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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Winter of Discontent

With the calendar turning to December, I want to revisit an issue I explored a year ago this month: how difficult it is to be a Jets, Islanders, and Mets fan.

The Jets can still make the National Football League’s playoffs with five regular season games remaining. But two of their losses have come in the Jets’ two games against the New England Patriots, the Jets’ main divisional rival. Jets head coach Rex Ryan said at the start of the 2011 campaign that other teams “besides us” had to step up and defeat the Patriots. The statement alluded to the Jets’ two victories last year over the Patriots in their three encounters, with the final one knocking the Patriots out of the playoffs. I know I’m not the only Jets fan who has grown tired of Coach Ryan’s endless bravado, and his insistence on being the bride at every wedding, and the corpse at every wake. Determined to find out how Ryan got this way, I purchased his 2011 memoir, Play Like You Mean It; I do not recommend other Jets fans do the same. Reading the book is akin to sitting next to a stranger on a New York to Los Angeles flight, and finding their endless chatter charming for the first two hours. Somewhere over Chicago, you start lamenting your decision not to rent a head set.

The Islanders began their 2011-2012 season with three wins in their first four contests. Since then, they’ve tumbled to the bottom of the Atlantic Division’s standings, largely because of their inability to generate any offense. For instance, the Islanders did not score a goal for a 142-minute stretch in mid-November (each game is 60 minutes), a streak that included shutout losses to Boston and Pittsburgh. Our two eldest sons, aged 15 and 10, joined me and my brother-in-law at the Nassau Coliseum for the Islanders’ 6-0 loss to the Boston Bruins, the defending Stanley Cup champions. The Coliseum was packed on that Saturday night but hundreds of those in attendance wore Bruins jerseys and cheered wildly as Boston jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period. The evening’s only saving grace: the Boston fans spent lots of money that weekend in Nassau County on lodging, food, and beverages, temporarily boosting the local economy.

New York Mets fans are closely following these days the fate of shortstop José Reyes, a free agent who is likely going to sign a multi-year contract with another team. Reyes, a great albeit injury-prone player, had the highest batting average in the National League in 2011 but concluded the accomplishment in a graceless way. In the Mets’ regular season finale, Reyes bunted for a base hit in the first inning and then took himself out of the game, content to sit on his narrow lead over the Milwaukee Brewers’ Ryan Braun. Braun needed a multi-hit game later that day to surpass Reyes, and Braun was unable to accomplish that task. In a sign the universe is back in order, Braun was awarded last week the National League’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award. Reyes finished in 11th place in the MVP balloting.

 

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net