You couldn’t blame diehard New York sports fans for being disillusioned or self-pitying – or downright exhausted.
We’re weary of the proclamations of Kyrie Irving, the Brooklyn Nets superstar who has declined to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and thus cannot suit up, according to New York law.
We’re playing out the string this year with the region’s two lamentable football teams, one seemingly worse than the other. How bad has it gotten here? Paradoxically, each one causes its faithful to feel angst whenever it deigns to win a game because each victory represents a less desirable seeding position in the next NFL draft.
We’re furious at the inefficiency of the town’s big-tease baseball squads, neither of which has won a World Series since 2009. The Mets squander serious money on disappointing free agents and trade for a player who made headlines for flipping the bird at the fans who booed him last season. Meanwhile, the underachieving Yankees routinely rack up lots of regular-season triumphs, only to go down in flames in the post-season.
But for the devoted New York sports fans, there is a legitimate hope on the horizon.
The New York Rangers are showing signs so far this season of becoming a genuine Stanley Cup championship threat in the near future – mostly because of 23-year-old Adam Fox. To these hockey fans, Fox is a godsend.
He emerged as a superstar when he won the James Norris Trophy last year, signifying his ascent as the National Hockey League’s best defenseman.
As of Nov. 7, he has scored 101 points in 137 games. He has that rare quality that the top-shelf team athletes possess: He makes his teammates better because of his inspirational and unselfish play. He has a knack for knowing where to pass the puck and like the great ones, he somehow sees the entire ice surface and can anticipate what will happen next, before the other players.
Plus, there is an added reason to love this kid: He is a native New York area fellow. He grew up as a Ranger fan deep in New York Islander country.
For me, Fox’s success is personal. I can feel a special hometown connection to him, as we both went to Jericho (NY) High School. He was even in the same class as my niece (who has his cellphone number and got a nice thank you from him when she congratulated him on winning the Norris Trophy). It’s not every day when the best hockey player in the region attended my high school.
But New York Rangers fans would happily embrace Fox, who also went to Harvard, if he had grown up in Flin Flon, Manitoba. He is a nice kid, humble, team-oriented, mature, clutch. As a sign of his popularity, the Rangers (wisely) signed Fox to a contract that will pay him $9.5 million per year for the next seven seasons.
The Rangers made a wise investment – and not only because Fox reminds Ranger fans of Derek Jeter in his all-round game, work ethic, commitment to playing consistently well on the ice and not getting into publicity fiascos off of it.
As the Yankees shrewdly did with Jeter, the Rangers have built their on-ice game around his vast skills and presented him as the team’s centerpiece off it.
Ranger fans dread the strength of the hated rival New York Islanders. The two teams have been blood foes since the Islanders became a powerhouse in the 1970s and went on to win four consecutive Stanley Cups, from 1980 to 1983. The Islanders are regarded as a serious Cup contender again this season.
We Ranger fans are counting on Adam Fox. Wouldn’t it be lovely if a kid from Long Island helped to break the hearts of Islanders Nation!
I think he is up to the task.
I’ve been a Ranger fan since the 1960s. I can vividly remember all of the devastating playoff losses before Mark Messier led the team to the 1994 Stanley Cup championship (on Tuesday, June 14, in case you’re keeping score at home). I can hear Ranger announcer Sam Rosen celebrating the title by joyously shouting, “And this one will last a lifetime!”
Yes, it has. And I’ll cheer just as emphatically on the day when Adam Fox hoists the Stanley Cup over his head in a show of jubilation. That one will also last a lifetime.