.

We're still 3-1 against The Scum this season, and still in the hunt for a Playoff spot. But without significant changes being made, there would be little point in making it.

I would rather start all over with DeBoer and certain players going out, and miss the Playoffs, because then I would have hope that things will be better next season. As things stand now, the Devils don't deserve to make the Playoffs.

Some changes need to be made, starting at the top. DeBoer out.

*

Days until Arsenal play again: 2, Tuesday night (2:45 PM our time), away to South Coast club Southampton. Arsenal are top of the League, with 16 League matches to go. I am taking nothing for granted, but, this time, it sure looks like they're playing for more than just 4th place and qualification next season's UEFA Champions League. This past Friday night, Arsenal beat Coventry City, 4-0, to advance to the 5th Round of the FA Cup -- meaning that, on February 8 and 15, back-to-back Saturdays (unless the Cup match is moved, most likely to the next day if at all), Arsenal will be playing Liverpool, first in the League, then in the Cup.

Days until the Devils play again: 2, Tuesday night, 8:00 Eastern Time, away to the St. Louis Blues. We beat them 7-1 at the Prudential this past Tuesday. I don't think we're going to score 7 on them again.

Days until the U.S. national soccer team plays again: 6, this coming Saturday, at 5:00 PM (2:00 Pacific Time), a "friendly" (exhibition game) vs. the Republic of Korea (a.k.a. South Korea), at the StubHub Center (formerly the Home Depot Center) in Carson, California, home of the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA. We will also be traveling to the Ukraine for a friendly on March 5, and I suspect that there will be another tuneup match or two between the end of the European club season in May and the start of the World Cup in June.

Days until Super Bowl XLVIII at the Meadowlands: 7, a week from tonight, kickoff at around 6:25 PM.

Days until the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia: 12, on Friday, February 7.  Under 2 weeks.

Days until the Devils next play a local rival: 34, on Saturday afternoon, March 1, away to the New York Islanders. We play away to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night, March 11; home to the Rangers on Saturday night, March 22; away to the Islanders a week after that; and home to the Islanders on Friday night, April 11.

Days until the Red Bulls play again: 41, on Saturday, March 8, 7:30 PM, away to the Vancouver Whitecaps. Just 6 weeks.

Days until the next North London Derby between Arsenal and Tottenham: 48, a Premier League match, on Saturday, March 15, at White Hart Lane. Just 7 weeks. This follows (then) non-spending Arsenal humiliating Tottenham's £110 million of new spending in a 1-0 win in a Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium on September 1, and our half-injury-replacement side beating them 2-0 to knock them out of the FA Cup at the Emirates on January 3. And they thought they were better, that there was a "power shift in North London," and that we were "in a downward spiral." Now, they've fired another manager, while Arsene Wenger has Arsenal top of the League and still in the FA Cup and the Champions League. The Spuds never learn, do they?

Days until the Yankees play again: 67, on Tuesday, April 1, at 7:10 PM, away to the Houston Astros.  Under 10 weeks.

Days until the Yankees' home opener: 73, on Monday, April 7, at 1:00 PM (well, 1:07 or so), vs. the Baltimore Orioles.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: 76, on Thursday, April 10, at 7:00 PM (well, 7:07 or so), at Yankee Stadium II.

Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby": 78, on Saturday, April 12, 2:30 PM, vs. D.C. United, at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington.

Days until the 2014 World Cup in Brazil: 138, on Thursday, June 12. Under 5 months.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 216, on Saturday, August 30, away to Washington State, at whatever the Seattle Seahawks' stadium is going to end up being called next fall. A little over 7 months. Why we're playing "Wazzu" in the University of Washington's territory, I don't know. Maybe WSU, in the eastern part of the State in Pullman, wants to boost their recruiting in the Western part. Either way, it will be Rutgers' first game since losing the 2013 Pinstripe Bowl to Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium II, finishing the season at 6-7.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: Unknown, as the schedule has yet to be released. Most likely, it will be on the 2nd Friday night in September. If so, that will be September 12, therefore 230 days. Under 8 months.

Days until Rutgers makes its Big Ten Conference debut: 231 days, on Saturday, September 13, time to be determined, against old enemy Penn State.

Days until the next East Brunswick vs. Old Bridge Thanksgiving game: 306, on Thursday morning, November 27, 10:00 AM. Just 10 months.

Days until the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 954, on Friday, August 5, 2016. Under 3 years.

Top 10 Myths About the 1960s

Following up on the piece I did a few days ago, addressing myths of the 1950s, I move on to the next decade.

I also plan to do these for the 1970s and 1980s. Whether I do them for the 1990s and the 2000s remains to be seen.

Fifty years ago today, on January 25, 1964, a British music group hit Number 1 on Billboard magazine's Hot 100. The song was "I Want to Hold Your Hand," and the band was the Beatles.

They weren't the first British band to achieve the feat: The Tornadoes had done so in November 1962 with an instrumental titled "Telstar," a tribute to the communications satellite that had recently been launched. But they couldn't sustain their success, and were quickly forgotten -- so quickly that band leader Joe Meek committed suicide in February 1967, just a little more than 4 years later.

In contrast, after the Beatles hit the top in January 1964, the world was never the same. It was a pop-culture milestone the likes of which Britney Spears, Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga could not possibly imagine.

The perception of decades isn't neat. The first half of the 1950s really felt like an extension of the 1940s. Really, "The Fifties" began on June 9, 1954, when Senator Joe McCarthy got smacked in those Congressional hearings; and ended on November 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was shot.

Then there was a bit of an interregnum. When the Beatles hit Number 1 on January 25, 1964, it more or less began "The Sixties," which ended on August 9, 1974, when President Richard Nixon resigned.

That began "The Seventies," which didn't really last that long. "The Eighties" began on November 4, 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected President. They ended on November 3, 1992, when Bill Clinton was elected, starting "The Nineties." (You don't think of Nirvana as an "Eighties" band, do you?) "The Nineties" ended on November 7, 2000, when George W. Bush and his brother Jeb stole the Presidential election. (No, 9/11 didn't mark the change. After all, if Al Gore had been allowed to accept his rightful victory, there's a good chance his Administration would have been able to prevent it.)

And while we still haven't really reached a consensus on what the 2000-2009 decade should have been called, the election of Barack Obama on November 4, 2008 conveniently ended it. Now we're in "The Twenty-Tens," and, hopefully, they won't end with a stock market crash like "The Twenties," a Pearl Harbor-style attack like "The Thirties," or an assassination like "The Fifties."

*

The 1960s are a decades loaded with perhaps even more myth than the 1950s, because the Baby Boomers, the largest generation ever produced, people born in the late 1940s and the '50s, began to write their own. Or, as Ray Manzarek (played by Kyle MacLachlan in Oliver Stone's only-partially-accurate film The Doors) put it...

The world is about to explode, Jim.  People wanna fight or fuck, love or kill. (points to the ocean) Vietnam is right out there, man. Sides are being chosen. Everything's gonna flame. The planet is screaming for change, Morrison. We've gotta make the myths!

Top 10 Myths About the 1960s

1. The Sixties were a time of nonconformity. Have you ever looked at pictures from high school yearbooks from the 1960s? Even as late as 1969, students' hair wasn't much longer than the Beatles' was when they arrived in 1964. Nor were the clothes worn by most Americans as wild as seen on the hippies of Haight-Ashbury... or Greenwich Village, or Venice Beach, or Philadelphia's South Street, or Cambridge outside Boston.

A few years before he died, but after Stone's movie, Manzarek wrote a memoir in which he said that the older generation wanted "Sixties fun" to be about hanging out with Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack, boozing, smoking, and banging women that they called "broads." In other words, guys in their 40s were now at a point where they were secure enough with money and fame they no longer had to do what their parents wouldn't let them do in their teens and 20s.

Today, with the Rat Pack all dead and gone (unless you want to count Angie Dickinson, who is still alive as I type this), their kind of fun seems relatively harmless compared to the hellraising of rock stars of the Seventies and later, or the more recent excesses of Lindsay Lohan and Justin Bieber, who seem hell-bent on outdoing the nonsense of their parents' and grandparents' generations. Yeah, well, look where that got Amy Winehouse.

Yeah, the people who grew up in the 1930s and came of age in the 1940s figured, "Hey, we came through the Depression and World War II, and made something of ourselves. We've paid our dues. Our kids haven't done that yet, so they shouldn't be doing what we're doing, or worse. Never mind that we're being irresponsible, and not exactly role models: Do as we say, not as we do!"

