The Ringless and the Ruined


We’ve got no problem with judging a star player’s career in part by how many championships he’s won, but exactly when did a guy become a total asshole if he doesn’t win one? We don’t know, but the commentary surrounding this year’s Stanley Cup Final has turned into an absolute orgy of character assassination aimed at those great players who don’t have their names inscribed on the auld silver barrel.

Like Brett Hull, he of the hundreds of goals, no-bullshit quotes, and nonviolent on-ice demeanor. The Post‘s Jay Greenberg went wacko on Hull last week, claiming that in St. Louis, Hull “failed to lift good, not great, teams past the second round” and that now he somehow is responsible for the team’s ultimate victory or defeat: “Bullseye for Brett Hull to win Game 2,” wrote Greenberg after Hull’s shot evened the series, then: “Bullseye on his back if Dallas doesn’t win three more.” Buffalo’s Dominik Hasek is having to put up with the same rubbish, despite being the planet’s best goalie for the last six years straight.

And so, even, is Islander-about-to-be-Ranger Zigmund Palffy, whose big-game stuff was challenged Monday by the Post‘s Larry Brooks. “There is also a question about Palffy’s ability to score an important goal,” Brooks wrote, “as he’s never recorded one in an important game in his NHL career.” Well, for Christ’s sake, Palffy has never been in a playoff game in his career, and that’s the Isles’ fault, not his.

We’ve seen this mentality from scribes writing about the NFL (John Elway was a schmuck till he won those two Super Bowls; Jim Kelly? fuhgeddaboudit) and the NBA (Patrick Ewing, anyone?), but at least baseball’s still got it right: you don’t hear anybody saying Tony Gwynn or Don Mattingly “didn’t really have what it takes” simply because the teams they played on sucked. And you’ll notice that up top we used the noun “guys.” But watch out: you’ll know that the gals have arrived when you hear some columnist whining about how Chamique Holdsclaw lacks fire because she never took the Mystics all the way.

Freedom for the Liberty

What do you do when your franchise player— a smart veteran and one of the biggest names in the game— is knocked out for the remainder of the season?

You can panic. Or you can do what the Knicks have done— implore your other top players to step up and, with much of New York whispering that it just might be for the better, let a revamped offense surge without its lumbering center.

Now it’s the Liberty’s chance to do the same.

You can’t question Rebecca Lobo’s intensity or her commitment. But like Patrick Ewing, her counterpart on the Knicks, the highly touted Lobo has increasingly seemed a hindrance to a successful offense— a low-post presence more by her big name than big game. With an ACL tear sidelining Lobo for the rest of the year, the Liberty have a chance to open up an offense that’s been perhaps too centered on the former UConn star.

To be sure, the team will miss Lobo’s knowledgeable presence, and her 6.9 rebounds per game. But rookie forward Tamika Whitmore, who seems fearless in the paint, grabbed eight boards on Saturday against heavily favored Charlotte. With frontcourt veterans Kym Hampton and Vickie Johnson looking strong, and the team’s new fast break and pressure defense in decent form, this Liberty squad is a reminder of what New York fans have been missing— and proof again of how an unfortunate injury to a New York superstar can be just what the doctor ordered.

Up the Creek

Among the things that floated past Marcella “Marcie” MacDonald on Saturday during her Manhattan Island Marathon Swim: a red rubber ball, two Twix candy bar wrappers, a tampon applicator, three planks of wood, a traffic pylon, two motor oil bottles, some shredded Styrofoam, a decomposing bagel, and other detritus of metropolitan life. Not as scary a collection as you might expect.

All in all, the 42 participants in the 18th annual event (30 individuals, two relay teams of six), which circumnavigates our fair isle, echoed the words of winner Tobie Smith, 25, who set a course record of six hours, 32 minutes, and 41 seconds for the 28.5 mile, tide-assisted swim: “The water was very clean. It’s a great way to see New York.”

MacDonald, 35, made the task look easy, keeping up a pace of nearly 80 strokes a minute throughout. Only at Spuyten Duyvil, where the Harlem meets the Hudson in a treacherous swirl, did MacDonald appear to be going nowhere. Then again, so did two other swimmers nearby.

“This year I’m doing it as a training swim,” said the Andover, Connecticut, podiatrist, who clocked a personal best of 7:13:04, finishing sixth overall and third among the 10 female competitors.

A training swim? MacDonald plans a round-trip crossing of the English Channel in late August. If she finishes, she’ll be the first American woman to complete the journey. She no longer entertains questions about whether she’s crazy. Lolling in the water by the exit ladder at Battery Park’s Gangway 6, she simply replied, “It’s so nice in here!”

contributors: Karl-Eric Reif, Mark Winopol, Joanna Cagan, Liz Galst
sports intern: Joshua D. Gaynor
sports editor: Miles D. Seligman

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