Our Year in Sports

"Come on, Bobby J!" yelled a gent nearby. It sounded so odd, and so funny, this spontaneously invented nickname and the tidal wave of cheers that washed down over him; cheers that never existed in his previous eight years in New York. A player like Jones represents the link between us and the hyper-skilled stars of the game, and his success is more satisfying because we know it is hard won—and hard to come by. Bobby J one-hit the Giants that day to clinch his team's first round series, and after the season, the Mets repaid this supreme effort by cutting him loose, even though they threw barrels full of money at the soulless Mike Hampton, who spurned them anyway. In a way, it was a microcosm of the human condition: the doomed courtship of hollow vanity, and a failure to value the one you should love. —Sinclair Rankin

Montreal Meltdown

Imagine the Yankees having a year in which they hovered around the MLB basement, in which all their best players had been traded and ended up starring for other clubs, in which they set a new record for most man-games lost to injury, in which George Steinbrenner put the team and Yankee Stadium up for sale but could not find a suitable buyer, in which they had to fire their coach and general manager and it didn't change the club's fortunes one bit, in which the greatest player in franchise history passed away and his funeral drew a more impassioned reaction than anything the team did competitively—imagine all that and you've got the plight of the Montreal Canadiens in 2000.

Here is the winner of 24 Stanley Cups, a team whose legacy in the game and meaning to Quebec and Canada is one of lasting excellence and integrity, plunging to such depths that the best offer known to purchase them is about $84 million, the same price that an expansion team cost the current owners of the new Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets.

Their new arena, the Molson Centre, has none of the intimate charm of the hallowed now-demolished Montreal Forum, but was built to accommodate over 21,000 fans and send the cash registers into exhaustion. It hasn't worked out that way, and the taxes the Canadiens must pay to the city and province virtually guarantee that red ink will flow instead of black.

The passing of Maurice Richard, who symbolized everything the Canadiens stood for, was more than just the death of a sports hero in Quebec and Canada—it was symbolic of the passing of an era in sports, when pride and passion in the pursuit of professional excellence dominated money, ego, and individual self-aggrandizement. Typical of the new corporate mentality that has taken over sports (in which the gloried past might as well not have even existed, for it means nothing in the quest for profit today), the executives now running the Canadiens did not think to put Richard's photo on their yearbook cover or even have the club wear patches memorialzing the Rocket, until the media and fans wondered aloud how the team could start the new season without such a visible sign of tribute. Even the baseball Expos wore a No. 9 patch on their uniforms over the summer.

It is difficult for New Yorkers to comprehend what the decline of the Canadiens means in Montreal and Canada, but les Habitants were once the pride of Quebec. As oppressed as Quebec's French majority felt about being dominated by English Canada's ruling class, that is how proud they felt when nos glorieux would parade down Rue Ste. Catharine each spring with the Cup. But the club now plays games in front of thousands upon thousands of empty seats in their white elephant of a new arena. Once upon a time, season tickets at the Forum were available only if left to you in someone's will. And in New York, Boston, Toronto, and other locales where people pay attention to hockey, many who have hated the club (just as there are legions upon legions of Yankees-haters) are now feeling morose and despondent over the loss of an honored adversary and hockey's once shining crown jewel. —Stu Hackel

You Gotta Believe!

The Yankees will always be the team of the city—it's true, and we Mets fans know that. It's the Yanks who own the storied folklore, the spine-tingling ballpark, and those twentysomething world championships. Truth be told, a sense of inferiority permeates the railway just outside the platform of John Rocker's beloved 7 train—just like the smell of Kahn's all-beef franks and watery Rheingold beer.

And yet, this is precisely what makes the payoff of worshipping the Amazins such a bounty: We are not a franchise of legend or tradition, but a community of devout baseball fanatics, faithful Gary Cohen disciples, and ruthless underdog supporters. Like fans of the Cubs or Red Sox, we have endured a great number of awful teams and more recently, a slew of devastating near-misses. So when the planets align just right, everything comes together, and the miracles begin to unravel, it's sheer poetry.

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