Yeah, God forbid their own teenage and college-bound kids do what they wanted! And you know what? A lot of those kids were afraid to break from conformity. For example, take a look at this picture.
A guy getting arrested by nasty-looking cops, with a big crowd looking on. That's Mario Savio, leader of the "Free Speech Movement" at the University of California's main campus in Berkeley, in late 1964. This was around his 22nd birthday, so he certainly qualified as one of the young people that other young people were looking up to at the time.

But his hair isn't especially long. (In fact, his hairline was already receding.) He's wearing a jacket, a dress shirt and a tie. He was an activist, but he was no hippie. (Until 1966 or so, when people heard the word "hippie," they thought it meant "jazz musician," like in the 1963 hit by the Philadelphia girl group the Orlons: "Where do all the hippies meet? South Street, South Street." South Street, then as now, was Philly's "Greenwich Village.")

Savio later became a professor (though not at the college where he protested, unlike a few of the Columbia University protestors later in the decade), married twice, had a son with each wife, and developed heart trouble, which killed him in 1996, only 53 years old. He is best remembered for a speech he gave that month of December 1964:

There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part! You can't even passively take part! And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop! And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

Savio sounded pretty radical. Even today, he sounds radical. But he sure didn't look radical.

Even as late as the winter of 1967-68, the young people going to New Hampshire to try to win that State's critical Primary for Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota (no relation to Joe of Wisconsin), to protest President Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War, were so desperate to be seen as mainstream that they all got haircuts and wore suits, saying they had to "go clean for Gene." They were terrified about being seen as hippies and/or radicals.

When McCarthy came close to actually beating LBJ in that Primary -- like Tet, a public relations victory if not an actual one -- Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York got in the race. In contrast, his supporters had no qualms about being seen with long hair, work shirts or turtlenecks, or... gasp... sunglasses. (In 1963, the Senator's brother, JFK, had no problem being seen with sunglasses; in 1968, sunglasses meant "Black Panthers" to the Archie Bunkers of America.)

2. The Beatles were the good boys, and the Rolling Stones were the bad boys. Ha! More like the other way around. When it came to being bad, in the early 1960s, before they became world-famous, the Beatles were smoking pot and popping pills and shagging Hamburg strippers when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were getting no closer to models than magazines and thought heroin was for jazz musicians.
Sure, the Beatles sang "I Want to Hold Your Hand." Their manager, Brian Epstein, wouldn't have let them sing anything more controversial, or even avant-garde-- at least, not until he, much more than they (or, except for Brian Jones, the Stones), fell victim to drugs (prescription drugs, in his case). Brian also insisted that they wear the smart suits for which they are best remembered (far more than the Sgt. Pepper suits of 1967).

Even after they got big, when it came to being bad, the Stones weren't as naughty in private as the Beatles. Keith eventually embraced the lifestyle, but Mick was a poseur more than anything else. True, he was great at being a poseur -- until David Bowie blew him... out of the water in that regard. And on his baddest day, Mick may have been a jackass, but he wasn't as out-there as Keith, or Bowie, or the members of The Who, or (as the Sixties turned to the Seventies) Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath.

3. Drugs were big. Let's get this out of the way: The most popular drug in the 1960s was alcohol, just as the Rat Packers hoped it would be. Indeed, while drugs were involved in their deaths, Judy Garland (hardly a rocker), Brian Jones of the Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Keith Moon of The Who would all die as a result of mixing downers with booze (itself a downer).

The 2nd-most-popular drug in the decade was tobacco. You know alcohol and tobacco were 1st & 2nd if you've watched Mad Men. While, at this writing, that show has half of its final season to go, the idea that most of the major characters, most smokers and some boozehounds, would still be alive in 2014 is ridiculous.

The 3rd-most popular drug of the 1960s, the biggest drug that entered public consciousness in the decade, was the birth-control pill. Suddenly, as some feminists have since observed, women could "have sex like men: Whenever we wanted, and with no responsibility."

By December 31, 1969, the kind of drugs that we associate with the Sixties were still little more than a rumor to most people. A 1969 poll showed that only 4 percent of Americans had tried marijuana. That's 1 out of every 25 people, hardly widespread. LSD? Its being outlawed in 1966 probably prevented it from becoming widespread.

4. Presidents of the Democratic Party started the Vietnam War. Conservatives like to blame JFK for sending so many "advisors" to Vietnam in 1961, '62 and '63, and LBJ for ramping the war up thereafter, especially after the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution on August 7, 1964, which pretty much gave him the power to do whatever he wanted in Vietnam.

But it was Dwight D. Eisenhower who sent the first U.S. troops to Vietnam, in 1954. In that year, for the first time, American servicemen died there. And despite his Farewell Address' warning about "the military-industrial complex" on January 17, 1961, "Ike" supported U.S. involvement in Vietnam all the way until his death 8 years later. His Vice President, Richard Nixon, sure did. And when Tricky Dick ran again in 1968, as Joe McGinnis put it in his book The Selling of the President 1968, the Nixon campaign, and Republicans in general, didn't view the Vietnam War as bad because of senseless destruction with no end in sight. They viewed it as bad because it was ineffective.

That destruction was really unpopular, right? Well...
5. The Vietnam War was unpopular. It's a big stretch to say that the war was ever "popular." But even as late as the end of 1967 -- the year of the Human Be-In, the Summer of Love, the first big demonstrations against the war (in April), and the alleged "levitation of the Pentagon" (in October) -- polls showed more people supporting the war (however unenthusiastically) than opposing it.

It wasn't until the Tet Offensive at the end of January 1968 that U.S. public opinion really turned against the war. Walter Cronkite, anchorman and managing editor (read: "executive producer") of The CBS Evening News, went over there in February, to see the aftermath of Tet, and, upon his return, showed the films he made there on his broadcast, and editorialized that we had to find a way out.

Seeing this -- he had 3 TV sets installed in the Oval Office, so he could watch the evening news on CBS, NBC and ABC all at once -- LBJ told people, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America." He was right: Considered in late 1967 an easy favorite to win a 2nd full term the following November, LBJ nearly lost the New Hampshire Primary to McCarthy in March, and then later that month lost the Wisconsin Primary (which, to be fair, was right next-door to McCarthy's Minnesota).

LBJ then got out on March 31, saying he needed to concentrate on ending the war, not on getting himself re-elected. (Because he took office on November 22, 1963, more than halfway through JFK's term, the 22nd Amendment, limiting a President to 2 terms, even if he had served up to half of the previous President's term, meant that he was eligible to run again in 1968.) After that, unpledged slates of electors, which would have gone to LBJ but instead ended up going to Vice President Hubert Humphrey (officially entering the race in April), started racking up delegates. But among delegates that actually went to announced candidates in the primaries, a majority went to either McCarthy or RFK. A majority of Democrats wanted the war stopped, leading to the clashes at the Convention in Chicago, both in the streets and in the International Amphitheatre.

Except that Humphrey still won the nomination, even though he was not overtly opposed to the war. And when the election came on November 5, despite a late surge by Humphrey after his September 30 speech in Salt Lake City when he finally got out from under LBJ's thumb and became yet another peace candidate, he got only 42 percent of the vote. This was because George Wallace, the segregationist once-and-future Governor of Alabama, was running a 3rd-party campaign. Between Nixon and Wallace, candidates who supported the war got 57 percent of the popular vote (a higher percentage than any single candidate has gotten since 1984), and 37 States worth 357 Electoral Votes (more than Barack Obama got in 2008, or George W. Bush got either time he ran).

Even as late as May 1970, there were "Hard Hat Demonstrations" in New York, in support of the war, and in support of the Ohio National Guardsmen who mowed down some demonstrators (and some innocent bystanders) at Kent State University. So even that late, there was still quite a bit of support for the war.

And on November 7, 1972, Nixon got 60 percent of the vote against Senator George McGovern of South Dakota, taking 49 out of 50 States for 523 Electoral Votes. Nixon said he was a peace candidate, but who was kidding who? Everyone knew that if you wanted someone who went out of his way to say he wanted the war over as soon as he got to work after the Inauguration, you voted for McGovern, not Nixon. It could be argued that some of the war's opponents were duped by Nixon, and that some were so dispirited that they stayed home on Election Day. But as unpopular as the war was said to be, the guy who had been running it won by a lot more than he did when he ran 4 years earlier as the guy who had the know-how to stop it.

6. The protests stopped the war. The protests had absolutely no effect on the war. The Vietnam War, or at least the American role in it, was always going to end at a time chosen by a President of the United States. Johnson thought he'd achieved it at the end of October 1968, just in time to save Humphrey in the election. But it didn't happen.

