THE 2020-2021 NEW YORK KNICKS: MORE THAN A TEAM
If you’ve been following the NBA lately, you probably have heard at least a bit about this particular edition of New York Knicks basketball. Favored to toil at the bottom of the Eastern Conference before the season began, the Knicks embarked on a Cinderella run that spanned just about the entirety of the regular season and finished with a team record of 41-31, a drastic improvement from their 21-45 finish during the previous season. They finished in fourth place in the East and won home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs.
And then, just like that, it was over. In five short games, the Atlanta Hawks (who experienced a similar meteoric rise), dismissed the Knicks and sent them on their merry way. While they split the first two games and both were quite close, the Hawks simply dominated the Knicks after that. They won the last three games by an average of 14 points. The Knicks had no answers for the Hawks offense or defense, and Hawks star Trae Young, who Knicks fans had designated “playoff villain” and taunted with glee, was able to take the air out of Madison Square Garden on more than one occasion. This all while Knick favorites like Julius Randle and RJ Barrett fell short in their roles. For quite a few franchises, it would have been nice to make the playoffs but this would have been pretty forgettable. Not so if you’re a Knicks fan.
Now, hopefully we won’t be pathetic about this and be hanging onto it for years to come, but this rocked the Knicks world. For eight long years, the Knicks wandered the basketball abyss, winning as few as 17 games in a season twice. The team moved laterally, and it felt like a hole without a ladder. The upstart Nets moving from New Jersey to Brooklyn and quickly digging out from their own hole didn’t exactly aid the spirit of the Knick faithful either. So, it was these circumstances which made this season and those five extra games in May so special for Knicks fans. An outstretched hand lifting a fanbase out of that aforementioned hole. When ownership announced that Madison Square Garden would be almost completely opening up for the Hawks series, tickets were on the market and sold out in just about a matter of minutes. Those first two games were the loudest “the Garden” had sounded in recent memory, and even watching the games on TV was enough to shake the cabinets in living rooms and kitchens in and around NYC. Anticipation filled the hearts of fans, and it exploded when the Knicks won the second game of the series and fans poured out into the night to celebrate in the Midtown streets. And then, of course, this was followed by two beatdowns in Atlanta.
When the Knicks came back to New York facing long odds in Game 5, the atmosphere at the Garden was not one of wonder and hope for a playoff run, but rather appreciation for an unexpected and magical season and excitement for next season. When a team is knocked out of the playoffs at home, the atmosphere can often be a stunned and sad sort of silence. But as the seconds ran down on a season-ending 103-89 Hawks victory, the 15,000 fans at Madison Square Garden stood and applauded the team that had taken them on this ride. Hopefully, it will be built on come next fall.
A LOOK BACK ON THE NHL
We’re hitting the home stretch of the season, with all teams most of the way through the shortened 54-game NHL season and it’s about time to look at some highlights and lowlights around the league. We will look at local highlights and some teams to look at down the stretch.
To start off with our New York teams, the New York Islanders have played 39 games and are sitting in a tie for first in the Eastern Division with 54 points (and a record of 25-10-4), thirteen points clear of the nearest non-playoff team. After starting slowly, they jumped the standings with a nine-game winning streak. However, in that process, they lost their captain, Anders Lee, for the season due to a knee injury. Lee had been having a great season, with 12 goals and 7 assists, and had been making life hard for goalies around the East. A cornerstone of the Isles, Lee is sorely missed by the team, and it was evident in their early games without him. Since then, the Islanders have gone through a variety of replacements in his position, including youngster Kieffer Bellows and more recently veteran “Uncle” Leo Komarov. They’ve also seen the emergence of rookie Oliver Wahlstrom, who has put up 9 goals and 7 assists in 32 games. To complement this, they’ve received sterling play from goalie duo Semyon Varlamov (16-7-3) and Ilya Sorokin (9-3-1), who is also a rookie. These factors have kept the Islanders in the hunt for top dog in the East, even without Lee.
