Esports Are For Real

Esports Are For Real

Trends are things that tend to come and go. Grunge rock, professional hockey teams in Atlanta, McRib- things that exist for a short period until wiser heads prevail. And so it was my thought that Esports would be the next trend that would end up immortalized in a few consecutive high school yearbooks and be gone.

Then I saw an article saying that Esports created almost $1 billion dollars in 2018.  https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/07/the-explosive-growth-of-esports/

I was shocked. But there’s more, Colleges are offering Esports scholarships. Television stations are broadcasting Esports competitions. Professional sports are creating their own Esports leagues. The International Olympic Committee is considering Esports entry into the games.

Folks, billion dollar industries generally tend to be more than trends. And historically, they don’t just go away.

THIS is a billionaire. WTF

If you’re like me, you may be wondering “So what exactly are Esports?” Esports are contests played by professional video game players. Note to my Mom and Dad- remember when you said I was wasting my time with video games because that won’t pay the bills so I should read books or play sports? THANKS FOR NOTHING.

Now understand that I am not in my teens or 20’s, so my understanding of Esports is at best very rudimentary. Personally I find it fascinating that people will go to arenas and watch Esport gamers play Madden football or FIFA Soccer where they’re controlling video athletes instead of, you know, staying home and playing the games for themselves. Then again I do watch sports on TV when I could be, you know, out there playing the same games. So I see the parallels- people enjoy watching excellence, no matter what it is. Which still doesn’t explain NASCAR.

Esports is a perfect topic for World Wide Sports, but with my lack of organizational or industry knowledge I am far from the perfect authority to educate or inform anyone. So I reached out to someone who may be better versed to pick their brain and who knows a thing or two about the video game industry and video games themselves- Nolan Bushnell.

Nolan Bushnell is an icon. I don’t say this because we live in an era of celebrity worship and superlatives being handed out like Pez. After all, there may be a large part of this audience that doesn’t specifically know who Mr. Bushnell exactly is, but are unknowingly well versed in his legacy. Let me help out with a very short resume:

  • Pong
  • Atari
  • Chuck E. Cheese
  • Catalyst Technologies
  • Etak
  • ByVideo

You may be asking what these all mean. I’ll help connect the dots. Pong was the first commercially successful video arcade cabinet that launched the arcade cabinet industry. Atari was the original must have home video game console and the template for today’s Xbox and PlayStation, plus everything in between. Chuck E. Cheese was the combination of food, fun, and games that Dave and Busters, Jillians, and many others have since imitated. Catalyst was the first business technology incubator in the US, and maybe the entire world. Etak was GPS before there was GPS. ByVideo was the Amazon app except in the early 1980’s. The man is a combination of a futurist, inventor, capitalist, and visionary. Thus, icon. 

Think I’m exaggerating? Understand that in the sports world I’ve interviewed All Stars and Hall of Famers. There is no Hall of Famer in sports that was as much of a game changer since Babe Ruth…who in fairness would also have been an awesome interview. That’s the level we’re talking about here.

I spoke with Mr. Bushnell about Esports, and not surprisingly he was incredibly well versed on the subject. I was pretty much the equivalent of first grader attending class at Harvard. We had a wide ranging conversation that ran about 40 minutes and I was surprised at how long he tolerated my ignorance, but also marveled at how in touch he was with emerging technologies and how he was still sitting in the driver’s seat for how we play games today and also in the future. He listened to the subtext of my questions, and gave answers that were thoroughly developed and highly thoughtful.

Regarding  my main topic of Esports, Bushnell was surprised at the speed in which they have grown. He expressed excitement in watching video games as sports, and how tournaments fostered that excitement. He was also certain that Esports will develop little leagues just as baseball, football, basketball, and soccer have done. That’s an inclusive and wholly untapped concept – creating organized sporting opportunities for the non-traditional athlete. But Bushnell wasn’t done with just that idea.

He then discussed something that was mind blowing- the mixed reality of virtual reality with human interaction. He talked about the “Turing Test,” which many consider the basis for the origin of artificial intelligence. For those not familiar, here’s the concept- Alan Turing was a pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence back in the era around World War Two. Turing wanted to know if you could create a computer that could have a conversation with a person, with the person leaving convinced that he or she was talking to another human and not a computer. Can artificial intelligence be as real as base reality?

Bushnell mentioned games like such that are already available, such as the VR Roller Coaster game (I’ve played that and happily did NOT need a sick bag) and the VR flying game (of which I would entirely need that sick bag), but then teased the next level of VR- the combination of VR and athletic performance. The creation of a real life avatar playing on an Esports field, instead of manipulating pixels and polygons with a controller. Base reality wrapped inside virtual reality!

Imagine a fantasy draft where there are no teams to choose players from, just players to use to form your own virtual lineups that compete in actual contests? It would be like the movie Tron from the 1980’s with their deadly discs and light cycles, just without the fatalities. And he’s already started this ball rolling in working with ModalVR.

ModalVR (https://www.modalvr.com/) has already created competitive virtual reality sports games. Two such examples are Ping and Infinity Racer. Ping basically is Pong, except that participants are the bumpers for the game, and the game mirrors their movement. Infinity Racer makes you move your body to navigate obstacles as you compete against up to three other contestants. And as Mr. Bushnell shared, VR gaming is still in its infancy, or as he said “We’re in the Pong phase of VR.”

Bushnell did point out three of the biggest drawbacks of the world of Esports. The first one is that the games are in “walled gardens,” meaning that there are IP addresses created specifically for events that do not allow for open competition. He felt that to be powerful, there needs to be an ecumenical or unifying aspect to Esports, rather than a “Big Brother” approach that limit participation and talent. Limiting competition to just a few people in a room on a specialized server instead of opening up games to the masses will actually filter out talent instead of allowing new talent to be discovered. Think about when you play on line games at home and how some players just dominate your game- why aren’t they allowed to throw their hats into the ring?

Next up is the most generationally glaring aspect of Esports- it’s a young person’s game. Like, REALLY young person’s game. As a person ages, their reaction time slows. Most Esports games are twitch muscle related games. Unless you’re the Waco Kid, as people age their twitch reactions decrease. This would also create another barrier to entry to Esports. Bushnell offered up a potential solution to this potential segregation- and missed economic opportunity: have strategic games enter the Esports world. Strategy gamers are more cerebral and would encourage play by people who gain wisdom with age. This already happens with chess tournaments. Why not electrify that world?

Could this be an Esport?

Lastly, Esports athletes will almost always have short careers. As Esports gains popularity there will be a greater supply of new entrants and a quick phase out of “career” gamers. Think of this in comparison to other professional sports. It may be harder to root for your favorite team if the longest tenured player had just about a 5 year career. Unless they’re a phenomenon, think about how barely accomplished any traditional professional sports athlete is after five years in their game. Would Tom Brady matter? Or Alex Rodriguez? Or LeBron James? This small window for excellence generally means that Esports as a league will be a nice supplement to professional sports leagues, but will have an impossible task to replace them because you will never grow with a player, or relate to their era because their era may be 12 months.