(It appears that the Nixon campaign sent an envoy to the Vietcong, to tell them that they could get a better deal with a potential President Nixon than with President Johnson or a potential President Humphrey. And they backed out of the deal LBJ thought he had. This was treason, extending a war for political gain. But LBJ never called Nixon out on it.)

Once Nixon took office, he could have ended the war anytime he wanted. And he did: In October 1972, he sent his National Security Adviser (then his de facto, later his actual, Secretary of State), Henry Kissinger, to tell the media, "Peace is at hand." This took away the biggest argument in McGovern's favor, and led to the Nixon landslide on November 7. Then came the Christmas bombing, and we all knew what many of us already suspected: Nixon and Kissinger were lying bastards.

Nixon took the Oath of Office for a 2nd term on January 20, 1973, and the war was still not over. He said he would end it. Well, 4 years later, he hadn't. In my opinion, this forfeited any claim he had to ending it, whenever it would have happened.

LBJ died 2 days later, on January 22 -- the same day that the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down, and the same day that George Foreman knocked out Joe Frazier to take the heavyweight title. The very next day, January 23, Nixon announced that a peace agreement had been reached, and the war was over. His 2nd term was underway, meaning he no longer needed the war to use as a club against people's patriotism (see also: Bush, George H.W., ending a war with Iraq "too soon"; and Bush, George W., keeping a war with Iraq going and going and going because he wanted to win elections). And LBJ was dead, and thus unable (at least, on this plane of existence) to know that the war he (or, at least, the Democrats) "started" was over. So Nixon knew he could end the war, and get the credit. Cynical to the end.

7. Robert Kennedy would have won the 1968 Presidential election if he had lived. Let's put aside, for a moment, the argument that he would have ended the war shortly after his Inauguration, which would have prevented all the 1969-73 casualties on both sides, the wounded as well as the killed, not to mention the Kent State Massacre. And let's also put aside consideration of what other good RFK would have done had he won. This is not about his imagined Administration. This is about his imagined campaign.
Nixon won 301 Electoral Votes, to Humphrey's 191 and Wallace's 46. Here's Nixon's margin of victory in certain States:

California, 40 Electoral Votes: Won by 223,346 votes
Ohio, 26: 90,428
Illinois, 26: 134,960
New Jersey, 17: 61,261
Missouri, 12: 20,488
Wisconsin, 12: 61,193
Oregon, 6: 49,567
Alaska, 3: 2,189
Delaware, 3: 7,520
Nevada, 3: 12,590

Those were Nixon's margins over Humphrey, in a year when the Democrats were demoralized over the war, the assassinations of RFK and Martin Luther King, and the Convention shenanigans. Can you imagine how many Democrats would have come out to vote for a living RFK? Especially in heavily Catholic States like California, Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey, Wisconsin and Delaware?

A shift of 111,674 votes in California (it looks like a big number but it would have been only 1.54 percent of the entire State vote) would have made it Nixon 261, Kennedy 231 -- enough to deny Nixon a majority in the Electoral College, and throw the vote into the House of Representatives. Whether a House with a lot of Southern Democrats, knowing that Wallace couldn't win, would have elected RFK or Tricky Dick is unknown.

But if there were also a shift of 45,215 in Ohio, and 67,481 in Illinois, that would have made it Kennedy 283, Nixon 209 -- and Bobby would have gotten the 270 needed to win, without winning a single State that Wallace actually took away from its then-usual place in the Democratic column. Those State were Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi. Wallace also ended up with 1 EV from North Carolina, and siphoned enough votes to throw these States to Nixon: North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and possibly Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio and Oklahoma.

So if RFK had gotten the Democratic nomination, there's a very good chance that he would have beaten Nixon. All he had to do was live, and then get the Democratic nomination.

He would not have gotten the Democratic nomination. Through those "unpledged slates of electors," LBJ was controlling the process for his preferred candidate, Humphrey. Even after Bobby won the California Primary, the delegate totals were Humphrey 561, Kennedy 393, McCarthy 258. When the roll call was made at the Convention, it was Humphrey 1,759, McCarthy 601, McGovern (a late entry, designed to win over RFK supporters) 146, last brother Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts (who wasn't running) 13, all others 88.

In order to win the nomination, a candidate had to win a majority of the delegates, 1,304. Bobby would have to have hung on to all 393 of his delegates, and won all of McGovern's 146 and all of Ted's 13, and still found 752 others. McCarthy despised both Jack and Bobby Kennedy, and it is hard to imagine him releasing his delegates to Bobby -- especially since, as it turned out, he didn't endorse Humphrey until September, and then in only the most lukewarm fashion. If Bobby merely swayed 1 out of 5 McCarthy delegates, that would have been 120, giving him (in this scenario) 632 more to go. To get those, he would have had to get 36 percent of the delegates that ended up going to Humphrey. No chance.

Whether HHH would have taken RFK as his running mate, I don't know, although it would surely have made the difference, at least in the popular vote if not the Electoral. But Bobby would not have won the nomination.

There is one possibility, though. Although he looked, both during the riots after Dr. King's assassination in early April and during the Convention proceedings in late August, like a tool of the Administration and the military-industrial complex, Richard J. Daley, Mayor of Chicago and host of the Convention, was actually opposed to the Vietnam War. And, as America's best-known Irish-Catholic politician of the time not named Kennedy, he was a good friend of JFK (allegedly rigging the Cook County, and thus the Illinois, vote for him in 1960, although the evidence is hardly conclusive and wouldn't have mattered in the Electoral Vote anyway).

If a living RFK had won Daley over, that might have won enough Catholic and/or labor-influenced delegates to swing from HHH to RFK, and win Bobby the nomination. Daley would have gone in the liberal imagination from villain to hero overnight. And while LBJ hated RFK even more than Gene McCarthy did (though LBJ had come to admire JFK before his death and didn't seem to hate Ted), like Alexander Hamilton throwing his 1800 support to Thomas Jefferson because he hated Aaron Burr more, LBJ and Daley would have gotten the Democratic Party united behind RFK, and Nixon never would have had a chance. Why, with LBJ leading the way, a lot of Southern Democrats might have even abandoned Wallace, and RFK might have won in a wipeout with over 400 EVs.

8. The War On Poverty failed. On January 8, 1964, in his State of the Union Address, LBJ said, "This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join with me in that effort." In 1980, running for President, Ronald Reagan said, "We fought a war on poverty, and poverty won."

The major features of the War On Poverty were the Economic Opportunity Act which created the Job Corps and VISTA, the Food Stamp Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and the Social Security Act of 1965 which created Medicare and Medicaid.

Results? In 1966, 15 percent of Americans were below the poverty line; in 2012, the figure was 15 percent. But that's based on figures from the Census Bureau, and they don't take measures such as the preceding, or the later Earned Income Tax Credit -- a Reagan idea, mind you -- into account. The poverty rate in 1963 was more like 32 percent. By 1979, just before Reagan, that great ignorer of the poor, began his successful campaign, it was down to 12 percent. By 2000, 7 percent. In 2010, even after the 2 recessions caused by George W. Bush turning away from the Bill Clinton economic policies and toward tax rates well below the ones Reagan brought, it was back up to only 8 percent.

For the people brought out of poverty, the war wasn't lost. Indeed, while Nixon cut back some of LBJ's Great Society and War On Poverty programs, he expanded some, and left most alone. Nor did the Republican who followed him, Gerald Ford, cut back on them much. (And, foreign policy aside, Ford was noticeably more conservative than Nixon.) Even Reagan and the George Bushes didn't cut back much, although what they did cut back did hurt. The War On Poverty was not lost, it was sabotaged. And we still won many victories in it. The results suggest we could do it again, if only the wealthiest 1 percent would pay their fair share in taxes. Don't tell me that they do: A man who makes $10 million a year and afford to lose $9.9 million of that, and still live very well.

Or, to put it in language that Reagan's acolytes will understand: We fought a Cold War against Communism, yet China, North Korea and Cuba are still Communist. Did we lose that war?

9. Woodstock was wonderful. Sure, it looked like a blast, if you saw the movie (released on March 26, 1970, 7 months after the festival). Because that meant you didn't have to live through...

