Around this time 18 years ago, I developed some chronic stomach troubles. I had no appetite, and when I did eat, I felt ill. I felt queasy almost all the time. I was sure that I was developing some serious gastrointestinal ailment, and, to be honest, I was a little worried.
Fortunately, the distress was reasonably short-lived, and a diagnosis not long in coming. Late on June 14 of that year, my symptoms miraculously disappeared, and my appetite returned in full force the next day, as I watched in an endless loop footage of the Rangers’ winning the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1940.
The Rangers are a long way from another Stanley Cup – a LONG way, a really LONG way (an insurmountably long way if they keep playing as they did last night). But those butterflies have again taken up residence, and this time they’re joined by another breed, one that comes with the possibility of a 12th Triple Crown winner. I have occasionly idly wondered (only idly, of course) what it would feel like to approach the Belmont Stakes – just a plain old regular Belmont Stakes, not this kind of Belmont Stakes – during a Rangers’ playoff run, both of which just happen to coincide with the last few weeks of school. I’m not sure that I ever thought that it would actually happen.
But here we are. The Rangers are in the Conference Finals against the same team that caused that 1994 agita, and I’ll Have Another is already at Belmont, waiting to try to make history. This is my sporting dream come true, right?
Right. Except for the times when I feel like I’m going to throw up (which was a lot of last night, during the aforementioned debacle).
Last Saturday, I was glued to my screen for much of the Preakness undercard watching the Rangers beat the Devils 3-0 (there are not enough words to thank NBC for streaming the game live and free). Proof of the existence of a god of some sort arrived when the game ended at exactly the time that I had to go to work, preventing the awkwardness of my interviewing D. Wayne Lukas while scrolling through Twitter for score updates.
As the players and the coaches tell us relentlessly, it’s one game at a time. There’s no looking ahead. We’re only looking as far as the next game. Except when we’re not.
Except when we’re wondering, “Suppose I have to choose—the Belmont or the Garden?” Except when we’re wondering (idly, hypothetically, of course—of course), “Which do I want more – a Stanley Cup or a Triple Crown winner?” Except when we’re wondering, “How the hell are my nerves going to make it?”
[And except when we’re wondering, “Rangers, how can you possibly be playing this badly in the pivotal game 4 of a series against your hated rival?”]
Over the weekend I was chastised for watching hockey while at one of racing’s premier events. (Confession: I did it during the Kentucky Derby undercard, too.) The balance of sporting loyalties is precarious, and it makes me wonder…if I could have only one, a Stanley Cup or a Triple Crown, which would it be?
What say you, Rangers’ fans?