For the fan in enemy territory

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Turning Back the Clocks

Today is that rarest of occurrences. Twice a year, the majority of the nation changes the time on all of their clocks. It is an almost pointless ritual called "Daylight savings time". A few small corners of the country are wise enough not to partake in this event, but tonight is one of those two occasions.

We turn the clocks back an hour and gain an extra hour of sleep (though most of us will be up bright and early for pregame football rituals). This concept of turning back time had me thinking though. Before you ask, no, I am not going to break out into my rendition of a Cher song. I related the concept, like most things in my life, to sports.

If I could turn the clock back to a better time for my teams, what time would I turn back to and what would be my fondest memory of it? Since my four primary teams (Mets, Giants, Rangers and Knicks) have never really tasted success at the same time, I am forced to visit four different times.

First, let me start with my favorite baseball team: the New York Metropolitans. The year was 1986 and I was 13. I remember laying on the floor of my living room (as all kids do when they watch TV) with my eyes covered. The Mets were down to their last out in the bottom of the 10th inning in Game 6 of the World Series. As pitch after pitch was fouled off, I bit into each finger nail more and more.

Eventually, I became more and more entranced as the situation became more tense. I watched as the television camera panned to a shot of the jumbo screen stating "congratulations world champion Boston Red Sox". But wait! The Mets aren't going down without a fight. Runners on and two out. Now I'm sitting up. There it is! A wild pitch! Tie Game!

My father (a Montreal Expos fan, remember them?) kept telling me they would still lose. "Knight comes around and the Mets win it!" What did my father know, right? That was a sweet October night and a sweeter next few days in school laughing at the kids that were Phillies fans wearing their Red Sox hats. I'll never forget that feeling.

Next, we travel back to 1990. I was at a youth retreat during my winter break. I was 16 and stuck in up state New York on what amounted to be a waste of time in the snow while I missed the best Super Bowl ever (until 2007). The night of that game, I was on a bus going back home. I heard some of it on the radio and watched some of it on TV. The best part, the end, I saw on TV. I watched in amazement as the Giants marched down the field.

A big play from Mark Bavaro here, a big run from Otis Anderson there and they were on top 20-19 in the final minutes of the Super Bowl. The Buffalo Bills QB, Jim Kelly, seemed to cut through the secondary like a knife through warm butter. With the help of Thurman Thomas, they were in position to win it in the end. It all came down to a Buffalo field goal attempt.

I watched as Giants players huddled on one knee in prayer. I joined them in prayer too. It's wide! Giants win! Giants win! They upset the unstoppable Bills; the team that introduced the "no huddle offense".

I walked much taller that following school day. It was a long week at school. I savored every moment of laughing and smiling at the Philly fans that jumped on the Bills bandwagon that year. It was a great start to a great new year.

Next, I would like to hearken back to 1994. As a young man of 20, on the cusp of his 21st birthday, I didn't follow sports as passionately for a time. But I stopped everything I was doing for the Stanley Cup Finals that year.

The New York Rangers had accomplished the impossible. They broke a 54 year championship drought with a dramatic Game 7 victory. As Mark Messier hoisted that over-sized trophy over his head, I remember standing and applauding the efforts of that group of gritty warriors.

That summer, everyone became a Rangers fan around my area. It didn't last long, as they eventually turned back to their Philly teams, but for one brief moment, it was paradise being a New York fan in south Jersey.

Finally, I want to travel back to a time not too long ago, though it seems like decades. It was the year 2000. The New York Knicks were still a prominent team in the league and the city. The last hurrah of Patrick Ewing was coming to a close.

They played an emotional and dramatic series against the rival Miami Heat. Ewing ended the series with a last minute dunk on the road in Miami to lead the Knicks to a one point win. They prevailed and advanced to the conference finals against the Indianapolis Pacers.

Though they lost the series in six games, they played their hearts out and left everything on the floor. The fans gave Ewing a wonderful ovation through every game. He was traded later that year, but it was a forgone conclusion that he was done with the Knicks. Eventually, he was done playing in the NBA.

I will always be fond of that season (though there were other championship runs in my lifetime), because that year, I had met my wife just prior to that NBA season. It was her first experience with sports. I introduced her to a winning basketball team (at the time) and a wonderful scrappy baseball team (the 2000 Mets) later that year. That was the year my wife became a New York fan in south Jersey.

As we turn our clocks back this weekend, let's remember the good times and hope they will come back. We look back now, but in the spring, we will look forward. We will look forward to a new season to come of baseball, and playoffs to come, possibly, for our hockey and basketball teams.

We will also look back then on the football season that was and look forward to the NFL draft. A lot has to happen between now and the next time we change our clocks. Hopefully, we will look back years from now in remembrance of championships earned this year and beyond for one of these teams.

If not, we can always look back with warm memories. I have shared only a few of mine with you. What are some of yours? If you could turn back the sports clock, where would you turn it to? What memories would you relive?

As you turn back your clocks, turn back your memory for one night. You'll bask in the glow of the warmth of your memories. And it will keep you warm throughout the cold winter to come.