* The traffic jam, as bad as any as ever hit the New York Tri-State Area. When Arlo Guthrie said, "The New York State Thruway's closed, man!" he wasn't kidding. The promoters expected around 150,000 people, and thought they had enough facilities, including the access roads, to handle that. But, depending on whose figures you believe, anywhere from 300,000 (The New York Times the day after) to 850,000 (cited by Richie Havens as a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show 25 years later) showed up. The best-known figure is 500,000, due to the line in Joni Mitchell's song, "By the time we got to Woodstock, we were half a million strong." The next week's issue of Rolling Stone had the headline, "Woodstock: 450,000," and that is usually cited as the most accurate number. (By the way, Joni wasn't there. Neither was Bob Dylan, whose supposed presence was said to be the reason so many people came -- the reasoning being that he actually lived in the town of Woodstock, which refused to host the festival.)

In the 1970 Census, Buffalo was listed as having 462,768 people. If there were more than that at Woodstock (which is certainly possible), that would have made the Festival the 2nd-largest "city" in the State of New York, behind only the City of New York. And since about 3 times as many people as expected showed up, they had problems with...

* The food situation. There wasn't enough. To this day, there are nearby store owners who say they made a fortune selling sandwiches and soda to people going to the festival.

* The hygiene situation. Anyone who's ever been to a sold-out football game and had to use the bathroom, and has been foolish enough to wait until halftime, understands why baseball has 9 innings instead of 2 halves or 4 quarters. It's bad enough when 60,000 people want to use the john at once, in  a building designed to hold that many.

Now imagine that, out of 500,000 people, at any one time, 1 percent need to relieve themselves. That's 5,000. I don't know how many port-a-potties they had, but imagine that it was 100. That's 1 contained hole in the ground for every 50 people. And I don't think there were shower facilities there, and lots of people stayed for the full 3 days. And remember, this was the middle of August in New York State. Hot. So even if it hadn't rained, producing all that dinginess and mud, those 600 acres must've given off some serious fumes. This, of course, gave rise to the myth of "the dirty hippie," which is also greatly exaggerated, but, at Woodstock, was bad enough.

* The medical situation. I don't know how many "bad trips" or overdoses there were, although the legend of warning Woodstockers about "the brown acid" (LSD, possibly laced with PCP, a.k.a. "angel dust") has been well-documented. Out of the 500,000 or so people who were there, it's been said that 3 died: One from an overdose, one from appendicitis, and one fool who decided to sleep under a tractor on a hill, and you can guess the result.

Now, there were almost certainly more murders, overdoses, accidents and medical miscues that weekend in New York City, with all the modern medical facilities available, including some of the most honored hospitals in the world. But the men running Woodstock were woefully underprepared. Anywhere from 1 to 3 births were said to have happened there, to say nothing of the conceptions that happened there, and the couples that met and had children later on, so the deaths are probably more than balanced out. But then, those births required medical attention, too.

* The rain. Yeah, it rained. That's no myth. At one point, somebody onstage got all those people to chant, "No rain! No rain! No rain! No rain!" That worked about as well as chanting, "One, two, three, four, we don't want your fuckin' war!" As in, not at all.

No, on August 15, 16, 17 and 18, 1969, Max Yasgur's 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel Woods, New York, where the festival was held, was not the place to be. In contrast, the next year, when the documentary about the festival was released, a movie theater showing it was the place to be. There, the millions of people who have said they were there could have a far better experience than the half a million or so who actually were there.

I just found this out while putting this post together: Max Yasgur was actually something you would think the Woodstockers would have opposed: A businessman. Yes, he was a farmer, but he had the largest dairy farm in New York State's Sullivan County. He was also a registered Republican, hardly surprising for a man living in the Catskills. And his son, Sam Yasgur, was that oh-so-square profession, a lawyer. Good thing, too: He was the main negotiator between the festival promoters and his father, to secure the farm as a site. Max died in 1973, just 54 years old, but Sam is still alive, age 71, and is now the Sullivan County Attorney, having previously held that post for Westchester County.

On the other hand, Max Yasgur, despite being a guy who grew up during the Great Depression and came of age during World War II, was a big believer in freedom of expression, and didn't like the way the hippies had been portrayed in the media to that point. He rented out his field because it had been a wet summer, and this made up the difference in the cost of the hay he didn't have availablefor his cows. He also gave away the milk he was producing that weekend, and filled up his empty milk bottles with water and had them distributed for free to the concertgoers. The Republican businessman was doing a full "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs."

And on the final full day, Yasgur addressed the crowd, and said:

I'm a farmer. I don't know how to speak to twenty people at one time, let alone a crowd like this. But I think you people have proven something to the world. Not only to the Town of Bethel, or Sullivan County, or New York State. You've proven something to the world.

This is the largest group of people ever assembled in one place. We have had no idea that there would be this size group, and because of that you've had quite a few inconveniences as far as water, food, and so forth. Your producers have done a mammoth job to see that you're taken care of... They'd enjoy a vote of thanks.

But above that, the important thing that you've proven to the world is that a half a million kids — and I call you kids because I have children that are older than you are — a half million young people can get together and have three days of fun and music, and have nothing but fun and music, and I God bless you for it!

It probably wasn't the largest group of people ever assembled in one place -- I've heard that Gandhi's funeral, in early 1948, had over 2 million people lining the streets, and some New York ticker-tape parades have topped that -- though he may not have known that. But he saw the point.

As far as I know, Max Yasgur's thoughts about the quality of the music were unrecorded. But, as Ray Charles once said in a commercial for Pioneer laserdisc players (laserdiscs were like album-sized 1980s forerunners of DVDs), "If the music don't sound good, who cares what the picture looks like?" (Both a reference to Ray's blindness and a valid point.) So how good was the music at Woodstock?

Supposedly, transcendent performances were given by several performers, including The Who, Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, The Band, Sly & the Family Stone, and, closing the show as the sun rose on the 18th with a psychedelic "Star-Spangled Banner," Jimi Hendrix. And, I have to admit, they all sounded good on television, decades after the fact.

But Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane, Joe McDonald of Country Joe & the Fish, and John Sebastian of the Lovin' Spoonful all said it was the worst performance of their careers. (Sebastian, by then split from the Spoonful, took the stage at Woodstock and sang one of my favorite songs ever, "Darling, Be Home Soon," but I have to agree with his self-assessment: He was terrible. He either was really, really stoned, or wanted people to think he was.) Slick actually said that the music was better at Altamont, the festival held in the Bay Area that December, where even more went wrong.
(That's Sebastian, although I chose this photo more for the panorama of the crowd.)

Back to my usual forte, sports, especially baseball:

10. The Mets were more popular than the Yankees. This is a myth that Met fans, including many in the media, have been telling us pretty much since the Mets debuted in April 1962.

Here's the per-home-game attendance figures from 1961 (the year before the Mets debuted, included as a control) until 1969 (the last year of the decade, and the year of the Mets' "Miracle"):

Year Yankees Mets
1961 21,444 < Not applicable
1962 18,439 > 11,532
1963 16,260 > 13,335
1964 15,922 < 21,390
1965 14,982 < 21,832
1966 14,058 < 24,009
1967 15,454 < 19,327
1968 14,459 < 21,996
1969 13,185 < 26,856

Yankee attendance dropped by 3,000 a game when the Mets arrived. But, remember, '61 was also the year of the Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris home run chase, and that wasn't repeated in '62. Yankee attendance went down by 2,200 in '63. Why? Because Mantle missed 2 months of the season with an injury.

The year the Mets opened Shea, brand-new, with no support poles, a big parking lot, and not in a deteriorating neighborhood where poor minorities lived? Yankee attendance dropped only 338 per game. If Shea was so great, and the Mets were so much fun, shouldn't the drop have been considerably greater?

Even the fall from a Pennant to 6th place in '65 only dropped the attendance by less than 1,000. Yankee attendance actually went up from '66 to '67, and in '68 (the first winning season since '64, though hardly a contending one) was higher than it was in '66.

But then came a 1,300-fan drop in '69. Was that because the Mets won it all? No, it was because Mantle retired, taking away the Yanks' biggest drawing card. (See also what happened to the Baltimore Orioles' attendance, which took a nosedive not when they stopped winning in 1998, but after 2001 when Cal Ripken retired.)
But if you consider that the Mets brought the fans of the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers together, well, it stands to reason that they would have more fans. (This is hardly the case anymore.) So if you accept that 2 fan bases had been brought together to form 1, then there's a different chart (and not just because I'm not including the inapplicable 1961):

Year Yankees Mets
1962 18,439 > 5,766
1963 16,260 > 6,668
1964 15,922 > 10,695
1965 14,982 > 10,916
1966 14,058 > 12,005
1967 15,454 > 9,664
1968 14,459 > 11,998
1969 13,185 < 13,428

So, really, based on their own merit, and not on memories of the Boys of Summer, the Shot Heard 'Round the World and the Say Hey Kid, the Mets weren't really more popular than the Yankees until the end of the decade, their Miracle Year -- which was also Year 1 A.M, after Mickey.