We also spoke about the “gaming scholarships to college“ aspect of Esports. If the game is for young people, why waste your prime earning years doing something as mundane as, you know, getting an education? Couldn’t that come after with just a portion of your professional winnings? I really enjoyed his answer- this direct quote is fantastic:

“Colleges are becoming bloated, expensive, and stupid.”

If you look past the annual 7% rate of inflation for college tuition (two to three times the rate of actual inflation), the majors being offered to keep students interested in college have almost no bearing on the world that they’ll eventually become adults in. As for Esports, if you compare college athletes to professionals, the college athletes are rarely as good as the professional level. This lets a player that maybe has reached a plateau as a gamer gain an education as a person because they’re good at Call of Duty or some other title.

That college convo led us to an area I wasn’t expecting- Bushnell is a very proud Papa. As a father of eight, he must have infinite patience- lucky for me and my often awkward questions. Bushnell was well aware of the concept of “New Collar” employees- people with natural skill sets that need little to no college education to be successful in a given field- because there’s a few in the family. Three of his sons followed in his entrepreneurial footsteps and started their own companies: Coin Door Crew, Polycade, and TwoBit Circus. (https://polycade.com/, https://twobitcircus.com/)

While Bushnell has a fantastic optimism about the future of video games in general and Esports in particular, he has no actual idea as to what that future looks like. In his opinion, games have gotten better and better over time, which totally emasculated my question about games over relying on visuals as a crutch to poor gameplay. He did, however, give me an amazing compliment about a question I asked on programmers creating artificial intelligence that he called metaphysical and unique to his career. So suck it, gaming mags!

One area that Bushnell does see clearly is the combining of technologies to create multimedia gaming experiences. A very cool sounding project that he’s working on is called St Noire (https://www.st-noire.com/), which he described as a “Clue” like board game that centers gameplay around an Amazon Alexa, combining board gaming, interactive hardware and Non-Player Characters. Instead of using game cards to collect clues, you interrogate the Alexa, which has a thousand hours of recorded dialogue. Think about how few people you’ve talked to for a thousand hours in your life- that’s a lot of replay value! The quality of your questioning will help you figure out who is the criminal before your opponents.

https://www.amazon.com/St-Noire-Powered-Murder-Mystery/dp/B07P693BG1/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=st+noire&qid=1555811945&s=gateway&sr=8-1

The multifaceted approach to gaming clearly does not end there. Another combination he sees as key to the future of gaming is the combination of Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence, but that conversation is the genesis for a follow up article. You can’t help but come away inspired after a conversation centered on possibilities and ideas.

Totally dope.

I had to ask if any classic Atari games would have made great Esports games outside of the obvious Pong (and its “Grueling Algebra”). He felt there were a lot of titles that fit that bill, specifically naming X and O Football. Imagine a time when a football game could exist without a professional league and professional union endorsement? And yet folks, it happened- you can look it up!

I also offered that there hasn’t been a game with a different take on “shoot ‘em ups” since Outlaw and Combat. He agreed on the later, but not the former. Combat would be a great Esports game, in my humble opinion. Cuts right to the chase without game ruining lag- the existence of such was also part of our wide ranging conversation.

So, what were my takeaways? Nolan Bushnell is a patient man. I am not an engineer and hardly had a grasp on programming ever, so he took time to explain processes like how to build an arcade cabinet, or why lag exists, why Microtransactions are really freedom of choice, or how branch narrative works for both gaming and for Netflix. Also, he’s the first person I’ve met besides myself that’s read Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi without having it assigned in a college class.

But also, this is a pioneer that’s not only NOT resting on his laurels but is trying to forge new and exciting paths. His vision for the future of gaming is wide open, but it surely incorporates artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and virtual reality as its core elements. After all, he is still an active gamer. In the face of PC, mobile and tablet gaming, he is surprised at the resiliency of console gaming. Unlike the average Esports athlete, he is still competitive after 50 years in the industry.

Our wide ranging conversation led me to further explore the idea of people enjoying just watching video games, which led me to my second phase of research- I studied my own kids.

My daughter had a friend over, and her friend was playing the Sims, which as far as I can tell is a one player game. My daughter was all in for watching, offering ideas, laughing at the results…but she wasn’t actually hands on playing. My son has Kingdom Hearts for his console, but he prefers to watch Kingdom Hearts videos on Youtube. I wonder if their upbringing was part of this behavior, as they watched me playing RPG’s while they were growing up and just think it’s normal to spectate, or was this something more akin to the sedentary lifestyle that’s acculturated as soon as a child starts school and is praised for sitting still in one place and is reinforced by the isolation provided by personal media accounts that are self indulgent without being interactive save for the attention. But that’s a discussion for a different piece, for a different day.

My last phase of this experiment was actually watching Esports. And….it did nothing for me. But there was an infectious atmosphere that was clearly visible in the crowd, which reminded me of watching a concert DVD. Yes I’m hearing the music, but the people at the show had a WAY better experience. It also reminded me of the Islanders- Maple Leafs piece that I recently wrote: if you weren’t at the game, there was no way to truly get it.

Which maybe finally led me to “get” Esports.

This journey started with learning about Esports, so I should have come up with some deductions on the topic. My take aways on Esports? Get used to it. Not only is it not going anywhere, it’s going to evolve. There is already sports betting available for Esports, which is a sign that a competition has truly arrived. It has a TV deal. The gamers take it seriously. The audience is into it. It’s fun. It’s harmless. It’s accessible. You can set up an ad hoc version tournament your own home and play pretend Esports. It’s not cost prohibitive. It’s something friends have been doing for ages on their own. And it’ family friendly, so it will play anywhere. Which explains why it’s a billion dollar business.

So if you get a chance, check out an Esports competition the next time it pops up on your TV. And if it doesn’t keep your attention? Turn it off and hit up a game of St Noire, or if you’re West Coast head out to TwoBit Circus.   


JT- Bagged

JT- Bagged

Hands down, this was the best Islander game I’ve been to since the game 6 2002 playoff game versus the Toronto Maple Leafs. Maybe even better.

Usually you don’t open with the closer, but in this case, it could be a description of the pre-game atmosphere. In case you were living under an internet free rock or were in a sports avoidance coma, on February 28, 2019 the Toronto Maple Leafs were supposed to roll into the Barclays Center to face the New York Islanders.

In a rare moment of customer service, the NHL decided to move the game to Long Island at the Nassau Coliseum. This guaranteed a sell out on a Thursday night, which is a rarity in Brooklyn. More importantly, it meant that John Tavares would have to face a crowd of people he promised that he would play his entire career for, include asking not to be traded, only to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs by lunchtime of the first day of free agency.

The details are clear. $77 million reasons to go back home to his Mommy. Tavares put up his picture of himself in Maple Leafs pajamas as a child to defend his decision.

