— This is supposed to be it. According to amateur astronomers, ancient civilizations and people who know which part of a cactus is smokeable, the world will end in a little less than 10 months. The human doomsdayers and their History Channel counterparts seem to agree that the worst will happen on the Winter Solstice (schedule those holiday parties early), but the method of destruction ranges from a massive comet to a collision with another planet to whatever happened in that movie where only John Cusack survived.
But what if we’re in for something more unbelievable, more unimaginable and way more intolerable: What if 2012 is the Year of New York? The year that a New York-area team takes the championship in each of the four major sports? Could the next nine-plus months bring the apocalypse AND the ApocaLINpse? (And you know that’s not even the dumbest use of Lin-guistics).
The Giants have already done their part, so who’s next? (Sorry, Mets, Jets and Islanders. The NYs in each of your logos might as well stand for "Not Yet.") The New York Rangers look like they could reintroduce themselves to the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1993-1994. Their 40-15-6 record puts them on top of the Eastern Conference with a nine-point lead over the increasingly inconsistent Bruins, and they’ve already almost matched their 44-win total from last season.
Goalie Henrik Lundqvist earned his 30th win Monday and notched a league-best eighth shutout, while he and the Blueshirts defense illustrated (or illvstrated) why New York is ranked No. 2 in goals against. After 46 games in net, Lundqvist has a 1.75 GAA, which is tighter than the 2.00 that won Bruins goalie and part-time political activist Tim Thomas the Vezina Trophy last year. If the season ended today, his .940 save percentage would break Thomas’ still shiny new record.
The problem with lacing your Cup hopes to a Rangers sweater is that they tend to score less often than a mid-1980s Anthony Michael Hall. Citing his 'high price,' they declined to add Columbus captain Rick Nash, who has scored 22 goals for a Blue Jackets team that would struggle against the cast of Disney on Ice.
Despite strong starts from Marion Gaborik (29 goals, 53 points) and first-year captain Ryan Callahan (25 goals, 47 points) the Rangers still rank 12th in goals per game. That’s a problem. According to The Sporting News, "only three teams in the past 30 years have won the Cup after finishing outside the top 10 in regular season scoring: the '83 Islanders, '95 Devils and '03 Devils." So, um, maybe there’s something to this New York thing after all.
Yankees are grayer, but they're the Yankees
Switching boroughs from Manhattan to the Bronx, the Yankees are currently in Tampa and there are, as always, high expectations for the season, starting with hopes that this one won’t end with A-Rod helplessly flailing at what would become the final pitch of the season (Twice! In a row!)
As always, when the Yankees' annual optimism appears, so does the repeated criticism that they’re old. Mariano Rivera’s age (42) matches his jersey number. (If he retires after the season, we won’t see a 42 in baseball again unless we’re counting Houston’s win total). And despite losing longtime backstop Jorge Posada, the Yankees still have five position players who are over 30.
So they might be the graybeardiest team in the AL East, but they’re also healthy, with Derek Jeter and Rodriguez recovered from the injuries that limited them to 131 and 99 games respectively, and with their collective fingers crossed that Joba Chamberlain could return to form (his promising 2008 form, not his balky "every year after that" form) after Tommy John surgery.
Elsewhere in the American League, the unsettled Sawx are breaking in a new manager, an 18th Amendment-era clubhouse and are still raking the infield dirt over any lingering memories of last season. Most of the zoom lenses and megapixels will be aimed toward the Anaheim Angels, who did their best Arthur impression during the offseason, blowing giant stacks of cash on Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. Although New York will still be overanalyzed, they might benefit from knowing that some of the attention is on the other side of America or on other teams in the AL East.
How Lincredible can the Knicks be?
That brings us back at Madison Square Garden, where Linsanity might as well be an organized religion. The 23-year-old who has stolen all the headlines (except when an ESPN employee is apologizing for those headlines) enters the second half of the season with a 17-18 Knicks team that is 3 1/2 games behind Philadelphia.
The Knicks haven’t made the Finals since 1999 — the last lockout-shortened season — and that team was 18-17 at this point in the season. (There was no All-Star game because of the lockout). They’re still trying to get comfortable with Carmelo Anthony and Lin both in the lineup. Since Anthony’s return from a groin injury they’re 1-2, and in those three games, he has averaged an anemic 15 points on 38-percent shooting.
I agree with Pro Basketball Talk, which says the Eastern Conference will be "a two-team race" between the Bulls — who Lin and Company will see three more times — and the Heat but that the Knicks could make a deeper playoff run than they did last season.
They just might be the only New York team who won’t have their name engraved on several pounds of precious metal this year. But you never know ...
This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang, but a Lin-per.