Over here in the city, the New York Rangers have had a fairly middling season. They’ve played 38 games and lay just over the .500 mark (18-15-5). They’re fifth in the Eastern Division and five points out of a playoff spot, so they’ve got an exciting race to the finish ahead as well. However, they’d need a kick in the rear end for that. They’re an overwhelmingly young team, and I pointed out in a previous article that we should be looking at them in the future, however, this may not be the year where it really comes together. Vaunted first pick Alexis Lafreniere hasn’t taken off yet, and his “Kids (third) Line” has reflected that around him for quite a bit of this season. Goaltender Alexandar Georgiev, who split games with Henrik Lundqvist last year and largely played well, has often struggled this season and has compiled a record of 5-5-2. There are quite a few bright spots for the Rangers, however. Despite Georgiev’s struggles, fellow goalie Igor Shesterkin (10-8-2) has picked up the slack lately, going 3-1-1 in his last five games. The Rangers offense has also been on a tear lately, and that’s been led by a resurgent Mika Zibanejad who had struggled early on but put up two six-point games in March. He’s started off April well enough, with two goals and an assist in three games.
So, all in all, Downstate New York will have a hell of a stretch run coming up in the NHL, with one team fighting to win the division and the other in a race for a playoff spot. One can only imagine if the legendary Isles-Rangers rivalry finds its way into those playoffs, which would be a real possibility under the current format.
BUCCANEERS, CHIEFS TO PLAY IN SUPER BOWL LV
The football season has come down to its last game as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs will play the 55th edition of the Super Bowl on the Buccaneers home field in Tampa after the two league championship games on the 24th. In the first of these games, the “Bucs” beat the Green Bay Packers 31-26 in Green Bay. The Buccaneers had led 21-10 at halftime only for the Packers to mount a comeback as their quarterback Aaron Rodgers had been wanting to do throughout his career. However, the Packers squandered several opportunities such failing to get a first down on several drives following turnovers and upon getting close to scoring missing out on about 10 potential points in the red zone and instead getting three. All this added up to falling just shy, and Tom Brady proving the doubters wrong once again and turning on the burners in the playoffs even with a Tampa team that he was new to and has faced doubt throughout the regular season and even early in the playoffs. To the seeming chagrin of most football fans across America outside of Florida and New England, he will play in a record 10th Super Bowl, and the Bucs will play in their second after winning it in 2002. The salt is real here in New York (including in this writers Brooklyn bedroom, if you haven’t noticed), and even more so as the team that Kansas City beat was Western NY’s Buffalo Bills, who had been on something of a Cinderella run fueled by the prowess of quarterback Josh Allen, wide receiver Stefon Diggs, and running back Devin Singletary. The octane was there for the Bills in the beginning, and they were leading 9-0 by the end of the first quarter. However, after that the Chiefs young star quarterback Patrick Mahomes did what can only be construed as “Patrick Mahomes things”, and bolstered by names such as Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce the Chiefs ran away with a 38-24 victory and looked every bit like the 14-2 AFC West (and now entire AFC) champions. They will be favored to win their second consecutive Super Bowl, but it will be a complete clash of titans especially between Brady and Mahomes, an old versus new matchup. Kickoff is at 6:40 PM on February 7th, it will be televised on CBS, and the halftime show will be headed by The Weeknd. I’d advise you to tune in.
L.A. DODGERS WIN THE WORLD SERIES
The state of California may be a big COVID-19 hot-spot, but in the city of Los Angeles celebrations raged throughout the month of October as their Lakers and Dodgers won the NBA Finals and MLB World Series, respectively. The Dodgers were up against the rather underrated Tampa Bay Rays, who were themselves chasing the second fall title for *their* city after the Tampa Bay Lightning took home the NHL’s Stanley Cup in late September. Much like the Lightning, the Dodgers were looking to shake off a reputation of choking after having not won a Series since 1988 despite having made the playoffs 13 times since then as well as every year since 2013. They’ve also made it to the World Series twice since then, none of this including the 2020 run.
As for the Rays, they’ve had a much less storied history. Founded relatively recently in 1998 (115 years after the Dodgers played their first game in Brooklyn circa 1883), they’d made the playoffs five times and the World Series once, all in the last 12 years. That one appearance in the World Series ended disastrously, losing the 2008 edition in five games to Philadelphia. However, they had a solid 2020 season and beat Toronto, the Yankees, and the scandal-ridden Houston Astros en route to the 2020 Series. The Dodgers, for their part, swept the Milwaukee Brewers and the San Diego Padres before facing a tough Atlanta Braves team and eventually punching their ticket to the Series. Unlike most years, the 2020 World Series was confined to a neutral site (Arlington, Texas) like other championships this year due to the ongoing pandemic. The MLB did decide to fill the stadium to quarter-capacity though, so around 11,000 fans each game got to witness a dramatic six-game series.