Maple Leaf fans were so happy that they couldn’t understand how a fan base could feel betrayed by lies. But boy, did JT lie. As I likened it, JT had a public Twitter- the one where you can read what he says, but also a private Twitter- the one you use to be sneaky and dishonest and hook up on the sly.

Here’s some catch up reading for you, if you’re not too familiar with the situation:

https://www.sny.tv/islanders/news/john-tavares-wants-to-stay-with-islanders/264717570

https://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/john-tavares-pending-free-agency-want-stay-long-island/

https://www.nhl.com/news/john-tavares-has-no-plans-to-leave-islanders/c-281240260

https://www.nhl.com/news/john-tavares-wants-to-stay-with-islanders-wont-rush-decision/c-297838844

I added those links for ignorant Toronto Maple Leaf fans who are like “you’re all just salty he went home to Mommy.” Hey guys, he already lied to you as well. He said you were going to compete for a Stanley Cup.

Not only did he lie, but on the way out he insulted future former teammate Mathew Barzal by not mentioning by name “the kid that won the Calder.” Think Tavares was a little envious that HE didn’t win a Calder? HE LOST TO TYLER MYERS. Tyler Myers SUCKSSSSSS.

Not only did he lie, but it’s widely speculated that he moved back to Toronto because his wife wanted to. She had even taken a job in early 2018 in Toronto. Umm, if my wife made $80K a year and I made $11m? We’d live where I want. And if she had an issue it’d have already been covered in the pre-nup.

The Islanders had previously played the Maple Leafs in Toronto on December 29, 2018 and handed them a complete ass whipping. Before the game Islanders coach Barry Trotz told his players (I’m paraphrasing here) “John Tavares looked around this locker room and decided that he didn’t want to be teammates with any of you.” Final score? 4-0 Islanders. And the kid that won the Calder dropped 3 goals on JT and his crew.

But this game was different. Debates raged on line as what would be an appropriate response. Sports writers and talking heads wondered how classless would Islander fans be, or what would be acceptable dissent. Islanders management made pleas to be respectful. But in the long run, none of that mattered.

What mattered was that John Tavares had made himself a heel. He was the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff from the 1980’s. He was the 2000’s New York Rangers. Shit, he was the 1994 Rangers.

The roughest, toughest…

There would be a pound of flesh. Or in the case of that robotic cuck, a pound of pride.

50 years from now, this accounting will be a primary source of Islander history for future fans sitting in traffic as they leave a run down Belmont Arena headed towards home while the MTA is on year 32 of the renovations at Belmont train station. It’s a modern Anne Franks diary, where Islander fans are Anne Frank and the last 30 years of ownership and management were the Germans.

Looks professional, right?

Upon arrival, fans were taking pictures of themselves tearing apart a Toronto John Tavares jersey at the area in front of the box office/main entrance. There was a different than usual air to the atmosphere. Normally people will have their beers in plastic cups to avoid justifiable police harassment. Nah. 12 packs sitting out in plain sight. People drinking from cans right in front of 4four police cars. Not one or two people. Hundreds. If cops started to ticket people, they would have gotten carpel tunnel syndrome. The attitude was clear.

It was safe to assume that there would be no fucks given tonight.

After some milling around, my crew headed in. And this is where the carnival kicked into full gear.

Understand that for the past 9 seasons, John Tavares was our bright spot. In some of those years he was our ONLY bright spot. You can only do so much with Matt Moulson and Mark Streit and Garth Snow. So there were fans buying Tavares jerseys for nine years. Kids. Youth. Teens. Young adults. Adults. Seniors. Tens of thousands of jerseys. And what did that create?

Tens of thousands of canvases.

Some of them looked like this:

Others looked like this:

Still more:

But that’s not all. Expression can be written a well.

And of course, expression can be verbal.

The booing started with the scoreboard doing something as audacious as merely listing the game roster submitted by Toronto. The booing continued when the Maple Leafs came out for a warm up skate. And so did the signs. As did the rubber snakes.

One of my favorite chants broke out before any anthem was even suggested. As the teams sat in their respective locker rooms, 13900 voices (give or take) warmed themselves up with a unified chant of “ASSHOLE! ASSHOLE!” Some people were chopping their arms karate style as they did such, to my wonderment. Why are we chopping assholes? Is there a firewood shortage?

Next on the agenda was the national anthem. The first on the table was “O Canada.” I enjoy that anthem. It’s patriotic, it’s easier to sing than the Star Spangled Banner, and it’s subtle. People were afraid that Islander fans would shit on “O Canada.” Instead? We sang along with it. Someone asked me if I was Canadian because I don’t even need to read the words, I’ve heard it so many times.

Next up was the more rambunctious “Star Spangled Banner.” First off, there are not many other national anthems- if any- that let you know that if you come and fuck with us, ROCKETS AND BOMBS WILL REIGN ON YOU. Also, it’s a hard song to sing well. And yet, 13,900 were all in.

Finally, gametime. The Islanders send out their 4th line against Toronto’s first line- a line without an $11 million player. The fans wait like the calm just before the storm. Finally, out steps 91. The booing begins.

This is a primary source, for you college kids.

I’ve never been booed by 14000 people. Yes, there were less than 14000 fans, but I’m sure the concession people were booing, ushers were booing, vendors were booing, and outside of the arena a police horse took a noisy shit that sounded like a boo.

More to the point, I wonder if after that shift Tavares returned to the Maple Leafs bench and thought “well, they got that out of their system. Now I can focus on playing some hockey.” IF that went through his mind, he learned nothing in his nine years here, part of the infamous “12 Years of Failure” of Garth Snow’s design.

It wasn’t just his first shift. It was every shift. Booing with the puck, “JT sucks” without it. After a long run came the first TV time out. Usually a red light goes on to let you know you have a moment to get up and take a leak or grab a snack. For this game they kept the camera rolling for the video tribute of John Tavares.

First hand account…superhistorian, yo!

Tavares was a good guy in his time on Long Island. He showed up to every promotional event they programmed him for. He went to hospitals to try to learn what humanity was like. He looked at little kids and wondered how they upgrade. The video tribute I’m sure had some kind of “thank you” song to along with it.

I have no idea because I couldn’t hear shit over all of the booing. EVERY SINGLE SECOND WAS BOOED. The booing was supported by chants of “JT Sucks” and “We don’t need you!” Tavares, as his programming dictates, can do no harm to humans, so he raised his stick to the crowd. Some players would be moved to tears to see their 18 year old self score a goal in his first NHL game, to break a 25 year playoff drought with a game winning goal, to…well, that’s about it for his highlights. But does A.I. cry?

Something else interesting happened at this point. As the video tribute ran, Islanders players tapped their sticks out of respect to Tavares. Except Mathew Barzal. He kept his in his hands. As did Ryan Pulock. I sense there was a caste system in the Doug Weight locker room, and JT was on top, like Skynet.

