While the Yankees were busy shutting out the Athletics for their fourth straight win last night, another New York sports team was a couple hundred miles south in Los Angeles, playing the franchise’s most important game in two decades. The (hockey) Rangers were trying to climb out of a three games-to-none deficit in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Finals, winning Game Four on Wednesday to force a Game Five against the Kings on Friday.
The Rangers lost the game and thus the series last night. It all happened in the blink of an eye in double overtime too, as gut-wrenching a loss as you’ll ever see. Here’s how the season ended:
Brutal. It was over before you knew what the hell happened. Just like that, it was done.
If you’ve been reading RAB long enough you know that I’m a Rangers fan — not nearly as much as I am a Yankees fan, hockey is a distant second sport to baseball for me — so naturally I was pretty bummed out about the loss. But not nearly as much as I have been for recent Yankees postseason exits. The feelings were way different.
To make a long story short, the Rangers were clear underdogs not just in the series against the Kings, but throughout almost the entire postseason. They rallied back from a three games-to-one deficit in the second round and were not the best team in the conference. Not by a long shot, yet they rode an all-world goaltender and overcame some serious adversity to reach the Finals. It was the epitome of the “just get into the postseason and anything can happen” mentality.
So, when the Rangers lost last night, I was disappointed but not devastated. The regular season and especially the postseason run were thrilling and exciting, every step of the way. Following the Rangers as they exceeded expectations and got to within three wins of a championship as a legitimate underdog was not something I was used to seeing as a sports fan. The Yankees are never the underdog. The notion of them even being considered an underdog is silly. That’s just not who they are.
When the Yankees won the World Series in 2009, I felt like there was a sense of relief to go along with the excitement. They were supposed to win. They’re the Yankees. When they lost the ALCS in 2010 and 2012, there were no thoughts of how exciting it was to watch the team get there. All the focus was on their inability to advance further. That whole “win the World Series or the season is a failure” mantra has consumed the franchise and it’s sucked some of the joy out of winning. Not all of it, but some of it. At least that’s how I feel. You’re welcome to feel differently.
Sports are supposed to be fun, right? I watch (entirely too much) baseball because I love it and it’s fun and it’s a great escape from everyday life. There will be some devastating losses along the way, that comes with the territory, but as a Yankees fan the good has outweighed the bad over the years. The opposite is true of being a Rangers fan. There has been more bad than good over the last 15-20 years. So, even though the Rangers lost last night and it completely sucked, it didn’t diminish the ride. All the exciting moments and huge wins over the last few weeks were some of the best times in my life as a sports fan and that’s never going away.
I don’t know, I think this post is coming off as pretty dumb and I’m not sure I’m making my point. I guess I’m trying to say that watching the Rangers the last few weeks was a breath of fresh air in my life as a sports fan. It reminded me that sometimes you’re going to lose and it isn’t a complete and total failure. The memories are still there. I love the Yankees and I choose to be a fan and I fully accept the whole “win or it’s a failure” life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But seeing how the other half lives was eye-opening. If you’re not going to sit back and enjoy the ride regardless of the outcome, then what’s the point?