Spenser Alpern

Spenser Alpern

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About

Something about a Topps 1966 Joe Pepitone baseball card made him my guy and the Yankees my team. After years of domination, the Yankees I cut my teeth on finished sixth in 1965, tenth in 1966, ninth in 1967, fifth in 1968 (20 game out of first place), and fifth in the East division in 1969 (28 1/2 games out). After the 69 season, Pepitone was traded to the Astros and my heart felt the wound. In 1970, things were changing in my life (that year I turned 13) and I tore through Jim Bouton's Ball Four in a matter of days. My heroes and fantasies were melting away bit by bit. And then in 1973, George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees and brought the business aspect of baseball to the forefront and I was a goner (baseball was still cool, but there were GIRLS out there!). Throughout those formative years, I had attached myself to the Purple People Eaters of the Minnesota Vikings (having carefully considered the Fearsome Foursome of the LA Rams and having easily rejected Bob Lilly and his Cowboys, although I can't quite say why). Perhaps due to the Yankee failures of that decade, I was better prepared to handle the Vikings Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs following the 1969 season. The Knicks, sensing that maybe I was owed something for my years of fruitless loyalty, gave me a championship following that same 69/70 season. A team for the ages. Oh, did I say a TEAM? Is that how the Knicks won, as a team? Does the current Knick management pay any attention to history? Ach.... Anyway, not much to say about the Rangers. We all know about 1940 and 1994. But maybe, just maybe, the pieces are now in place for another run at the Cup. I only fear we are missing the right leader, the Mark Messier circa 2014. But he is one of a kind, so maybe no one else has such a guy playing for them this season either, thereby increasing our chances a bit more. So, I walked away from sports when my childhood fantasy of who these guys were started melting away. As the Bob Gibsons and Gale Sayers and Willis Reeds and Jean Ratelles, not to mention the Joe Pepitones were starting to retire and disappear from the sports landscape, I was moving on too. In the ensuing years, events crossed my radar: '80 Olympics hockey, Mike Tyson, Darryl Strawberrry, Doc Gooden, Gary Carter, Keith Hernandez and Mookie Wilson's soft grounder finding a space in time between Bill Buckner's legs, a seemingly unbeatable guy named Tiger Woods to mention just a few. Fast forward to roughly three years ago, when I was talking to a buddy of mine who has been a Mets fan all his life and I decided to take a closer look at them. They had immediate appeal to me because most people in NY City wear Yankee hats and go to ticker tape parades in October while Met fans have a sense of impending doom: the Mets are real underdogs, sort of like the Yankees from the second half of the 1960s that I grew up on. And then there's the Madoff entanglement and the question of how dedicated the Mets ownership are to bringing a winning team to Queens. But anyway, I decided to take a look at these hapless Mets and I noticed that they were young and were trying. So I said to myself, what the heck, if free agency is okay for players, then it's okay for fans too and so I decided to throw my support behind the Metropolitans (wish they would go by that name -- there's a "third jersey" concept for the marketing geniuses working over at Citifield). No one does this in New York, that is, go from being a Yankee fan to a Mets fan, or so it seems. But if that is true, then I am the first, and I have no regrets. Maybe I'm wrong to hope, but I think the Mets are moving in the right direction (but please, Ike Davis, shorten up your stance, stop standing there with your knees locked, and find what used to work for you before!!!!). And that's me. I want to see the Vikings come closer before Adrian Peterson retires. I want to see the Rangers go deep into the playoffs and get that too-quiet fan base at the Garden (I mean really, it's as quiet as a morgue in there most games) screaming their heads off. I want to see the Knicks admit that basketball is a team game and just draft all the players from whichever college wins the NCAA tournament this year. And I want to see the Mets win the World Series with Scott Rice (14 seasons in the minors before making it to the Bigs) throwing the final pitch of the Mets game 7 victory over the Red Sox (or some other old team like the Indians or A's).

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