Okay, that may not have been the case in Game 1. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw tossed six great innings and left the game with an 8-1 lead due to an offensive onslaught against Rays starter Tyler Glasnow, most notably home runs by Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts. The Dodgers would survive a little hiccup late on and win decisively by a score of 8-3. Offense was again the name of the game in Game 2, as Brandon Lowe would hit two home runs for the Rays and accounted for three runs, and Joey Wendle would drive home three more Rays runs. The Dodgers, for their part, would themselves put up four runs and neither starting pitcher made it out of the fifth inning. The Rays would ultimately win 6-4 and evened up the Series at one game apiece. In Game 3, the Dodgers again seized the initiative offensively when Justin Turner hit a home run in the very first inning. They won 6-2 and had a real chance to take full control of the series in Game 4. It was looking good for them, as Turner and Seager both hit their second home runs (Lowe answered for the Rays with his third) and the Dodgers were one out away from wrapping up a 7-6 victory and taking a three to one Series lead. However, this would not be the case as Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen choked and Chris Taylor made an error in center field as the Rays won the game 8-7 at the death. This dramatic victory would eventually wind up being the last gasp for the Rays, as defense would dominate the next two games but the Dodgers would edge both of them out by scores of 4-2 and 3-1, respectively. Kershaw pitched another beauty for the Dodgers in Game 5, and Game 6 would be remembered for former Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell shutting those Dodgers out into the sixth inning before manager Kevin Cash shockingly took him out of the game and put it Nick Anderson as pitcher. Anderson would quickly give up two runs and the Rays’ slim 1-0 lead evaporated. The Dodgers would tack on one more run and proceeded to cap off their first title win in 32 years. So, thus ended the 2020 Major League Baseball season, their 117th in North America. Seldom has a season been played under such circumstances, but I think that this soldiering on marks the perseverance of “America’s Game”. God willing, we’ll see it return to its rightful state next year.
LES MISÉRABLES: NEW YORK CITY FOOTBALL IN 2020
The New York Jets and Giants have combined for 1 win and 13 losses. That’s where we’re at. I said almost a year ago back in December 2019 that the Jets and Giants had “a chance to be good by the mid-2020s,” and that there was some promise among those rosters. I must now apologize for misleading anybody who may have read that because those two teams are certainly working hard to make that a freezing cold take.
Let’s start with my team, the New York Jets... They somewhat blew themselves up before the season and have not won a single game almost halfway through the season (the only team not to). Among the reasons for that are that “defense” that I previously talked about is among the minority of teams who have given up over 200 points. I also talked about the potential of quarterback Sam Darnold along with kicker Sam Ficken. Ficken’s been fine, I don’t exactly blame him as his job depends on being in position to make kicks. You can’t completely blame Darnold either, as leading an effective offense is a complicated thing. However, he shoulders A LOT of responsibility and has not performed. The evidence of that is the Jets are THE ONLY TEAM in the entire NFL that has failed to score even 100 points (85). The next lowest team is the recently gutted New England Patriots (at 115), who have played one less game than the Jets while winning two more.
Also on the low end on offense while high on defense are those New York Giants. They’ve at least won a game, limping across the finish line to beat Washington 20-19 eight days ago. They looked to be on their way to winning an improbable second game in a row last Thursday, but quarterback Daniel Jones symbolically became a meme, tripping in front of the end zone with nobody around him. The Giants would later score a touchdown but then went on to lose to the Philadelphia Eagles, 22-21. Speaking of Jones, he was another player who I said had potential. Now, I realize that (again) quarterbacks cannot be the only ones under the bus and that Jones has to fill the big shoes of Eli Manning, but where the hell is this offense? Even when it's clicking on certain levels it’s still a disappointment and it obviously hasn’t yielded many victories. Though it doesn’t help that expected star running back Saquon Barkley is out for injury. The only headlines that he’s made this season were recently when he and Jones were caught at a club, maskless. Symbolic of this constantly exposed Giants defense, who have only kept their opponents under twenty points twice. Great minds think alike, the Giants and the Jets.
All I can say is that they’re lucky that MetLife Stadium is empty. As for you all, I suggest that you go root for the Buffalo Bills. At least they actually play in this state.