True, a Met fan interested in philosophy, logic or semantics (surely, there must be a few) could say, "Well, the Yankees' popularity was based on Mantle, and the fact that they were always winning." There is a lot of truth to that. But if you accept that the Yankees were riding Mickey's coattails, you also have to accept that the Mets were riding the coattails of Jackie, Campy, Pee Wee, Willie and Bobby Thomson.

We could have this debate of which post-1968 team was more popular, comparing the 1977-81 Yankees to the 1969 or 1986 Mets. But once you start looking at Yankee attendance figures from 1996 onward, it isn't even close.

Taking all these facts into consideration, it has to be said: Based on themselves, and not on memories of players who weren't even Mets (or, in the cases of Duke Snider and Gil Hodges, weren't Mets until they were old and injured), the Mets weren't more popular than the Yankees in the 1960s, until 1969. Maybe the Mets finally becoming, genuinely, more popular than the Yankees was the true "miracle."

I know I said I was doing a Top 10, and that's 10. But let me add one more sports-related myth from the 1960s:

11. Football overtook baseball in popularity. No, not in the Sixties, it didn't. A total of 27.2 million fans saw regular-season Major League Baseball games in calendar year 1969. The National Football League and the American Football League combined, in their last year as separate leagues, with 2 more teams (26 to 24), saw 8.9 million fans at their regular-season games in 1969.

True, this meant that an average of 49,000 fans saw each pro football game, while just 14,000 saw each MLB game. But consider that there's only 1 pro football game a week, while there's usually about 6 baseball games a week. Divide those 49,000 by 6, and now you've got an average of about 8,200 fans attending NFL or AFL games every day.

Even in 2013, over 74 million people saw MLB games -- about 30,464 per game. The NFL, with 2 more teams (32 to 30)? 34.6 million, about half as many -- but 135,136 per week, and thus 19,305 per day.

By that measure, pro football still isn't more popular than baseball. Baseball is still the National Pastime -- 30,464 divided by 19,305 makes baseball more popular by 58 percent!.

Oh, you want to talk about television ratings? Even in a bad year for the Yankees, with Derek Jeter injured for much of the season and the team winning "only" 85 games, YES Network games got 2.62 percent of the viewing audience. The Mets, in another awful year, got just 1.54 percent on SNY. The Giants? 15.3 -- but divide that by 6 (again, 6 baseball games a week, 1 football game a week), and it's 2.55, less than the Yankees! The Jets got 12.3, and that's 2.05, more than the Mets, but also noticeably less than the Yankees. Add it up, and it's 4.16 for New York baseball teams, 4.60 for New York football teams. (UPDATE: I'll be interested to see the final totals for the 2015 NFL season, now that the Yankees have made the Playoffs again and the Mets have actually won a Pennant.)

But let's go back to the 1960s. What were the major events in each sport in the decade?

Baseball: Bill Mazeroski's homer, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris chasing 61, Maury Wills reintroducing us to the stolen base, Sandy Koufax's no-hitters, Bob Gibson's pitching, Frank Robinson and Carl Yastrzemski winning Triple Crowns, Don Drysdale's 58 2/3rds consecutive scoreless innings,Denny McLain's 31-win season, and the great Pennant races of 1962, '64, '65 and '67.

Pro football: The dominance of the Green Bay Packers, the passing of Johnny Unitas, the running of Jim Brown and Gale Sayers, the Ice Bowl between the Packers and the Dallas Cowboys, and the rise of the AFL and its eventual culmination in the Super Bowl wins of the New York Jets and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Which sport's big events got talked about more then? Which ones get talked about more now?

Even in 1969, when Joe Namath guaranteed the Jets would win Super Bowl III, and did, and excited everyone, especially in the New York Tri-State Area, the Mets winning the World Series 9 months later was a bigger story. And it remains so. TV shows (such as Everybody Loves Raymond) and movies (including Oh, God! and Frequency) have paid tribute to the '69 Mets. When was the last time a major pop culture item made reference to the '68 Jets, or even to Namath? The Odd Couple? The freakin' Brady Bunch?
The Jets' big upset was a moment that neatly fell into a specific time. The Mets' big upset was a moment for all time.

Because baseball was still bigger than football. And it still is.

*

I was born on December 18, 1969, in the last 2 weeks of the decade, the one remembered for the Beatles, Dylan, Vietnam, rising crime in the cities, race riots, growing suburbs, hippies, drugs, Woodstock, Broadway Joe Namath, the Miracle Mets, and now, in retrospect, Mad Men.

There's an old saying: "If you remember the Sixties, you weren't there." Well, I was there... barely. And I don't remember it.

I know that a lot of what we think we know about the 1960s simply isn't true, or is only partly true.

The people who lived through those times, even the ones who lied to us then, and even the ones who lie about those times now, but especially those who want the truth known, deserve to have the truth told.

Friday, January 24, 2014

When Did the Rangers Begin to "Suck"?

Islander fans said it first, and we Devils fans picked it up: "RANGERS SUCK!"

Of course, we added something they didn't: "FLYERS SWALLOW!"

But with the Rangers about to play first the Devils, and then the Islanders, at Yankee Stadium this coming week, the question should be asked: When, exactly, did the Rangers begin to "suck"?

*

First, let's to define "to suck." It's not the same thing as "to stink," meaning to be horribly bad at the sport that the team or individual is playing. Yes, there have been times -- individual games, parts of a season, entire seasons, and even a few entire eras -- when the Rangers have stunk. But that's not the same thing as "sucking."

When I was a kid, "suck" was considered a dirty word. I didn't understand why. At one point, I thought it was short for "suck eggs." And I had no idea why sucking an egg was a bad idea. It took until I was a bit older to realize it actually meant "suck dick." (Hence, "Rangers suck, Flyers swallow.")

Today, with basketball player Jason Collins and soccer player Robbie Rogers, and several female athletes of note, competing as openly gay athletes, homophobia isn't just evil, it's ridiculous. It makes no sense.

But we've become so used to the term "sucks" that it has ceased to have the same meaning. It no longer means, "I hate you so much, that I imagine you giving oral sex to another man." It means, "I hate you so much, I don't need to qualify it with thoughts about your personal life."

So when Devils and Islanders fans say, "Rangers suck," it means nothing more than, "The Rangers are bad, because I hate them."

In that light, it sounds pretty stupid, doesn't it?

But if you actually do hate the Rangers, then, damn it, it feels so GOOD to say it! So we do -- even when the Devils (or the Islanders) aren't playing the Rangers. At least once every period at the Prudential Center, a fan high up in the upper deck starts to whistle, and the whole building yells, "RANGERS SUCK!" And a few, forgetting that there are women and children in the building, add, "Flyers swallow!"

A few years ago, the sound-effects guy at the Nassau Coliseum began playing "The Chicken Dance" during breaks in the action, and Isle fans worked "THE RANGERS SUCK!" into it.

And both sets of fans, hearing the arena organist play, "If You're Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands," adapted it for the Rangers: "If you know the Rangers suck, and they'll never win the Cup, if you know the Rangers suck, then clap your hands!"

Sound ridiculous? Well, Ranger fans have their own version. I'll get to that a little later.

*

Who first said that the Rangers suck? Well, back in the "Original Six" days, 1942 to 1967, there were only, yes, 6 teams in the National Hockey League: The New York Rangers, the Boston Bruins, the Detroit Red Wings, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Bruins, being the closest team (212 miles between the Gardens from 1928 to 1968), would have been the Rangers' natural rivals. Except that Bruins fans don't seem to chant, "Rangers suck!" Being also Red Sox fans, they're much more likely to chant, "Yankees suck!"

When the New England Patriots won their first Super Bowl in February 2002, they had a parade through downtown Boston, ending at City Hall. Once there, Larry Izzo, a backup linebacker who would be totally forgotten now if it wasn't for this, held up the Vince Lombardi Trophy, pumped it, and yelled, "Yankees suck!" And however many people could fit into City Hall Plaza (I've been there, and I'm making a slightly educated guess of around 250,000) picked it up and chanted it.

Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe said, shortly thereafter, "I guarantee you, if the New York Giants win the Super Bowl, nobody's going to start a 'Boston sucks' chant."