Toronto drew first blood in the game, as Zach Hyman scored for Toronto. I find it very ironic that just like in nature, Toronto placed a Hyman with a vagina. There was an uneasy silence from the crowd, considering that the last time the Isles played Toronto the Leafs failed to score at all. Maybe they caught some video? Maybe they’re better prepared?

Those doubts went away 3 minutes later as Anthony Beauvillier tied the game. Fans booed lustily for the rest of the period as the teams exited as they entered: tied.

During the first intermission, I felt emotionally exhausted. I hadn’t had a stake in an Islanders game this big in years. I was out of shape, fanwise. Fortunately my resolve was fortified by fans asking to take pictures of my customized Tavares jersey.

The second period came and delivered the first non-obvious chant. Anders Lee scored and the roof blew off of the building. First off, it was a lead. Secondly, who scored it? THE CAPTAIN. Well, there was now a need for a new chant! “That’s our captain!” Another dig at JT. Oh, so tasty.

That pesky Hyman scored again, but a review showed it was 2 or 3 strides offsides. I’m not sure why they don’t allow replays in arena of the play, but the arena waited in suspense for the results. Fortunately for us, the NHL sent superstar referee Wes McCauley to officiate, and he did not disappoint.

The arena blows up again!

The next goal decided the game long before the score was decided. Casey Cizikas singlehandedly forced his will upon a Toronto power play that was completely buzzing. Cizikas and Valtteri Flippula pinned the Leafs into their own zone. Seriously, Toronto looked defenseless against their will. The crowd was already cheering the effort when Cizikas took a Cal Clutterbuck pass and came in to score a shorthanded goal, something the Islanders rarely do.

Oh, the “We don’t need you” chants reigned down. What made it worse if you’re a Toronto fan is that Filppula scored soon after on a strong pay by of all people Andrew Ladd, who looked energized, and there was joy in Mudville. There was booing. There was JT sucks. There was “We don’t need you.” There was “Barzy’s better.” But the best was yet to come.

After the second period, I had a headache. My voice was on life support. My crew was well lubricated, but I wanted to experience this moment and truly savor it without any filters. No, this was beer free hockey for the first time since our star player was Mariuz Czerkawski and going to Islander games forced you to drink.

I stood at the stairwell for the start of the beginning of period 3, because I have hockey manners, when I watched the Islanders scored another one. 5-1. I think there’s a stat that says if the Barry Trotz Islanders score 3 goals in a game then they can’t be beat. They were most certainly not getting beat.

As I returned to my seat, an older gentleman behind us started chanting “We want chili.” For those too young to know what that means, the dynasty Islanders had a promotion tied in with the local Wendy’s establishments in which if the Islanders scored 6 goals in a game and your brought your ticket stub to Wendy’s, you got a free bowl of chili. As an aside, one night in 1979 against the Rangers, your ticket stub got you double chili. Try to figure out the score there. Hint- it was more than nine.

At this point, the chanting lasted for the entire rest of the game. I kept a list. “Who’s your Daddy?” was lustily chanted. “You can’t beat us!” “Our team’s better!” “First Place!” “Barry!” When Ryan Pulock manhandled JT in the offensive zone, the place went nuts. When Mathew Barzal drove JT in to the boards as best as he could, the place went nuts. Even fan favorites like the chicken dance went rogue.

Halfway through the third period, the “Nah Nah Nah Nah, Hey Hey Goodbye” chant started. With ten minutes to go, that’s normally tempting fate. Just not on that night.

The fans then started to get personal. More personal than asshole? Yup. “You’re a liar!” and “Please don’t trade me!” were in reference to Tavares asking not to be traded at the deadline last year, and his constant assurances that he was an Islander for life.

“Past your bedtime” and “Where’s your jammies” were just fantastic references to his lame attempts at justifying his turning his back on a fanbase that did nothing but accept him, circuits and all.

There was a moment where Johnny Boychuk took a skate to the face and had to leave the game, but he returned for the third period because he’s a tough S.O.B. If he played for Toronto? They may have had a national day of mourning, but more on that later.

“Thanks for leaving” and “It’s your mistake” are references to the Islanders being in first place and having more points now without Tavares than they had in all of last season. To be honest, I predicted 82 points in the preseason with this roster, so this game was my reminder to serve me up some crow as well.

Brock Nelson closed the scoring with his 20th of the season, and gave a nifty little hand spin to celebrate what would have been chili, much to the dismay of Mr. Taggart. At that point it was a party. The booing was countered by standing ovations for every Islander shift change. It was an atmosphere that quite frankly you’re not going to find in most modern giant NHL arenas, and probably with fanbases nowhere near as rabid and betrayed.

Even the post game was awesome. The players gave a shortened “Yes” chant to the fans, probably figuring that we were exhausted. Fans weren’t exactly filing out, however. We needed to praise our heroes. The 3rd star of the game, goalie Robert Lehner came out pumping up the crowd by raising the roof, then threw a puck and his stick to the crowd. If anyone thinks Lehner doesn’t want to return here next season, they’re crazy. If he doesn’t its all on his agent, rest assured. Fans love him, and he loves them back.

The first star of the game was Casey Cizikas. He came out and was interviewed but I have no idea what he said, because the crowd was overpowering the PA system. This happens often at the Coliseum with a packed house.

On the way out I ran into a few more deliriously happy fans dressed appropriately.

As we sat in 25 or so minutes of Coliseum exiting traffic, we fans got to engage in a Long Island tradition that we are deprived of in Brooklyn- HONK HONK HONKHONKHONK.

Tavares was not his usual soulless self in his post game presser. He voice synth sounded agitated. He was defensive. He let down the guard for a second and said the equivalent of what an out of control teen says on the Maury Povich Show: “You can’t judge me! You don’t know me!”

Um, I don’t know you but I do know this: You’re going to make $100 million and more in your life playing a kids game. Grow a pair, Nancy.

Granted, for me the night wasn’t perfect. I tried and failed repeatedly to get a chant of “Snake! Snake!” going, but alas.

But the best was yet to come.

The Mayor of Toronto was so concerned for the Hectoring of Tavares by his former fans that he wanted to declare a John Tavares Day in Toronto. The next home game ScotiaBank Arena set aside a “John Tavares Appreciation” Moment.

Can you believe that shit?

I’m not a hockey expert by any means, but I do know this: if your psyche is so frail that you cave in and need social and emotional support from an entire city just to bounce back and beat on a bottom half NHL team? I don’t foresee you doing all that well in the playoffs. And for Toronto, your window is NOW. You think Tavares will be faster in 3 years? That Mitch Marner isn’t going to want his $10 million RFA payday, too? That a rebuilding team with cap space like the New York Rangers wouldn’t mind giving up a few late first round picks to shore up 7 years of Marner? That if the Leafs lose repeatedly in the first round for the next few seasons that Austin Matthews isn’t leaving after his shorter than need be taken deal is up? That you won’t be “salty” if Matthews leaves in the exact same way? That the salary cap is going to double?