CHAMPIONS: CUP COMES TO TAMPA BAY!
The curse is broken. The Tampa Bay Lightning have once and for all put down their “curse” by winning the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2004, beating the Dallas Stars in six games. The series MVP was defender Victor Hedman, who continued a robust playoff season where he wound up with a total of 22 points in 25 games played. Other players that stood out were Tampa center Brayden Point and Stars defender Miro Heiskanen. As for the Stars, they also came into these finals with something to prove. They themselves had also come up short multiple times after last winning in 1999, and had something of a Cinderella run to the finals via overcoming such expected powerhouses as the Calgary Flames in six games, the Colorado Avalanche in seven, and the Vegas Golden Knights in five. The Lightning, for their part, got to the finals by beating the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Boston Bruins in six games as well as the New York Islanders in six. As for this series itself, it was largely dominated by the Lightning. While the Stars won game one by a score of 4-1, they were badly outshot and got a big boost from goalie Anton “Dobby” Khudobin. Game two was a closer affair, but the Lightning pulled it out 3-2 after a three-goal first period. Games three and four were more decisive affairs in favor of the Lightning, steamrolling the Stars 5-2 and then winning 5-4 in a game that went to overtime. Tampa once again outshot the Stars in game five, but Cory Perry stuck home a rebound in double-overtime to keep Dallas alive for another day. That day would come soon though, as in a defensive game six the Lightning got a 2-0 win and the Stanley Cup with it. In your author's humble opinion, it was a rather anticlimactic win. Of course this counts just as much as any other Cup, that should not be a bone of contention. However, a win in an empty stadium on the Canadian Prairies is a first, to say the least. With that being said, congratulations to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the NHL for being able to at least give us this, and to the State of Florida. God knows you needed this. As for the Dallas Stars, you guys had a great run and deserved all you got.
NHL CONFERENCE FINALS SET AMID ODD PLAYOFF SEASON
*The first Islanders-Lightning series begins today at 8 PM ET.*
Four teams have now slogged their way through the jungle that is the late and unusual 2020 National Hockey League playoffs and will look to win these third round Conference Finals to represent their respective conferences in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Vegas Golden Knights will play the Dallas Stars to represent the West, and Tampa Bay Lightning will play our state’s New York Islanders for the East. The biggest story of this postseason is not, however, the teams involved but the circumstances in which the games are being played.
With the regular season cut short by COVID, the NHL was debating how to set up the playoffs upon returning. They felt it unfair to just go with the teams that were in playoff spots at the time as many other teams had a very real shot to qualify, so ultimately they decided to send the top four teams in each conference to a round robin to determine seeding and seeded the following eight teams in each conference’s standings to play in a best of three qualifying round. Eight teams advanced (the four round-robin teams and four playoff winners) from each conference to play in the “regular” sixteen-team playoffs. Another oddity of these playoffs is that teams are not traveling around the continent to each other's stadiums, but are being played in bubbles and without any paid attendance (like the NBA). The two designated arenas are both in Canada: Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario where the Eastern Conference playoffs were initially held and Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta where the Western Conference playoffs were held along with being the host for both Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Finals. All of this adds up to one of the more unique playoff experiences in hockey (and perhaps sports) history. Almost as unique are the teams who have emerged to contest these Conference Finals.
The Vegas Golden Knights are a new franchise who have burst onto the scene, winning their division twice and qualifying for the playoffs in all of their first three seasons. They even won the Western Conference and made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in their first season, but they were defeated by the Washington Capitals in five games. This year they emerged as the first seed in the Western Conference in the round-robin behind a consistent offense buoyed by Alex Tuch’s eight playoff goals and a productive defense. Vegas also has a stellar goaltender in Robin Lehner with Marc-Andre Fleury as a very capable backup. With this they beat the underdog Chicago Blackhawks in five games and were again the favorites in the second round facing an upstart Vancouver Canucks team who took them seven games before the Knights locked the series down. They are again the favorites in this series against the aforementioned Dallas Stars, who are the third seed in the conference.