When the Jets won their Super Bowl, it saved Joe Namath from having to find out the actual meaning of "guarantee": "(such-and-such occurrence) will happen, and if it doesn't, I will (make a specific type of amend for my wrong prediction)." Same with Mark Messier when he predicted the Rangers would win the 1994 Stanley Cup. But for all the times that Patrick Ewing guaranteed that the Knicks would win the NBA title, he was never held to it.

When the Giants beat, of all teams, the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII in February 2008, there was a parade up Broadway, ending at New York's City Hall, and, while it is the Jets, not the Giants, who are the Patriots' AFC East rivals, all those Giant fans, most of them Yankee Fans (Met fans, by and large, tend to root for the Jets because of the shared Queens/Long Island heritage), chanted, "Boston sucks!" As far as I know, Shaughnessy had no comment on that.

*

The first hockey team in New York was the New York Americans, who debuted in 1925, to fill the gap in the NHL left by the folding of the Ontario-based Hamilton Tigers. They were awful on the ice, but drew a lot of fans to the newly-built third Madison Square Garden, on 8th Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets. (The first 2 Gardens were built off the northeastern corner of Madison Square, on Madison Avenue between 26th and 27th Streets -- the first in 1879, the second in 1891. The New York Life Building stands on the site now.)

The Garden, and the corporation that ran its business and events, was owned by George "Tex" Rickard, the nation's foremost boxing promoter. (One of his limited partners was wrestling promoter Jess McMahon, grandfather of WWE boss Vince McMahon.) Tex was so pleased by the profits from "the Amerks" that he applied to the NHL to have a second team at The Garden. Why not? New York had enough baseball fans for 3 teams, surely it had enough hockey fans for 2. He turned out to be wrong about that -- but in a way that benefited him.

The new team was quickly nicknamed "Tex's Rangers" by the media, and Tex went with it, outfitting them in the same colors as the Amerks: Red, white and blue. With Lester Patrick, one of the greatest defensemen of the previous era, as head coach and general manager, the Rangers were successful, every which way, from the start, making the Playoffs in their first season, 1926-27, and then winning the Stanley Cup in 1928, 1933 and 1940, and also reaching the Finals in 1929, 1932 and 1937.

Rickard lived to see the first Cup, but fell victim to appendicitis, and, in the days before antibiotics, died in 1929, just 58 years old. He had lived just long enough to see the first of what he planned on being 6 copies of The Garden built around the country. He called it the Boston Madison Square Garden -- which, of course, was soon shortened to just "the Boston Garden." (Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, aside from being one of the Original Six teams' arenas, had no connection to Rickard.)

The Rangers weren't just talented, having future Hockey Hall-of-Famers like Frank Boucher, brothers Bill and Bun Cook, Babe Pratt and Ivan "Ching" Johnson (supposedly, he looked Chinese, but I don't see it) -- they were classy. Lady Byng, wife of Viscount Byng, the Governor-General of Canada (as Cup namesake Lord Stanley had been 30 years earlier) and that country's foremost military hero of World War I, donated a trophy to be awarded annually to "the most gentlemanly player" in the NHL, and Boucher won it 7 of the first 8 times it was awarded. She finally told him he could keep it, and donated a new trophy.

Okay, Johnson and Pratt -- a.k.a. "Pratt the Rat" -- could be among the roughest customers in the game, in a rough era. But, by and large, as would be said today, the Rangers played the right way. And they were rewarded, not just with wins, but with the adoration of local fans, who sometimes showed up at The Garden for 8:45 starts -- at the time, the same time that curtains went up at Broadway shows -- wearing formal dress. Yes, Ranger fans showed up wearing tuxedos and evening gowns. This was a LONG time ago.

As a result, Ranger fans were considered classy, and Amerks fans were considered to be blue-collar, even rough -- hockey's equivalent of the Brooklyn Dodgers. This was not helped by the fact that their owner, Bill Dwyer, was one of New York's biggest bootleggers in the Prohibition era (1920-33). This fact did not seem to bother NHL President Frank Calder. (The office wasn't called "Commissioner" until 1991.) The end of Prohibition ruined Dwyer, and he ended up losing control of the team to the league, who sold it to their coach and former star player, Mervyn "Red" Dutton.

The teams played each other in the Playoffs twice. The Rangers won 2 games to none in 1929, and in 1938, having acquired Ching Johnson, the Amerks stunned the Rangers 2 games to 1, winning the finale in overtime on a goal by Lorne Carr.

But that was it for them. They had reached the Semifinals, as far as they had ever gotten, and lost to the Chicago Black Hawks (it wouldn't be officially one word, "Blackhawks," until 1986), who went on to win the Cup. In 1942, hit by financial difficulty and the manpower shortage created by World War II, Dutton had to suspend operations, reducing the number of teams in the league from 7 to 6 -- hence, "Original" is incorrect, but "Six" is.

When the war ended, the franchise remained wrapped up, and Dutton supposedly placed a curse on the Rangers: They would never again win the Stanley Cup. Dutton died in 1987, at which point the Rangers hadn't won the Cup in 47 years, so, as far as he was concerned, mission accomplished.

The other source of the "Curse of 1940" theory is that The Garden's mortgage was paid off in early 1941, and, still having the Cup, Ranger management celebrated by burning the mortgage papers in the bowl of the Cup, thus "angering the hockey gods." There aren't actually any hockey gods, and there probably wasn't an actual curse, but the mortgage-burning story is absolutely true: I can't find the photograph on the Internet, but I have seen it.

The Rangers won the Cup in 1940 and finished 1st in the regular season in 1942, but The War (always Capital T, Capital W to anyone alive at the time) ruined them. From 1942-43 to 1965-66, 24 seasons, the Rangers made the Playoffs only 6 times, and the Finals only once, 1950, when they lost to the Detroit Red Wings in overtime of Game 7, on a goal by Pete Babando.

How bad were the Rangers in the Fifties and early Sixties? Goalie Lorne "Gump" Worsley was asked what team gave him the most trouble. Rather than said the Montreal Canadiens of Maurice Richard and Jean Beliveau, or the Detroit Red Wings of Gordie Howe, he said, "The Rangers." They traded him to Montreal in 1963, and he proved his point, winning 4 Cups with them -- and being so good that the Habs could afford to trade away 2 of his backups, Tony Esposito (Phil's brother) and Rogie Vachon, both of whom became Hall-of-Famers with other teams. So it wasn't Gump who was bad, it was the Rangers.

The Rangers stunk. But they didn't "suck." There was nothing inherently evil about them, or about their fans.

*

The tide began to turn in the late Sixties, just as "the New Madison Square Garden Center" opened in 1968, on top of Penn Station, between 31st and 33rd Streets, and 7th and 8th Avenues. (What became known as "the old Garden" was demolished right afterward, and a parking lot was put on the site until construction began on Worldwide Plaza, a skyscraper which opened in 1989.) The Rangers rose back to contention largely thanks to goalie Eddie Giacomin, defenseman Brad Park, and the "GAG Line," which stood for "Goal A Game": Jean Ratelle centering Vic Hadfield and Rod Gilbert. (All are still alive; all but Hadfield are in the Hall of Fame, and Hadfield probably should be.)

This was a bit of a golden age for New York sports: Between 1968 and 1973, although the Yankees and Giants were mediocre at best, World Championships were won by the Mets, the Jets, and the Knicks twice, with the Mets winning an additional Pennant and the Knicks reaching an additional NBA Finals. The Rangers were a part of this, having a memorable series with the Black Hawks in 1971 (highlighted by Pete Stemkowski scoring a winner in triple overtime in Game 6, before losing in Chicago in Game 7) and reaching the Finals in 1972, before losing in 6 games to the Bruins of Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito.

Still, Bruin fans didn't chant "Rangers suck," not even in the Boston Garden games of the series.

This was in the NHL's big era of expansion, and the next season, the New York Islanders debuted, at the Nassau Coliseum in Hempstead. (The mailing address is Uniondale, but it's within the town of Hempstead.) For 2 years, they were terrible, but in 1975, just their 3rd season, they beat the Rangers in the Playoffs.

This was a stunning blow, and it was a transition period in New York sports: The Yankees were playing in Shea Stadium while the original Yankee Stadium was being renovated, the Mets began to decline, the Giants played first at the Yale Bowl in Connecticut and then at Shea while waiting for Giants Stadium to be finished, the Jets fell apart as did Namath's knees, and the Knicks got old and fell apart while watching the Nets win 2 ABA titles.