No, Toronto, your window is now. As is Tampa Bays. Never mind those guys, because you can’t get through the Boston Bruins. And do you want to know why? Because your prize possession can’t take being booed. Imagine what every arena will sound like for the postseason? And the worst case scenario? You get the Islanders in the playoffs. In that case, my prediction- another early offseason.

Hands down, this was the best Islander game I’ve been to since the game 6 2002 playoff game versus the Toronto Maple Leafs. Maybe even better.

Epilogue:

On Friday, March 1 2019 I was wearing my Islanders swag around town like a proud peacock, complete with my awful scratchy voice still not close to recovered from the lusty boos and the joyous chanting. I completely random person stops me and says “Hey Islander fan, did you see that game last night?”

See? I was there!

She goes on “I’m a Rangers fan, but I enjoyed the shit out of that game. You gave him what he deserves for what he did. I’m glad you kicked his ass and rubbed it in. Our season is over, but I hope you guys go a long way.”

Normally I’d say Ranger fans are classless douchebags. But that lady in the supermarket had more class in her pinky than John Tavares had in his whole chassis.

One of the best games I ever attended, hands down.
The Jacob deGrom Dilemma

The Jacob deGrom Dilemma

Jacob deGrom is one of my favorite pitchers in baseball. Despite playing for the horribly generally and personnel managed New York Mets, deGrom has been a winner pretty much since he emerged onto the baseball scene in 2014, with only one sub 500 year (7-8). He pretty much relies on a fastball and guts.

deGrom initially wasn’t considered part of the vaulted Mets Generation K, 2.0. That was the Dark Knight Fat Harvey, the acquired for Carlos Beltran Zack Wheeler, the acquired for Cy Young award winner knuckleballer R.A Dickey Noah Syndergaard, and the lefty in the pipeline Steven Matz.

Since then Matz has been hurt every 15 minutes, Syndergaard took the Thor name too seriously and messed up his body, Harvey was banished for being a mess, Wheeler Tommy Johned it up, and deGrom has hands down been the best of the bunch. The dude struck out an all star inning on 10 pitches. He won a Cy Young award with just above a 500 record. He had a season that, if on a good team, he may have won 35 games.

So clearly, as he approaches his big payday, it’s time to make Jacob deGrom super rich. Rich enough to not do those shitty TV commercials selling cars with his bad acting. And that conversation is the Jacob DeGrom dilemma.

Jacob deGrom is almost 31 years old. He has 5 professional season on his resume, so it’s not exactly like he’s overthrown and will have his arm fall off. But he also has two years of arbitration left. Also, He’ll make $17 million for the 2019 season. Assuming arbitration will give him the same or more, deGrom will have made at least $63 million dollars before he hits free agency. Considering the MLBPA pension plan, it’s safe to say that Jacob deGrom will never be poor.

And that’s something Mets fans have to consider. I like deGrom. He has heart. But he’ll be a 33 year old unrestricted free agent. What type of deal are you willing to give a 33 year old pitcher?

My opinion for a deal? 5 years, $110 million, and front loaded so that by year 3 he’s taken home $85 million, and after year 4 $102 million. Here’s the breakdown:

Year 1: $30 million

Year 2: $28 milion

Year 3: $27 million

Year 4: $17 million

Year 5: $8 million

Why the scale? Easy. Tradeabilty. I expect deGrom to be good until about age 35/36. You’re paying him to be good. There’s a strong chance that the Mets will not be good in 3-5 years, but I’ll discuss that later.

The final two years of that deal has terms that are more team friendly, meaning you can trade him. If he wants more security you can add on team options, but this is the extent I’d be willing to go.

Why?

Because I wholeheartedly believe that the Mets will suck for the foreseeable future. They’re majority owned by the Wilpons, who are absolute assholes. Here’s an example of said assholery.

Assholes

When asked if the Mets will be in play for Bryce Harper, one of the Wilpons – I don’t care which one because they’re both fucktards- said “How many teams carry two $30 million players?”

  1. A divisional rival, the Washington Nationals
  2. Your own team carries ZERO $30 million players
  3. At a $20 million standard, your same city rivals have 50% more guys at that price point
  4. Your same league rivals the Chicago Cubs have 100% more $20 million players than the Mets
  5. How many excuses do you have for being not good at baseball?

So we have deGrom looking at a team hoping their minor leagues becaue the owners have already declared that despite reaping insurance policy returns on David Wright and Yoennis Cespedes, they will not reinvest in the team. Also, this is an organization who hasn’t produced any worthwhile infielders players since David Wright and Jose Reyes and hasn’t produced a worthwhile outfielder since Darryl Strawberry. They will not fortify their lineup. The Mets owners came out and said “we can sign two major young free agents and still have a payroll lower than the Red Sox and Cubs but we chose not to, so FUCK YOU, FANS!”

We also have deGrom looking at a rotation that will be vastly different shortly. Expect a Syndergaard trade. It almost happened this winter. It will happen as he approaches a payday. Or maybe deGrom gets traded and the Mets keep Thor. Either way, these guys will not be long term teammates.

Wheeler? Traded by the Mets already for a former Met, to have the deal rescinded because the talent they acquired wasn’t healthy. Matz? Will never be healthy as a Met, despite having a sandwich named after him at the Seaport Deli in Port Jefferson. Harvey? Bust. The Mets could have acquired Gio Gonzalez this winter but instead felt that Jason Vargas was the better option. He isn’t.

So deGrom is largely an island out at sea, a winner surrounded by losers. Which brings us the the dilemma: what to do with Jason deGrom?

Do the Mets pay him? For what? They’re not going to win with him, because they don’t presently win with him.

Do the Mets trade him? For what? When you trade a star, you almost never get equal value. You usually get a handful of prospects.

Do the Mets ride his stardom out for three more seasons? I don’t think deGrom will do that.

What makes this interesting that deGrom’s former agent is the Mets GM. I can assure you in advance that such an idea will go down about as well as making a backup goalie your GM. But as deGrom’s agent, Brodie Van Douchery probably had ideas about what his client should earn. Think at least $30 million. As an employee of the Wilpons, he knows all he can offer is $34 and some subway tokens, maybe a few hot dogs from the walkabout vendors.

Dutch twat

If Brodie is a friend to deGrom- and agents should be, because agents do intake interviews to get to know their clients, the clients families, the clients needs, et cetera- he will trade deGrom to a winner.

If the Yankees sign Manny Machado, deGrom the the Yankees for Gleyber Torres plus seems a logical move. Do a Met thing and add Todd Frazier to the deal to unload salary in the process.

Personally, if I’m the Mets GM I make that deal where Frasier and Syndergaard go to the Yankees for Torres and their top OF and P prospect, then you add Gio Gonzalez to fill out the rotation. But I’d have to work for the Wilpons, and that would mean I’d be forced to take a turn on the mound every 5th day to reinforce the fact that our payroll is above average, but not intergalactic. Not even league leading.

