By Mark Nagi
I’m not afraid to say that I am anti-hate. Yes, I know that this is a bold statement, but I’m ok with it.
Ever since Eve ate that apple, there has been conflict, and people have found reasons to hate each other. If you put two kids in a sandbox they’d play together just fine. They are only taught to hate because of outside influences. I dream of a world in which we can all get along, hold hands and sing “Kumbaya, My Lord” as the sun sets.
Hate is bad… with one exception.
Sports hate is good.
Does this make me a hypocrite? Probably. But I’m not ashamed.
I was thinking about all of this last week while watching the New York Islanders take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The winner would play for the Stanley Cup. The loser would go home.
Did I have any dog in the fight? No, I certainly did not. I don’t root for either team.
I root for the New York Rangers. Thus, I despise the New York Islanders.
Growing up in upstate New York, I became a Rangers fan during their run to the Cup Final in 1979. The four years that followed were grim, as their crosstown rivals, the Islanders, rattled off four straight Stanley Cups.
Making matters worse, the Rangers hadn’t won a title since 1940, and the mere mention of that year turned into a stinging chant at arenas around the NHL.
I remember waking up on a spring day in 1984, watching CNN Headline News to learn if the Rangers had knocked the Islanders out of the playoffs in a deciding Game 5. Young people, back then there was no instant access to information. We didn’t even get a morning newspaper.
When the announcer said, “The Drive for Five is still alive,” I knew my Rangers were done, and another long summer awaited. I also knew that the kids at school that liked the Islanders would be gloating. It was pain. Pure pain. And that scenario kept playing out in the years that followed.
But in 1994, everything finally came together as the Rangers ended a 54-year title drought, winning the Stanley Cup. The fact that they beat the Islanders in the first round of the playoffs in a dominant four-game sweep made things even sweeter. The “1940” chant was dead and buried.
All felt right in the world, knowing my Rangers were champions and that Islanders fans were sad.
This brings me to 2021.
The Rangers are still in the middle of a rebuild. The Islanders? They are good. Really good. They stormed through the playoffs and were one win away from playing for the Cup.
If the Islanders were to win the title, a new “1994” chant would inevitably start up again.
Fortunately, the Lightning had my back, edging the Islanders 1-0, eliminating them from the playoffs and bringing the Isles drought up to 38 years.
I can honestly say that my life will be better for at least the next 11-12 months because the Islanders didn’t win the Cup. Not that my team did, but because they didn’t.
Is this rational? No. Probably not. Like the late great George Carlin said about rooting for teams, aren’t we basically rooting for laundry? You aren’t playing for the team and the players change often so the clothing is what we support.
But hear me out. If you are a Tennessee fan, aren’t things better on those rare occasions when Alabama loses a football game? Seeing Nick Saban angry is the highest of comedy.
I mean, certainly, it is better when your team wins, but if your biggest rival loses that’s a nice consolation prize. This is how I feel about the Islanders. I’d prefer that franchise was disbanded and all records deleted.
Some people far too often use sports as a spark for violence and destruction. They deserve only scorn.
But hating another team is healthy.
At least that’s what I’m telling myself…