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Tavares and Harper events more proof ‘fan’ is short for ‘fanatic’

It really was a perfect confluence Thursday afternoon. Islanders fans had been sipping tea with lemon all day, alternating that with cheery-flavored cough drops to make sure their vocal cords were strong and primed for two-plus hours of booing and jeering and taunting John Tavares, who was back in the neighborhood for the first time as a Toronto Maple Leaf.

Now, it’s true that a good percentage of Islanders fans are Mets fans (and Jets fans; it’s like at birth someone snuck into the nursery and asked you to pick a lifetime bundle, and some sad souls go Mets/Jets/Islanders and the happier ones go Yankees/Giants/Rangers), but we must believe there are some Islanders fans who are actually Yankees fans, too.

Meaning that even as they were resting their larynxes to better berate the Judas skating around the Coliseum in a white sweater with a blue leaf on the front and a “91” on the back, they were seething at the notion that it really, truly, actually happened: Both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper were on the free-agent market.

And the Yankees signed neither of them.

(What were the odds of THAT happening, do you think? Back in 2015 or so, it seemed possible — likely even — that there would be a three-man Bronx splurge of Harper, Machado and Matt Harvey. Funny how the road winds.)

Now, we could argue the logic of this for hours on end except for one problem: There is nothing at all logical about the way fans think, certainly not in the moment, certainly not when their blood is at a full boil. So it is indeed possible with the same sporting soul to rail against the Leafs (who are the NHL’s answer to the Yankees in fan interest, marketing, hype, hysteria, everything except the string of titles since 1967) heisting Tavares while also railing against the Yankees doing likewise to the Nationals.

Bryce Harper and the Phillie Phanatic
Bryce Harper and the Phillie PhanaticAP

“You’re asking me to make sense of rooting for sports,” a loyal reader named James McSherry (whose rooting loyalties are a hard-to-decipher Yankees/Jets/Islanders lineup) explained, “when there is nothing at all sensical about rooting for sports.”

The interesting thing about this cross-pollination is the way one of your teams behaves generally informs how you view all of your teams. There is no scientific data behind this, for instance, but I feel quite safe declaring that the largest alliance in New York is the Yankees/Giants partnership. Years of success, and years of lording that success over their Mets/Jets friends/co-workers/spouses has bred a fan that is never looking for the other shoe to drop.

(Which is perfect, because usually BOTH shoes are falling on the heads of the Mets/Jets fan)

I would argue, in truth, that much of the angst of Mets fans when it comes to the continuing contract status of Jacob deGrom comes from the fresh memories of many Mets fans who also root for the Islanders, and went through the egregious Tavares drama of last July, and want no part of that ever again.

Again, there is no logic to this.

But, then, there is no logic to my friend, a ferocious Villanova fan, waking up Thursday to 117 unread text messages from his Nova fan thread on his iPhone. He shared a few with me. Let’s just say that after reading them I had to turn to the internet to make sure I properly remembered Villanova’s record (21-8) and also the fact that they have won two of the past three NCAA Tournaments.

“Some of these guys,” he admitted, “may need some help.”

Ah, but that’s sports. And that’s why in a few months it will be so much fun to sprinkle in the Knicks fans who seem to straddle both the Mets/Jets/Islanders and Yankees/Giants/Rangers alliances.

The Knicks, after all, are never more appealing to this vast cross-section than when they have money to burn and big names to chase, so it fulfills both the expectations of Knicks fans who also root for the Yankees and the fantasies of Knicks fans who root for the Mets.

Of course, lately, not even the reflected swagger of the Yankees has helped all that much. But, then, we already knew: There is nothing at all sensical about rooting for sports.”

Vac’s Whacks

I’m not saying St. John’s fans should necessarily be making reservations in Dayton for the NCAA play-in round just yet … but I am saying the Johnnies sure are flirting with visiting Ohio’s garden spot in a few weeks.

It makes every ounce of baseball business sense for Pete Alonso to be kept in the minor leagues a few extra weeks to gain an extra year of control … but that doesn’t mean you can’t dream of him digging in against Max Scherzer on Opening Day at Nationals Park at the close of the month.

On the list of greatest spring training players of all time, can Greg Bird even see whoever is No. 2, as far out ahead as he is?

Nick Buoniconti
Nick BuonicontiWireImage

You don’t think the NFL has a concussion problem? Take two hours and watch the remarkable Nick Buoniconti documentary on HBO. Then tell me what you think.

Whack Back at Vac

Steve Giegerich: Santa Claus? Ask Mike Schmidt! I lived in Philadelphia for six years, and I’ve never saw a Hall Of Fame player treated worse.

Vac: All I’m saying is, Bryce might not want to start the season 2-for-25.

Bruce Frigeri: The Knicks should pay us to watch them. Clearly the best thing about Thursday’s game was Clyde Frazier’s outfit. It had to be top five all time.

Vac: It really does say something when the biggest reason to watch a team’s game is the announcers. Clyde and Mike Breen have been the team MVPs for 15 straight years.

@Giantstalk2: The beauty of baseball is the fan’s ability to argue and second-guess strategy in between pitches, innings and pitching changes. The powers that be only care about the casual fan: who will disappear the second the team starts losing. The real fans are always taken for granted.

@MikeVacc: Always, always, always.

Mel Gross: I was reading that Aaron Boone may use an opener occasionally. I remember past openers like Ramiro Mendoza and Dick Tidrow. They were called spot starters.

Vac: And those were the days, my friend.

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