The Stars’ game is a defensive one, with players like John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen coming to mind, which they can also back that up with a killer power-play unit (also headed by Heiskanen). They beat the Calgary Flames in six games in the first round before shocking the high-octane offense of the Colorado Avalanche in seven games in the second round. The Stars have been in the NHL since 1967 and moved from Bloomington, Minnesota to Texas in 1993. They’ve made the Stanley Cup Finals four times, winning it in 1999 and last making it in 2000. Since then, they’ve consistently been playoff contenders but have struggled to make deep runs (last making the Conference Finals in 2008). They’ve overcome that this year and are looking to go even farther and are off to a good start for that after winning Game 1 over the Knights by a score of 1-0.
Over in the East, the second-seeded Lightning are also looking to knock off some demons. Having gained a reputation for choking late in the playoffs, they’ve swept aside the Columbus Blue Jackets (who upset them last year) and perennial contenders Boston Bruins, both in five games. They’ve also done this without captain and offensive weapon Steven Stamkos, who will continue to be out during the Conference Finals. In his stead, two other talented forwards in Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov have led the offense while Andrei Vasilevsky has continued to be a great goaltender. They’re trying to win their first Stanley Cup since 2004, their only appearance in the finals aside from a 2015 loss. They’ve come close otherwise, losing three conference finals and two first rounds in the 2010s which has only led to that “choking” stereotype.
As stated, they will face the New York Islanders this time around, the sixth seed and the only team remaining from the qualifying round, where they beat the Florida Panthers three games to one. Since then they have knocked off two of the top three seeds, beating the Washington Capitals in five games and the Philadelphia Flyers in seven. They play a systemically gritty and defensive style of hockey with key figures in Adam Pelech, Nick Leddy and former New Jersey Devils captain Andy Greene. Most of their offense is led by the speedy Mat Barzal along with captain Anders Lee and comes from jumping on turnovers and chasing pucks chipped into the offensive zone. Goaltenders Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss are also key for this team, posting save percentages of .921 and .960, respectively. The Islanders are in the Conference Finals for the first time since 1993 and looking to qualify for their first Stanley Cup Finals since losing in 1984. They were founded in 1972 and experienced early success, winning four straight Cups from 1979-1983 but with limited success after that. Upon hiring General Manager Lou Lamoriello and head coach Barry Trotz before last season the team appears to have had a resurgence, reaching the second round last year and making a deep run this year. The first Islanders-Lightning series begins today at 8 PM ET.
All games will be broadcast on NBC, NBCSN, or USA Network. But regardless of the outcomes, this is sure to be a remarkable and hopefully entertaining Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Finals that will be talked about for years to come. This is, after all, an unprecedented time in sports history.
PSAL FALL SPORTS SEASON DELAYED INDEFINITELY
Bad news came this week for any students hoping to play for the MLK badminton, bowling, cross country, soccer, or volleyball teams as NY1 confirmed that the DOE was delaying the start of the PSAL fall sports season. As the delay was described as “indefinite”, there is no timetable for sports’ return. The city did, however, divide sports into three groups based on risk which could lead to no-contact sports like bowling returning earlier. In the meantime, the DOE said it would look for alternative measures to “meet those [athletic] needs in a safe way until PSAL can resume.”
Source: Jillian Jorgensen, “PSAL Sports Season Delayed Indefinitely, New York City Says”, NY1, 8/6/20
BASEBALL IS BACK IN NEW YORK
As a part of an attempt to slowly return to normalcy, Major League Baseball began its season on Thursday. The season will be a short one for our national pastime, teams will play 60 games in empty stadiums instead of the usual 162, with the season ending in September and the playoffs beginning in October (that’s as usual). Our local teams, the Yankees and Mets, got off to flying starts, both winning their first games. The Yankees played a shortened game in Washington, D.C., beating the Nationals 4-1 after only five innings due to rain that forced the game to end early. After the ceremonial first pitch was thrown by Dr. Anthony Fauci the Yankees struck early and often against Nationals ace Max Scherzer, with slugger Giancarlo Stanton hitting a titanic two-run home run in the 1st inning. Adam Eaton would later hit a solo home run off Yankees starter Gerrit Cole (a major signing in the offseason), but that would be the only hit that Cole allowed in his five terrific innings to get the win. Meanwhile in Queens, the Mets began their season on Friday against their division rivals (and defending division champions) the Atlanta Braves. Reigning two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom pitched for the Mets against the Braves’ Mike Soroka, and both pitchers were masterful. Both the Braves and the Mets decided that their pitchers would be restricted to under 100 pitches though, so both deGrom and Soroka were out of the game by the sixth inning. The pitchers' duel stayed alive though, as the only run of the game came in the seventh inning when the Mets’ Yoenis Cespedes crushed a home run off Braves relief pitcher Chris Martin. The Mets kept this lead and won 1-0, with reliever Seth Lugo getting credit for the win and closer Edwin Diaz the save. This continued a trend of dominance on Opening Day for the Mets as they’ve won 39 out of their 59 Opening Day games. Both teams will play on Saturday, with Steven Matz starting for the Mets against Max Fried for the Braves at 4:10 PM and James Paxton for the Yankees against the Nationals’ Steven Strasburg at 7:15 PM.