The hockey shift was the most noticeable of all. The Islanders began a dominant stretch that would eventually see them reach 5 straight Finals, winning 4 straight Cups. But calendar year 1975 was the Rangers' annus horribilis. Ranger management, having already traded Hadfield, fired Emile Francis as head coach after the Playoff loss to the Isles, ending his tenure in that role after 11 years. He remained general manager a little longer, being relieved of duty the following January. But before that, he made a few deals, including one in June with the St. Louis Blues that brought in young goalie John Davidson. That left the veteran Gilles Villemure as the odd man out in the net, and he asked to be traded, and was, to Chicago on October 28.

Then came a pair of earthquakes. On Halloween, October 31, 1975 -- the day after the Daily News reacted to President Gerald Ford's refusal to bail out the financially-troubled city with its most famous headline, "FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD" -- just 4 games into the new season, the Rangers waived the still-popular Giacomin, and he was picked up by the Red Wings.

As fate would have it, the Wings were the opponents in the Rangers' next home game, and on November 2, as the players lined up for the National Anthem, including Giacomin in a red Number 31 instead of his familiar white Number 1, the Ranger fans, showing that they knew more about hockey than their team's management, chanted, "Ed-die! Ed-die! Ed-die!" His former New York teammates rapped their sticks on the boards in the traditional hockey players' salute. The chant resurfaced a few times during the game, with every Ranger goal on Eddie booed, and the Rangers lost, 6-4. It was probably the only time Ranger fans ever left The Garden happy about a defeat.

Five days later, on November 7, the Broadway Blueshirts made what became known in hockey as The Trade: Sending Park, by then the team Captain, Ratelle, and defenseman Joe Zanussi for Esposito and defenseman Carol Vadnais. None of those players had wanted to be traded. Asked in 2008 how long it took him to get over his anger at the Rangers, Park said, "I'm still ticked!"

To make matters worse, Espo demanded the Number 7 he'd worn in Boston, but Gilbert, who'd wore it for the Rangers since 1962 (like Bobby Hull, he started his career wearing 16), didn't want to give it up. Gilbert was already (and, to this day, remains) the Rangers' all-time leading scorer, and it didn't matter if you were a 2-time Stanley Cup winner, holder (at the time) of the single-season records for goals, assists and points, and a national hero in your homeland: You do not ask a club icon to give up his uniform number. So Gilbert held firm, and the club backed him up, so Espo took Number 77. In the next few years, as age caught up with Gilbert and he retired, Espo would win the fans over, big-time. But he got off to a very rocky start, and, yes, part of it was his fault.

The Rangers missed the Playoffs in that 1975-76 season. They missed again in 1976-77, the year that the longtime shield logo was placed on the jerseys, instead of the diagonal "RANGERS" that had been so familiar since the team's founding.

Fans got restless. The top level, the 400 sections, of The Garden had blue seats, and in those cheapest of seats, the passion began to boil over. The seats were blue, the jerseys were blue (although, at this point, home teams wore white in the NHL), the air was blue (smoking was still allowed in sports arenas at the time), and the language was getting bluer than ever.

The Rangers made the Playoffs in 1978, and then in 1979, they regained their local icon status, including a thrilling Stanley Cup Semifinal win over the Islanders, delaying the Nassau County club's rise to the top for one more year.

Now, here is where Ranger fans' memories and the facts diverge. The Rangers had gotten a pair of Swedish forwards from the World Hockey Association's Winnipeg Jets: Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson. The way Ranger fans remember it, during that epic '79 series, Islander defenseman and Captain Denis Potvin crashed Nilsson into the boards with a vicious illegal hit, and Nilsson never played again, causing the Rangers to lose the Stanley Cup Finals to the Montreal Canadiens.

The story isn't true, and they damn well know it. The incident happened in a regular-season game on February 25, 1979, a game the Rangers won 3-2. Nilsson chased the puck, and got his skate caught in the boards. Potvin did hit him, and it did break Nilsson's ankle. But no penalty was called on the play, because the hit was legal.

And Nilsson did return in time to play in the Finals against the Canadiens. The Canadiens won anyway, which should have surprised no one, as it was their 4th straight Cup, their 10th in a span of 15 years. The only surprising thing was that the Rangers won Game 1 at the Montreal Forum, before the Habs took the next 4 straight. Nilsson could have been fine all season long, and it wouldn't have meant a damn, because the late Seventies Habs may have been the greatest hockey team ever assembled, with 10 future Hall-of-Famers including Guy Lafleur and future Devils head coaches Jacques Lemaire and Larry Robinson. (Denis Brodeur, Marty's father, was the team photographer.)

The hit didn't end Nilsson's season, let alone his career: He played 2 more seasons, and part of a 3rd, before he hung up his skates. He is still alive, living in the Swedish capital of Stockholm, and bears no ill will toward Potvin, who would Captain the Isles to 4 Cups.

It doesn't matter: For 35 years -- meaning a big chunk of current Ranger fandom wasn't even born when this happened, though the color videotape of the incident survives to prove to them that the story they've been told is a bald-faced lie -- Ranger fans have chanted, "POTVIN SUCKS!"

Denis Potvin didn't suck. He didn't even stink. He is on the short list for the title of greatest hockey player in Tri-State Area history, right up there with Frank Boucher, Brian Leetch and Martin Brodeur. And... let's tell the truth here... according to the rules of the game, he did nothing wrong in the incident in question.

But the Rangers did make the Finals in 1979, rewarding their long-suffering fans, now 39 years without a Cup. And the Rangers, every bit as much as the Yankees were, as the Mets, Knicks and Jets (well, Namath) were a few years earlier, were the toast of the town. The ad agencies came out with endorsement ideas, making players like Esposito, Davidson, Ron Greschner and others TV stars beyond the tape-delayed games shown late at night on WOR-Channel 9, and the occasional weekend game shown on WNBC-Channel 4 as part of NBC Sportsworld.

Most of these endorsements were forgettable. One was not. It was for Sasson jeans. This was the era when "designer jeans" -- including Sasson, Jordache, Cacharel, and Calvin Klein with its ads featuring a still-minor Brooke Shields -- were popular, and were worn in the infamous discos such as New York's Studio 54.

Esposito, Hedberg, new Captain Dave Maloney, and Ron Duguay were shown skating around in Sasson jeans, with their jerseys tucked into the jeans. Their silly little dances didn't help. Nor did their hairstyles. Nor did their pronunciation of the brand name: You'd think Canadians, especially the French-Canadian Duguay, would have been able to pronounce "Sah-SAHN," not "Sah-SOON" like Vidal Sassoon hair products (which they may also have been using). It may have been the most ridiculous commercial in the history of sports. Duguay was a pretty good player, but the fact that his name was pronounced "DOO-gay" didn't help, and soon fans of every other team were pronouncing it "Doo-GAY."

When the Rangers got off to a bad start in the 1979-80 season, a new tradition was started. When the opposition would score, Ranger fans, to the tune of the ad's jingle, would point at the Rangers and sing, "Ooh, la la, you suck!" So, it seems, they understood the difference between poor performance (their own team) and hateability (Potvin).

But once the Islanders won the Cup on May 24, 1980, on Bobby Nystrom's overtime goal in Game 6 against the Philadelphia Flyers, the brief Ranger resurgence was effectively over: There was only one team in the Tri-State Area, and it was the Uniondale club. So when the teams got together, either in Hempstead or in Manhattan, Ranger fans would chant, "Potvin sucks!" and Islander fans, invoking the Rangers' last title, would chant, "NINE-teen-FOR-ty!" (Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!) They would also, instead of insulting a single player, insult the entire team: "Rangers suck!"

So perhaps we can settle on a date: November 22, 1980. It was the first time the Rangers and Islanders had played each other since the Isles won the Cup. It was at the Nassau Coliseum, and the Isles won 6-4. The "Rangers suck!" and "1940!" chants rang out, and there was nothing Ranger fans could say that could cancel that out -- try as they might with "Potvin sucks!"

Ranger fans got even more frustrated after that, turning into, along with Raider fans, the closest thing that North American sports had to the hooligans then doing their damnedest to ruin soccer in England. Today, the strip of asphalt between Penn Station and The Garden is reserved for delivery vehicles. But in the 1980s, it was a taxi stand. And it, more than Harlem, the Lower East Side, the South Bronx, or anywhere in Brooklyn, was probably the most dangerous place in New York City. It wasn't just because New York cabdrivers tend to be maniacs. It was because Ranger fans tend to be maniacs. It was especially dangerous after a Ranger-Islander game, as Isles fans tried to get back downstairs into Penn Station, to take the Long Island Rail Road home. Having had enough pregame and in-game time to get liquored up, the kind of police presence the Yankees need when the Red Sox come to town was needed pretty much anytime the Isles came to The Garden.