So in short, do you sign a 31 year old to a 7 year extension paying him $200 million, maybe more? No, no you don’t. What you do is trade a Cy Young award winner for players and prospects. The last time the Mets did that they got Noah Syndergaard and Travis deArnold. Shockingly, deArnold was the key to the deal. deGrom is a little younger, so expect a slightly better haul. A position player, an OF prospect, and a pitching prospect.

If the Mets had a winning mentality, deGrom would be locked up already. They’d have signed Machado. They would have traded Amed Rosario for Realmuto. They would have traded Frasier and put Jeff O’Neil at 3rd. They would have traded Vargas for spare parts and signed Gonzalez. But these are the Mets. Big league enough to be in New York, small enough in New York to be Buffalo.

It’s an embarrassing organization and as I mentioned previously will most likely never produce another hall of famer. Mike Piazza was inducted as being tied to the Mets, but he wasn’t drafted or developed as a Met, which is why he was good. Not since Tom fucking Seaver was a Met a hall of famer. 50 years. One hall of famer. Fuck you, Wilpons.

If I was Jacob deGrom, I’d hope for a trade to a winner. If not, I’d take my free agent ass to Boston, Chicago, or across the Cross Bronx. Because the Mets suck, and will continue to suck. 80% of the last decade sub 500 can’t be wrong.

Everything Old is New Again

Everything Old is New Again

I’ve been going to Islander games live an in person for 3 decades. Before that I was relegated to watching them on my TV at home, on SportsChannel or on channel 9. Yeah, the Islanders used to play on the same station that ran Benny Hill, Bowling for Dollars, and Morton Downey Jr. I remember watching hockey with my Grandmother one day when a fight broke out on the ice. “Beat the shit out of him!” she cheered. I’m not sure exactly which guy she was rooting for as her comment isn’t exactly specific, but it dawned onto me at that young age that hockey is exciting to kids in single digits and seniors equally. Yes, everything that was old was new again.

That young boy got to watch one of the most dominant teams in hockey history. Witnessing 19 consecutive playoff series to younger fans is like Grandpa talking about the moon landing. Yeah, you read about it in books so you know it happened. But the folks that saw it? They EXPERIENCED it. I’m sure young people would tell me how awesome a Kanye West show is, and I’d smile and nod as to not diminish their enthusiasm, but in all honesty, no it wasn’t.

But back to 19 consecutive playoff series wins. I want to talk about #IslesKoolAid. For the large part, Islander fans under 30 have playoff memories consisting of a Shawn Bates penalty shot, and two players carrying the Islanders to a first round victory over the Florida Panthers. They may recall 1993, but they were 5, so I’m sure it’s not as sharp a memory as a good episode of Blue’s Clues.

But #IslesKoolAid loves to dismiss the glory days. Can you imagine a fan base so embarrassed about who it roots for that they discard their past? Could you imagine the ever arrogant Yankee fans saying “Well, you know, if you consider the dissolution of the Negro Leagues and the westward expansion and the absorption of the Continental League, then the Yankees only have 7 World Series in 45 years.” Oh, only 14% of all of the World Series won between 30 teams? Sorry Boston. You’ve got a ways to go.

My point- can you imagine a Yankee fan ever shitting on Babe Ruth? Yet here are Islander fans shitting on Mike Bossy and Brian Trottier and Clark Gilles and Billy Smith and Denis Potvin and Pat LaFontaine? Because clearly John Tavares is a better player. And who else could they root for since 1994? Bryan Berard? Claude LaPointe?

Here’s a true story. The year was 1990. I was an 18 year old asshole working at the newly opened K Mart in West Babylon, NY.  For the opening of the first K Mart on Long Island (which is now out of business over no fault whatsoever of mine) the company went all out, bringing in K Mart celebrity endorsees such as the beautiful even at her age Kate Smith of Charlie’s Angels and the race car driver Mario Andretti (I think. I give a shit about a sport I can do as well as professionals. I once did 130 mph on the Robert Moses. In daytime traffic. Top that, circle driving jerkoffs!)

I liked it better when it was TSS

Anyway, my job that day was to be security to the line that was there to see Pat LaFontaine. Pat was about 25 years old at the time, and would soon screw the Islanders over by demanding a trade based on a broken promise made by then owner John Pickett. The promise was about money, which Islander owners never like spending. I can’t blame them. Neither do the fans.

As I’m standing on line as “security,” I’m noticing that the crowd was mostly female, and mostly between the ages of 15-25. Let me say this- women have an instinct to throw their vagina at anything that can afford them the opportunity to not have to perform a moment of labor north of being in labor, but often south of such. I didn’t feel so useful warding off girls from a professional athlete, so I just took in my environment. And that’s when I noticed something. At 18 years old, I was 100% sure that I could kick Pat LaFontaines ass.

Don’t get me wrong. LaFontaine has taken tons of hits from pro skaters. He’s also taken tons of concussions. But as I stood there in a pair of Bugle Boy slacks and a tie borrowed from my Dad, I kept glancing back at Mr. LaFontaine. And I kept thinking “I could punch the shit out of that guy.” And at some point he must have noticed my frequent glancing, looking away, and thinking about beating his ass.

Understand at 18 I checked in at an unimposing 5’ 10” and 155 pounds. With a horrible moustache. Sure there were things that looked like abs and biceps, but at best there was a wiry yet angry quality that made the fight in the dog bigger than the dog itself. And I was absolutely certain that I could punch the shit out of this professional athlete.

You can see why I thought like I did…

As an aside, that same year I happened into meeting the Iron Sheik of pro wrestling fame. He was “old” and wrestling at a local high school (Copiague represent!) because he was suspended from the then WWF for a drug arrest. As I saw the Sheik in person I never once thought “I’d wreck that guy.” Probably because his lats were 60 feet wide.

The roughest, toughest…

As LaFontaine kept making eye contact with his goofy security guard, he looked increasingly uneasy and maybe even concerned. I remember the look on LaFontaine’s face like it happened at lunch today. He looked uncomfortable and awkward. It’s probably because he was thinking a lot about leaving Long Island. Just like when that 7 year old kid asked John Tavares about if he was leaving Long Island. 

Maybe he thought I was a Rangers fan. Maybe he thought he could skate without falling down. Whatever he thought, as his time for being paid to be around his fans expired, he never once offered the staff a private moment for autographs. I must have scared him off. Or he was an asshole.

Imagine a die hard Islander fan so disappointed by a player that he didn’t even want to ask said player for an autograph? Also, its not like LaFontaine is an inferior player. Sure, he couldn’t carry the jocks of the top 6 that came before him. And even though inferior to the Trio Grande, he’s still a Hall of Famer. Josh Bailey projects just about the same, because he’s elite. At inseminating.