MLK WRESTLING BESTS SEWARD PARK, 58-30
In front of a sparse but lively crowd, the Knights emerged victorious in a dominant performance against Seward Park, 58-30. The match was a brisk one, taking 49 minutes and featuring seven forfeits and only five matches that went beyond two minutes. MLK was dominant throughout, with very few close matches and earning five pins from ten matches won. On top of that, of Seward Park’s 30 points, 18 were won by forfeit. Three planned post-match exhibitions were cancelled. The win helped MLK to push their record to a sterling 6-0 while Seward Park fell to 4-2. There will be one last game before the playoffs, away to Bronx Science (1/16). This match showed the great potential of the Knights to possibly improve on last year’s semi-final performance. Two wrestlers from Hunter, Elijah Perez and Beautiful Robinson, were able to win their matches by pin and major decision, respectively.
Match 1: MLK wins 11-2 (Pin), MLK leads 6-0 on team points
Match 2: MLK wins 2-0 (Pin), MLK leads 12-0
Matches 3 and 4: MLK wins by forfeit, MLK leads 24-0
Match 5: Seward Park wins by forfeit, MLK leads 24-6
Match 6: MLK wins by forfeit, leads 30-6
Match 7: Seward Park wins by forfeit, MLK leads 30-12
Match 8: MLK wins 4-1 (Pin), MLK leads 36-12
Match 9: MLK wins by forfeit, MLK leads 42-12
Match 10: Seward Park wins 11-3 (Pin), MLK leads 42-18
Match 11: MLK wins 13-0 (Major decision, four points), MLK leads 46-18
Match 12: MLK wins 3-0 (Pin), MLK leads 52-18
Match 13: Seward Park wins 5-0 (Pin), MLK leads 52-24
Match 14: MLK wins 4-0 (Pin), MLK leads 58-24
Match 15: Seward Park wins by forfeit, MLK wins 58-30.
THE (SOMEWHAT) SORRY STATE OF NEW YORK SPORTS IN THE 2010S
As we head into the 2020s, there’s a small fact to face: This was the worst decade in New York City sports since the 1980s. A recap: Only one NYC team won a championship this decade, which was the New York Giants, in the 2012 Super Bowl. The last team to win before that was the Yankees in the 2009 World Series. To put that into perspective, the freshmen were still in preschool then. For a few local teams, the future still doesn’t seem to be immediately bright. The NBA’s New York Knicks have been rebuilding for the better part of this decade and are nowhere near contention now (10-27 on the season) or anytime soon. At the moment, they are without a proper head coach after David Fizdale was fired. The rot seems to be coming from owner James Dolan’s lack of organization (No players on the Knicks have been on the roster for more than a year) and questionable decisions (fans ejected from games for publicly criticizing him). The New York Giants and Jets, while having a chance (certainly more so than the Knicks) to be good by the mid-2020s, are still complete messes right now (Giants 4-12, Jets 7-8). The Jets have managed to string together a decent end to the season behind a strong defense:, quarterback Sam Darnold, and kicker Sam Ficken. The Giants have really only found two “going forwards” pieces to build around in young quarterback Sam Jones and struggling running back Saquon Barkley. The New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer recently dismantled their long-standing core after a mediocre 2019 season. That isn’t to say that there aren’t positives though. The Yankees have made the playoffs three straight times and were two wins away from making the World Series in 2019 and one win away in 2017. They recently signed All-Star pitcher Gerrit Cole, so success will be expected from them. Their cross-town rivals, the New York Mets, had a promising 2019 season marked by a winning record and two award-winning players. Pete Alonso won Rookie of the Year with a .260 batting average, 53 home runs and 120 runs batted in and Jacob deGrom won his second consecutive Cy Young Award with 11 wins and a 2.43 earned run average. He also leads the National League in strikeouts. Both were named to the MLB’s best team of the year. They also rode the breakout season of Jeff McNeil who had a .318 batting average, 23 home runs, and 75 RBIs. Their main problem is the perceived cheapness of the owning Wilpon family and the reluctance of General Manager Brodie van Wagenen to make many high-profile moves. The NHL’s New York Islanders came second in the Metropolitan Division last year and made the second round of the playoffs as one of only two New York teams to really have a good season and have started out very well this year (27-12-3). They have relied mostly on a strong defense and the work of head coach Barry Trotz and General Manager Lou Lamoriello. The Rangers have had a surprisingly good year for a team that is rebuilding (20-18-4) and may make a run at the playoffs eventually. This could wind up being one of the more exciting Rangers teams if it pans out for them. If this holds, then the hockey and baseball teams may have NYC’s future success in their hands. All in all, while this decade was atrocious one for our sports, there may be light at the end of the tunnel for some.