When the Devils arrived in the fall of 1982, a few Ranger fans living in the Garden State, sick of not being able to get tickets to the continuously-sold-out Garden, or sick of schlepping their way through the Lincoln Tunnel (or both), switched over, they decided that the Rangers -- who had never done enough for most of them anyway, unless said fans were well over 40 years old and could remember 1940 or earlier -- rather than the stronger Islanders, or the other "nearby" team, the Flyers, would be the big arch-rival, and adopted the "Rangers suck" and "1940" chants. The latter was helped by the fact that the seating capacity for hockey games at the Meadowlands' Brendan Byrne Arena was 19,040.

The Islanders beat the Rangers in the Playoffs in 1981, '82, '83, and, most memorably, in a best-3-out-of-5 overtime Game 5 classic in '84. Not until 1990 -- by which point Islander legends such as Potvin, Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy and Billy Smith had retired or left -- would the City club win another Playoff series against the suburban one. But they still hadn't won the Cup, and the drought was now 50 years. Half a century. When Devils fans chanted, "1940!" Ranger fans could chant "Nineteen-never!" This was especially true after beating the Devils in the Playoffs in 1992. But they still couldn't say anything to Islander fans.

Until 1994. They had to beat both suburban teams to reach the Stanley Cup Finals, and did. Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, which the Rangers won on Stephane Matteau's double-overtime goal, remains the most crushing defeat in Devils history -- one that losing to the Rangers in the Playoffs again in 1997 and 2008 didn't help; winning the Cup in 1995, 2000 and 2003 didn't quite wipe out; and the Devils sweeping the Rangers in 2006 did little to alleviate. It wasn't until Adam Henrique's overtime winner in Game 6 of the 2012 Conference Finals, giving the Devils 5 trips to the Stanley Cup Finals since the Rangers last made it, that "Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!" was finally put to bed, and "Rangers suck!" had any real potency from the Jersey side of the Hudson River.

*

But even finally winning the Cup after 54 years (beating the Vancouver Canucks in the Finals) did little to reduce Ranger fans' bastardry. Like Red Sox fans, when their 86-year drought finally ended in 2004, they actually got sorer as winners than they ever did as losers. The difference is, while the Sox have added 2 more titles, the Rangers have now gone nearly another 20 years without even reaching the Finals, while the Devils have been to 5, winning 3 -- as many Cups in 20 years as the Rangers have won in 85 years.

The fact that the Rangers still have more Cups in their 88-year history than the Devils have in their 32-year history -- 4 to 3 -- doesn't change the fact that all but a few of their fans have seen only one. When Howie Rose yelled, "The waiting is over! The New York Rangers have won the Stanley Cup! And this one will last a lifetime!" on June 14, 1994, no one realized it at the time, but -- thus far -- it has HAD to last a lifetime.

Or, to put it another way: Since the Rangers won the Cup on April 13, 1940, there have been 13 Presidents and 7 Popes. Network television, color TV, cable TV and high-definition TV all began. Nazi Germany, the Japanese Empire, the Soviet Union, fascist Spain, the segregated South and apartheid South Africa have all fallen. The Berlin Wall and the World Trade Center both went up, and both came down. Rock and roll and hip-hop have been invented. All 4 Beatles were born, came together, took the world by storm, rewrote the rules of popular music, and broke up, and 2 of them have died.

Since the Rangers won the Cup on April 13, 1940, man has gone from watching Flash Gordon serials to walking on the Moon to hardly traveling in space at all. Women have gone from a defense-plant necessity to back in the kitchen to liberation to seeing the consequences of that liberation -- many of them good, some of them not so good. Computers have, for all intents and purposes, been invented, and shrank from the size of a city block, to the length of a wall, to the size of a filing cabinet, to a desktop, to a laptop, to a device small enough to fit in your hand -- the one I wrote this post on is 15 by 10 by 2 inches, and my "computer with a phone app" is 5 by 2 1/2 by 1/2 inch.

Since the Rangers won the Cup on April 13, 1940, baseball has seen the introduction of African-American, Hispanic and Asian players, artificial turf, domed stadiums, the designated hitter, divisional play and interleague play. The Dodgers and Giants left for California, and the Mets arrived and played 52 seasons. The NFL has gone from a minor concern to our most popular sport. The NBA was founded. The AAFC, 2 AFLs, the ABA, the WHA, the WFL, the USFL and the XFL all came and went. All 4 major league sports have seen expansion from North to South and from East to West, with the NHL growing from 7 to 30 teams.

Since the Rangers won the Cup on April 13, 1940, Shea Stadium, Giants Stadium, the Spectrum and Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, Mile High Stadium and McNichols Arena in Denver, County Stadium in Milwaukee, Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, Metropolitan Stadium and the Metropolitan Sports Center outside Minneapolis, Exhibition Stadium in Toronto, Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, the HemisFair Arena in San Antonio, Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Tampa Stadium, Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Arlington Stadium and Texas Stadium outside Dallas, the Reunion Arena in Dallas, Foxboro Stadium outside Boston, the Capital Centre outside Washington, the Richfield Coliseum outside Cleveland, the Market Square Arena and the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis, the Kingdome in Seattle, the predecessor to the current Salt Palace in Salt Lake City (where the Jazz played their first 12 years in Utah), the Charlotte Coliseum, the Miami Arena and the Orlando Arena were all built, used, abandoned and demolished. Candlestick Park in San Francisco and the Astrodome in Houston will soon join them in the built-used-and-demolished category.

And in all that time, just under 74 years, nearly three-quarters of a century, the Rangers have won one Stanley Cup. One. The Montreal Canadiens have won 20 in that span, the Toronto Maple Leafs 10, the Detroit Red Wings 9, the Edmonton Oilers 5, the Islanders 4, the Boston Bruins 4, the New Jersey Devils 3, the Chicago Blackhawks 3, the Pittsburgh Penguins 3, the Philadelphia Flyers and Colorado Avalanche 2 each, and 1 each -- as many as the Rangers have in the last 74 years -- for the Calgary Flames, Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings.

And, keep in mind, some of those teams didn't even exist in their present forms until: Philly, Pitt and L.A. until 1967; the Isles and Oilers until 1972 (and the WHA-originating Oilers didn't join the NHL until 1979); the Flames until 1980; the Devils until 1982; Tampa Bay until 1992; Dallas and Anaheim until 1993; Colorado until 1995; and Carolina until 1997.

And yet, some Ranger fans still brag to me about their "history." They brag about being an Original Six team.

Which would be fine for Detroit, Boston and Chicago, who've won Cups in the last few years. But the Rangers haven't won in 20 years, Montreal in 21, Toronto a whopping 47 -- and they haven't even been to the Finals since they won their last Cups. At least Montreal have 24 total, Toronto 13 -- the Rangers have 4.

*

Ranger fans say we Devils fans are "jealous" of them. Jealous of what? Their history? It stinks, especially compared to ours. Their reputation? Along with Detroit, the Devils have been one of the NHL's model franchises these last 20 years, while everybody rooting for the other 29 teams knows the Rangers are a joke club. Their arena? Aside from history (the vast majority of which doesn't involve the Rangers) and access (being on top of subway and commuter rail lines helps), The Garden falls short of the Prudential Center in every way. Their fan base?

Here's what you need to know about the Ranger fan base: The last time I was inside The Garden for a hockey game, I had a great seat, back of the 200 Level, on an aisle. (The Rangers won -- but the story I'm telling is worth more to me than a Devils win would have been.) In front of me were these four drunks in Ranger jerseys. They gave me a hard time, but, knowing I was in enemy territory, I played it cool. I knew I couldn't beat four guys that big, who needed Ex-Lax because they just didn't give a shit. So there was no rough stuff between us.

Across the aisle from them was a couple, both wearing Ranger jerseys. The four drunks were getting really obnoxious, until finally, after 2 periods, she told them to knock it off. The leader (in groups like that, there's always a leader, leading them in obnoxiousness) got up, and pushed her.

Pushed a woman.

Who was obviously rooting for the same team that he was.

Showing rare intelligence for a Ranger fan, the husband called an usher. They told him what happened. The four drunks were kicked out of The World's Most Famous Arena.

Ranger fans: They "eat their own."

Bastards.

Is it any wonder that I have adopted the language of English soccer, and started calling the team "The Scum," and their fans "Scummers"?

On Sunday afternoon, the Devils and Rangers will play at Yankee Stadium.

I want this one. Real bad.