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Thanks, Islanders, for taking fans on a trip back in time

I was  talking to a friend of mine who has lived and (mostly) died with the Islanders most of his adult life. He attended the two games the Isles played against the Penguins at Nassau Coliseum, and he will attend however many more games they will play the rest of the way at Barclays Center.

He was, as most Islanders fans are, a little wistful.

“I’ve never had more fun watching a sporting event as I did watching those two games at the Coliseum,” he said, and this is a guy who is successful enough in his career that he was in both Phoenix and Indianapolis when his Giants won Super Bowls and in San Diego when his ’98 Yankees won the 125th and final game of an epic season.

Of course, the Coliseum portion of the playoffs is over for my friend, and for the Islanders, and that saddens him, because what the Islanders delivered to their fans was one of the great gifts a sports team can offer: a chance to celebrate yesterday, even as you are celebrating, quite loudly, the here and now.

“I figured I’d seen my last hockey game there a few years ago,” he said. “And suddenly there I was, there we all were, back at the barn and it was almost surreal. It was like a gift. An expensive gift, but a gift nonetheless.”

Imagine if we could all obtain that gift, one throwback day in a field or arena of our dreams, of our youth, of our yesterdays. Where would you go?

Would you go to Ebbets Field if somehow the baseball-shaped wrecking ball that took it down could bring it back, if only for the three hours (actually, in the Dodgers’ day, it was two hours) of a baseball game? Who would you be unable to keep your eyes off? Jackie? Duke? Newk? Gil? Campy? What if the same reverse wrecking ball could allow you enjoy nine more innings at the Polo Grounds, watching Willie Mays’ cap fly off as a triple fell in his glove to die, as Mel Ott took aim at the short right-field porch, if Carl Hubbell were screwing hitters into the ground with his vast array of filth?

Jackie Robinson at Ebbets Field in 1947.
Jackie Robinson at Ebbets Field in 1947.AP

Would you blink, if you could, and be back in the warm embrace of old Yankee Stadium — really old Yankee Stadium, the way it looked from 1923-73, the way it looked when Babe Ruth was breaking in the short porch in right, when Mickey Mantle was taking aim at the frieze high above right field, when Joe DiMaggio was loping after fly balls in the gap and making it all look as easy as breathing? And the way it looked when the Giants were hammering the Bears in ’56, the way Y.A. Tittle and Chuckin’ Charley Conerly moved them down the field, the way Sam Huff and Andy Robustelli stuffed everyone, the way Pat Summerall booted that field goal through the snow against the Browns in ’58?

Would you wave a magic wand if it meant that for a couple of hours you could walk inside the Old Garden on 50th Street and Eighth Avenue, where the bookies would howl with delight when a late basket clinched the 11 ½-point spread, where the cigarette smoke was thick as California smog, where NIT seats were the toughest tickets in town and you couldn’t possibly drink enough Nedick’s, and every Friday night boxing ruled the big city in a way it felt like it would forever?

Lawrence Taylor

What about old Giants Stadium? How would you like to see the young LT come roaring over the edge at some terrified quarterback (or maybe see the great Pele execute one final scissor kick in front of 77,000 mesmerized soccer fans, or maybe see the young Herschel Walker run over, up and through all manner of USFL defenses, or maybe see Harry Carson, one more time, sneak up behind Bill Parcells on a sub-zero day, ready to spill sub-zero Gatorate all over the coach’s head?

You’d sign up for that, right?

If you’re an Islanders fan, that’s what you got across two wonderful nights in the 2019 playoffs. What a thing. What a gift. What an unexpected, splendid gift.

Vac’s Whacks

My man Mark Hale is the brains behind a lot of the good work we do here. He has also been after me for years to start watching “Veep.” This week, I started to follow that advice. And, my gosh, what I’ve been missing all these years.

You think Mike Cragg would like a mulligan for leaving the safe Coach K cocoon for the St. John’s freak show?

Any Mets fan who tells you they’re breathing normally between now and the moment Jacob deGrom throws a pitch in anger … well, is not telling the whole truth.

Do you think Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz occasionally go to the Starbucks on Hempstead Turnpike and over a couple of cups of black coffee debate who the third-smartest man in the NHL is?

Whack Back at Vac

Christopher Salogub: Did the Fordham administration make the St. John’s hire?

Vac: Some WhackBacks should be allowed to stand on their own.

Mitch Berkowitz: As an alternative to “Bobblehead Night,” the Yanks should introduce “Porcelain Figurine Night.” First up can be Greg Bird, followed by Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Pavano and Nick Johnson nights.

Vac: Folks at that factory will be rolling in time-and-a-half.

@NeilOKeefe: Mike Anderson is a good man, and terrific with Xs and Os. But can he connect with NYC high schools and AAU?

@MikeVacc: At some point that question has to be flipped: Can the local coaches deliver to St. John’s the way they always did back in the day? It’s a two-way street.

Scott Floman: Enjoyed your article about loudest New York sports moments. Other good ones would be the ’86 Mets (Buckner’s Game 6 misplay and the final K in game 7), ’96 Yankees (Girardi’s Game 6 triple and the final out) and two historic Belmonts (Secretariat in ’73, American Pharoah ’15).

Vac: If I had a mulligan, I’d replace the 2000 NFC title game with American Pharoah. That one still gives me chills.

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