Now that Kate Smith? Beautiful and charming. She took photos with the staff. And when I say photos, I mean cameras with actual film that need an effort to use. Not a cell phone camera…because no one invented them yet. Not even Joey Motorola.

At this point it’s fair if you ask what the fuck I’m talking about. And there’s a few themes here. Name the top 3 offensively gifted players drafted by the New York Islanders that never won a cup with the franchise. I don’t give a fuck who you thought of. Here’s my list.

  1. Pat LaFontaine
  2. Zigmund Palffy
  3. John Tavares

I put them in order of talent, in my opinion. Also, I feel that Pierre Turgeon- the guy Lafontaine was traded for- is better than all three. But we didn’t draft him, and we traded him for shit, so go live life, Pete.

Now, what do all three of those guys have in common? After leaving, none of them returned as players to the New York Islanders. Dudes drafted in the 1980’s, 1990’s and the 2000’s. Everything old is new again. And here’s the next thing- that’s not the only thing these guys have in common.

These guys were all at their time representatives of promise. Promise that they never delivered on. LaFontaine was the wheelman for the drive for five. Palffy was to usher in the Fisherman jersey era. Tavares was meant to revive the franchise, but just ended up slithering along the lawns of Long Island. They never made an impact. Old, new.

And they all share something else that Islander fans have all experiences at what I feel is an unusual rate. Two things, in fact. Feel free to disagree in the comment section. Here’s the list:

  1. If you have never scored an NHL goal ever, we got you.
  2. If we have a one goal lead and there’s 2 minutes on the clock, we’re going to ruin us.

The first one is an anomaly. I’ve never researched it, but I go to a lot of games, watch a lot of games, and had season tickets for years. Islander fans, how many times have you heard “(Opposing team) goal, his first of the season/career/posthumous scored by number…” It’s fucking stunning how often it happens. Every year. I can’t remember a year without multiple someones popping a cherry with us. Awful.

But the other one is more stunning. As previously mentioned, I watch a lot of Islanders hockey. I remember the days that whenever the opponent pulled his goalie, we just tacked another goal on. I was raised to believe that’s how it went.

Then it changed. I’ll say 1995 was a drop dead line. Suddenly, when the opposing team pulled a goalie, not only did we not grab an empty netter, but the other team scored. Especially if it was in the last minute. To be fair, that also happened a lot in tie games 5 on 5, so there’s assuredly a cultural issue.

TORONTO, ON – OCTOBER 10: Brett Lindros #75 of the New York Islanders skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during NHL game action in which he was completely fucking useless again on October 10, 1995 at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images)

But the stunning thing is this- the coach doesn’t matter. Good ones like Peter Laviolette, Ted Nolan, Barry Trotz. Bad ones like Steve Stirling, Butch Goring, Mke Milbury. Absolutely horrible ones, like everyone Garth Snow hired because he’s an insecure piece of shit. No matter the coach, we either fail to extend a lead or squander one once the extra attacker rolls onto the ice.

Now, for this season I expected Barry Trotz to fix this. Yes, he inherited just about the same defense that was both worst in the NHL last year as well as having the honor to be among the worst defenses ever assembled. But he has a system. He has goaltender coaches. He’s won a Stanley Cup, making him only the second ever active Islanders coach with a Stanley Cup, and as far as I can tell only the third ever guy to coach the Islanders that won a Stanley Cup in a head coaching capacity. Which sucks considering that they’re 46 years in the making.

As a fan, I am excited at the steps that Trotz has made in fixing this squad, but he hasn’t entirely fixed this issue. As an #IslesRealist, I think Trotz is doing a fine job in fighting a decades long uphill battle. Culturally, the Islanders were used to losing and needed a complete culture change. Actually, that’s an overused phrase. They needed a cultural overhaul just to do things like hit an empty net goal.

I mean, look at all of the losing the team has done in the last decade. They lost a voter referendum for a new arena. They lost their present home arena. They lost a draft pick to a mountainside. They lote Turgeon to a dirty hit and a bad GM. They lost a Hall of Fame goalie to a bad GM. They lost an all time wing to a budget. They lost adorable ice girls for a chunky analyst. They lost a GM to a backup goalie. They lost an all star to pajamas. And worst of all, they recently gifted us with a rolling 12 years to failure.

Despite their present success, this year is about growing pains. The Islanders are above NHL 500. But at the same time they’re evaluating a roster to see what stays and what goes going forward, although what stays is a remnant of the aforementioned 12 years of failure based on bad contracts. But that said, even with a new coach, a new GM, new player signings, this team hasn’t consistently been able to lock down a formidable opponent since before Bill Clinton was president. That’s something that good teams do. We haven’t been a good team since we were coached by Al Arbour, who is not only retired but also is permanently deceased.

Sure, you may be saying “But they’re in first in the Metro!” With 30 games to go. And they were first in 2015 with 13 games to go, yet somehow lost home ice and had a 3 more games longer than the shortest playoffs that you can have. And has this team has grown by leaps and bounds?

This team saw an opponent pull a goalie with 10 minutes to go, and managed an empty net goal in the last seconds of the game. Nine minutes. No goalie. No goals. I watched them do nothing against Minnesota when the Wild left a yawning net to dump into.

So how does this team of coach and GM fix that loser mentality? I have no answers here. I’m already hearing that the few of the games at the smaller and remodeled Nassau Coliseum for the 2018-19 season aren’t sold out. That fans are complaining about ticket prices. And I feel that there’s a correlation.

Let’s go back to 1995. The Islanders owner want to unload the team. Anyone interested in the team wants it solely for the land. Pigs at the trough. Spano. Wang. Maldecky. Most of those owners weren’t filthy rich. One of those owners was so non- filthy that White Castle felt like Peter Luger. So what did these skinflints do? Not spend on the team.

In fact, the preceding era into the early Wang ownership spent so little on the team that the NHL instituted a cap minimum. And Charles Wang’s genius was to find ways around spending for a product.

But every Isles owner- Wang included- expected fans to do what they would not. Spend money on the team. And when I say the team, I mean any roster out there. An owner makes $37 million from TV deals, $5 million from league revenue sharing, $3 million in advertising, and has a ticket gate of $30 million with a payroll of $40 million- below the cap floor but using roster bonuses to circumvent the cap- but when fans don’t spend, THEY’RE the bad guys?

So the origins of blowing late game leads comes from owners not investing in players as they implore the fans to invest in the team. This is a nice way of saying “we’re pocketing your cash and giving you a shit roster. Drink up!” And what came from that Immaculate Ingestion? #IslesKoolAid.

People, this is Trotz’s time. He needs a year- maybe two- to repair over a decade of stepping in elephant shit, which is what happens when Garth misses the bowl. Yes he inherited a team that sees 3 goals are a luxury. But they also have expiring deals coming up, some cap space and can really reshape this team at G, D and F.

