It has been so long since a team I root for reached the ultimate series in its league's playoffs, I forgot how cool it is. I experienced the euphoria again last Thursday when the New York Rangers clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals. That also helped ease some building guilt, which I will explain in a moment.
If you don't know my story, I was born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island. My father directed the telecasts for the New York Mets, New York Rangers and New York Knicks so I became a fan of those teams as did my two older brothers. I also rooted for the Jets since it seemed to be a package deal at the time. Yankees fans typically rooted for the NY Giants since both teams played at Yankee Stadium. Conversely, the Mets and Jets played at Shea Stadium so the Simon family pulled for Gang Green.
I didn't really become a fan until I was 10 which is too bad because I missed out on the Jets winning Super Bowl III in 1969, the Amazin' Mets winning the World Series in October of that year and the Knicks winning their first ever NBA Championship the following May. I did get to enjoy a second Knicks title in 1973 but the Mets lost in the '73 series to Oakland, the Rangers lost in the Cup Finals in 1972 to Boston and the Jets haven't been to a Super Bowl since that upset over Baltimore.
But I'm not complaining because the Mets provided some unbelievable moments in 1986 and in 1994, the Rangers won a Cup that will "last a lifetime" in the words of Rangers broadcaster Sam Rosen.
Outside of that it has been a while. The Mets haven't been to the World Series since 2000 and the Knicks haven't been in the Finals since 1999.
Now I can get to the guilt portion of the story. As many of you probably know, I have a son, Jonathan, who is a huge sports fan. Now, I could have let him be a free agent when it came to picking his favorite teams but I decided to have him root for my teams. I think that's one of the perks that comes with being a Dad. Not only does that mean he pulls for the Mets, Jets, Knicks and Rangers but he's also a Bills and Sabres fan. After all, he was born in Western New York and has spent all 18 of his years here.
Sadly for Jonathan, he didn't get into sports until the Bills had entered their current playoff drought and after the 1999 Cup Finals. Add it all up and I was feeling guilty about saddling him with all of these clubs. They haven't won much in his lifetime.
When the Rangers eliminated Montreal, as exciting as it was for me, I was even happier for him. He was stressing out big time during that series and I was prepared to give him the "teams can break your heart sometimes" speech in the event of Montreal winning in seven. Instead we had one of those great Father-Son moments and a memorable embrace once the game ended. As we watched the post game coverage on MSG, he was excitedly talking about going to New York for the parade if the Rangers win the Cup.
I told him what it was like back in 1994 as I watched the Rangers run to their first championship in 54 years but I also talked to him about what its like around here when the Bills and Sabres are in the playoffs and make a run to the Championship game/round. Its so much fun to see everyone come along for the ride and to feel the buzz around WNY. I can only imagine what it will be like if either team wins a title. We'll have another one of those memorable Father-Son moments since we'll both be experiencing the euphoria of a Bills or Sabres championship for the first time.