HUNTER GAMES 2019
The crowd showed up more than some teams as the Seniors ran away after a late push in this year's Hunter Games with the Sophomores in second, the Juniors in third, and the Freshmen bringing up the rear once again. Especially in the beginning, the crowd played a significant role in the Games. The Seniors put on an especially hyper display, crashing through a banner into the gym and coming with a mascot (a gorilla that was a bit haphazard, but it’s the thought that counts). The Juniors and Sophomores came with signs and banners while the Freshmen shouted their hearts out throughout the night. The tournament started with the pie-eating contest which was a bit hard to follow owing to the large gathering of spectators in front of the table where the contest took place. The Seniors were the ones who were able to take the victory to open the Games. What followed the fairly run-of-the-mill Senior victory was perhaps the greatest upset of the afternoon. In volleyball, the Freshmen managed to take an outstanding victory, defeating the Juniors and the Sophomores in two back-and-forth matches with tight scores against that sent the yellow Freshmen section of the bleachers absolutely crazy and provoked two court invasions. Following this was the obstacle course which most of the teams struggled with. All of the teams had to start over at some point or another but the Seniors were once again able to pull through followed by the Sophomores, Freshmen, and Juniors. Notable in the competition was the overall lack of success from the Junior side, again, they came in third place behind the Sophomores. Anyhow, the next event to follow was soccer. Soccer was a very entertaining competition (I played, it was a blast). The Freshmen held defensive ground against the Juniors and were able to break through at around the midpoint of the game via a deflection into the Junior net. From there on out it was just continuing to hold the defense solid en route to a 1-0 final. The Sophomores-Seniors game following the Freshmen victory also offered quite a bit of entertainment. After an offense-laden game, good goaltending kept the scores even at 0-0. The game proceeded into a penalty shootout which the Sophomores managed to win. The final between the Freshmen and the Sophomores was an entertaining one, with an exchange of three late goals in a 2-1 victory for the Sophomores, the last of which is a goalie mistake. This was more or less the last we would hear from the Freshmen side, with the rest of the competition being dominated by the Sophomores and Seniors. Another testament to the intensity of the crowd was the pi recital, which managed to be an exciting and suspenseful competition even for those with little interest in the value of pi. Another crowd-pleaser was the basketball tournament, which was won by the Juniors in one of their few successes. If there was a tournament to win, however, this was it. It was an absolute show, featuring clutch 3s, blocks in a frenzy, and even dunks (that was really what sent the crowd wild). In the end, it was a three-point-shot at the end that sent the highlight-reel Senior team to defeat at the hands of the Juniors in the final. The crowd once again obscured the view for the push-up endurance test, forming a ring around the competitors. A mass once again surrounded the final event, the tug-of-war. This was won fairly handily by the Seniors in a real display of strength. Apparently, this was the same specific group winning for the fourth year in a row. To recap: Seniors first, Sophomores second, Juniors third, and Freshmen last. The Hunter Games were a really fun event and a great night in 2019, and I will personally be looking forward to the 2020 edition.