#Loupon

And this is Lou Lamoriello’s time. Lou has decisions that are more pressing- the trade deadline- and less pressing- the offseason. He has a lot of current key players walking into unrestricted free agency. He clearly needs more offense, but his offensive prospects aren’t setting the world on fire. And he’s also facing losing 3 of his top 6 forwards, and has one restricted forward on the verge of a big payday, if NHL trends continue. He also has to think about this season being one to reset this team, or to make a splash at the trade deadline. So he has a ton of work on his table.

But Jesus Christ, look what it’s taking to shake off the loser mentality from this organization. Two hall of famers at their respective jobs, a billion dollar arena motivating owners, intervention from the Governor of New York, and 9 minute power plays.

I love the surprise that the Islanders have been this season. I’m not sure where this ends now. But they have to do more. This is good, but it’s not good enough. Because theres a remnant from the loser Islanders era- we’ve seen a glimpse of promise here and there, only to watch it go nowhere. So here’s hoping that unlike all of the other times, everything new isn’t old again.

Let’s hope these days are done
Josh Bailey will be Mr. Islander. That’s bad.

Josh Bailey will be Mr. Islander. That’s bad.

Currently the organization’s greatest players hold all of the significant awards. Some of those awards are totally made up. For example, Bobby Nystrom was known as Mr. Islander. Nystrom never really gabbed individual awards, but his tenacity made him the embodiment of what it means to be an Islander. The team still names an annual Mr. Islander as a legacy.

There is one player that should never be Mr. Islander, because it would mean that Mr. Islander is a cuckold. That player is Josh Bailey.

This brief piece will point out two things: one, Josh Bailey has never been and will never be among this organizations significant impact making players. And two, Bailey has a very strong chance of ending his Islander career with the most games played ever by an Islander, which is an insult to players who actually accomplished things.

First off, let me quote liberally from a piece I wrote entitled “Attendance Award.” Since I wrote it, I can steal the fuck out of it.

“I would argue that the most offensive stats Bailey has put up are “games played” and “points per game without playing next to John Tavares” because those stats are truly offensive.

We also have to address the elephant in the room. Hi Garth! And thanks to Garth, there’s this simple fact: if Josh Bailey plays out his present six year deal with the Islanders, he will have spent 16 years doing nothing with the same franchise. Why is that a big deal?

Understand that 6 years of a healthy Josh Bailey- healthy meaning 75 games a year- would place Bailey’s career total of games played at 1165. This number of games played would make Josh Bailey the all time leader in games played for the New York Islanders, surpassing all of the Islander Hall of Famers and legends.

You know, maybe with 1165 games, Bailey will close in on the top 12 in points.

Coattails

Can you imagine a player with as many games played with so few accomplishments? And I’m sure that #IslesRealists all recognize that the Bailey extension was the ultimate “Fuck you” to the franchise by Garth Snow, who is looking to get his fat ass attached to something in the records book somehow without doing much, as per usual.

But the point of this is not meant to bash Josh Bailey. Well, actually, it is, but even I have to pay respects to the next potential Mr. Islander. But how?

Bailey is accomplished neither offensively or defensively. He has a highlight reel that can play on Snapchat. In looking at some way to honor Bailey for a career full of nothing special, we have to dig deep into the well of meaningless awards. And what award is the most meaningless? A service award.

“5 Years on the Job!” What a shitty award. That’s no accomplishment. It means you knew enough to show up to work to grab 130 paychecks. “Perfect Attendance.” Great! You did the most basic element of what you were supposed to do, and perfectly! Sadly this is all Bailey has given us to work with. So we’re going to do that.

Introducing the first ever New York Islanders Attendance Award. And the initial recipient? Josh Bailey. In over 700 games, Bailey has failed to accomplish anything tangible in the form of successful, team lifting, awe inspiring results. Or even just scoring 20 goals in a season.

What he has done, however, is show up to work. So much so that he’s among the pantheon of Islander greats. For just showing up.

Sure, he hasn’t grabbed assists like the top 10 draft pick playmaker that he was promised to be. And no, he hasn’t scored goals on a clip equal to legendary 200 goal scorer Bob Bourne. His total points are also nothing to marvel over despite being in the league for a decade. And I can assure you he’s not leading the franchise in hat tricks. It took him a decade just to break into that club, the fucking zilch.

No, today we honor Josh with the only thing no one can take away from him: he knows where the arena is.

So kudos to Josh Bailey for finally being recognized both for his lack of greatness, but also his contractual perseverance to be listed sans accomplishments among the greats. Take a victory lap Josh. You’ve earned it. And see you at the rink for the next game…continuing your lifelong quest at being statistically insignificant.”

So there’s the first part of my thesis. Bailey is not an impact Islander. Part of that isn’t his fault. He was a first pick brought into a rebuild. And part of his lack of impact is his fault. As a rebuilding piece, there was probably better available.

Understand that Bailey will be in the top ten all time in Islander scoring if he lives out this contract. He’s about 100 points off from 10th place, and he has five plus years to do it. Even at non-coat tail riding pace, Bailey was good for 160 points in 5 years. Now that he’s got scorers who do the work for him, Bailey will probably end up passing Snake Tavares as a – GAG – top 5 scoring Islander of all time. He’s 202 points away from that, so if he finishes this deal the New York Islanders can proudly point to him and say “This is the next face we’d put on our Mount Rushmore, after Bossy, Trottier, Potvin, and Gillies. And a year or so like last year? He’d pass Gillies, too.

Now, the second part of my premise- why is this bad? Because what organization would want a player so unaccomplished to go down as anything other than what he is? A defensive liability. A coat tail rider. A guy that never achieved 20 goals. A guy with one playoff series win- of which he hardly contributed- in 11 seasons. This frankly is not what you want as the upper echelon of franchise history. This is the type of winning production that causes teams to relocate. Which has already happened in Bailey’s tenure. And may do so a second time.

This is bad because this is a team that had a drafted core that won a series of Stanley Cups. When Garth Snow had the same opportunity with 5 top 5 picks – including a 1st overall- who was the first building block? Bailey. And all we have to show for that Snow rebuild? Bailey.

Look at a team like St. Louis. The Blues have never won the Stanley Cup. That’s a franchise where Bailey belongs. Look at a team like Arizona. The Coyotes have never won a cup. There’s where a player like Bailey belongs. The Florida Panthers come to mind as a good Bailey spot. Instead we are saddled with a nobody that’s won nothing until his contract runs out because no one is trading for his scary talent. All we have to do is sit back and watch his assault on the Islanders record books slowly unfold. An assault as enjoyable like sexual assault.

As we wrap up, I want to leave you with this final thought. If you had to pick any 70 players in the NHL to form a travel team to bring hockey to other parts of the world and show them the best players in the game, does Bailey make that list? No, no he doesn’t. Does Bailey make a list of personal award winners? Not today. Championships? No. So understand that this inconsequential nobody is at some point going to be enshrined in team history as the one player that represented us the most. Not the best, just the most. He showed up.

Is that all we want from our team? For ourselves? Is that in any way satisfying?