MLK TAKES CONVINCING VICTORY
December 11, 2018
MANHATTAN, N.Y.- In front of a partisan crowd at the school gym, the Knights took their second victory in their first two games. In this match, they were absolutely all over the Bronx Studio School, scoring nine falls en route to a 57 point victory with the final score of 75-18. Amongst these falls, four forfeits (3 by Bronx Studio, 1 by MLK) and one decision (a 9-5 victory by MLK’s Edward Rojas) were scattered. During most of the matches, MLK wrestlers were overwhelmingly the ones on top. With most of the results in favor of the home team, the atmosphere in the bleachers was one of excitement and intensity. Each success by a wrestler from the MLK side was met with inspired cheers from the fans and as stated previously, there was plenty to cheer for. Of MLK’s nine falls, three were inside thirty seconds. A true electrifier. It was not only the crowd that was passionate, however, as the players matched their performance on the mat with their support for their team-mates. The coaching staff also showed an equal amount of support for their players. The win moves the MLK record to 2-0 (the first a 63-24 victory over Queens High School) with the next game away at Gaynor.
Via Forfeit (Destiny Rivera wins)
Charlie Landman (Wilfredo Soto)
Brooke Bowler (Baimagou Waggeh)
Valentin de Villeneuve
Yasmin Valerio Castros
Yoeli Gutierrez Flete
Edward Rojas 9-5
MLK BESTS CURTIS IN CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
By: Alexander Fooy
QUEENS, N.Y.- It wasn’t completely unexpected, but MLK took their third consecutive city title and 18th overall last Saturday at Belson Stadium in Queens. Their opponents, the Curtis Warriors from Staten Island, had put up a good season of 9-2-2, but in the end were no match for the undefeated Knights. Both teams had won rather close semi-finals, but the difference in class was shown with the final score of 4-0. Gaoussou Coulibaly led the charge with a hat-trick and the speedy Akeem Shelton tacked on one of his own. The final tally of goals did not, however, tell the story of the match. King dominated Curtis, peppering the defense and goalie Kacper Lesniak with 24 shots, and they had had a tough time getting the ball past him and had been held to a 0-0 deadlock at halftime. It was an inspired effort by Lesniak, who made 20 saves, but the King attack proved to be too much in the end. The win was Kings 59th in a row.
By Alexander Fooy
RANDALL’S ISLAND, NY- It was just the game they needed. Despite the Knights playing their substitute players from the start they did not have much trouble defeating the 0-8 Rams of the Manhattan Center for Science and Math by a score of 7-0. The Knights started strong, scoring three goals on the first three shots . The setup for all three of the goals followed the same play: a quick pass to split the defense open and then find the person in the best position to take the shot. Following the quick 3-0 lead, MLK then proceeded to play a very conservative game. Much of the game consisted of MLK passing the ball around and not really attempting to score. The goal was to let Manhattan Center get as little of the ball as possible, which they did perfectly leading to a minimal amount of stress for all three of the Knights goalies, who only needed to make two saves. The fourth goal finally came when a Manhattan Center defenseman finally let loose a tackle out of frustration that was called a foul by referee Stavros Toumanidis. The ensuing free-kick was put beautifully into the goal by captain Yaya Bakayoko. Later in the game, Coach Martin Jacobson decided to put in a team of mostly freshmen and sophomores. The younger players displayed energy and poise, scoring three well-worked goals, one of which was the “Goal of the Game”. With the score already 6-0 and the younger players on the field, the Knights refused to let up. To cap off the game, Freshman Rodney Tetiali gave the sparse crowd a treat with his volley into the top of the net from the right side of the box that put the seal on the victory. The goal provoked wild celebrations and chants of “Pelé” from his teammates. The Head Coach and his assistants had talked about needed some inspiration heading into the playoffs where MLK will be playing for another championship title, but this required “us to not lose our heads”- Coach Jacobson. This performance shows that if something should happen to one of the key pieces of the team, there will be players to cover for them and play. Pretty inspiring.
1-0, Akeem Shelton
2-0, 4-0, Yaya Bakayoko
3-0, Ramchwy St. Vil
5-0, Jason Valeriano
6-0, Kahmani “Speedy” Carter
7-0, Rodney “Joshua” Tetiali
Despite the lopsided score, Manhattan Centers goalies combined for 13 saves (10 by starter Hugo Cortes and three by backup Geng Li).
MLK finished the season 10-0-0 and will receive the top seed in the playoffs.
They also extended their total winning streak to 54 games.