April 15, 2024

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The Sports Fanatics

Ranking 12 local sports venues with UBS Arena on the way

Table of Contents

We are getting a new playpen soon, UBS Arena, which the Islanders will call home for the next couple of decades. By all accounts, it looks beautiful. But we will need to wait before we see where it settles on our list of favorite local venues, because it is noise — frantic, frenetic, desperate noise — that we remember our ballparks and arenas by.

It is one reason to hope things break the Yankees’ way the next few days so that we can get a couple of games back at a full Yankee Stadium. Maybe Yankees fans haven’t been completely in love with this team but they’ll show up for them, in full throat, you can be sure of that.

We have actually been quite lucky in terms of our deafening palaces through the years. I’m too young to have experienced Ebbets Field or the Polo Grounds, or the “old” versions of Madison Square Garden (which closed in 1968) or Yankee Stadium (1973). But I’ve been to all the others. This is one man’s opinion — actually, his ears’ opinion — but here’s how I’d rank our venues on their best nights:

1. Yankee Stadium II: The one that replaced the original and stood on the same ground. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard sports louder than when Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius delivered their bookend ninth-inning homers in the 2001 World Series. When I close my eyes, I hear those roars still.

A look at the old Yankee Stadium.
A look at the Yankee Stadium. II
File photo

2. Shea Stadium: As a fan, I was at the Bills-Jets playoff game in 1981, and my father and I both believed the stands were going to collapse during the Jets’ ill-fated last drive. And when Endy Chavez made his NLCS Game 7 catch 25 years later, it was the same sound.

3. Madison Square Garden: For sustained noise, this may rank in a category all its own. And there have been moments — LJ’s 4-point play, the Rangers winning the Cup — when you thought the famous pinwheel roof might spin clear off its moorings.

4. Nassau Coliseum: Sure, it was a dump. But the dynasty Islanders (combined with some unique acoustics) used to make the old barn shudder and shake. This year’s Isles team approximated that Game 6 against Tampa Bay, extending their Cup dreams another two days. The Nets’ two ABA clinchings were auditory delights as well.

5. Giants Stadium: The pity is that there weren’t more playoff games played there. But the ones that were — notably Giants-Redskins in 1987, Giants-Vikings in 2001, and Jets-Jaguars in 1999 — were simply spectacular and kept you trying to rub the aftereffects out of your ears for a week.

6. Meadowlands Arena: And not just for the regular visits from Bruce Springsteen. The Devils and Nets didn’t always draw great, but when they were playing big playoff games … well, ask the 1995 Red Wings or the 2003 Ducks (or the 2002 Pacers) how they felt about it.

7. Belmont Park: When American Pharoah came flying down the stretch in 2015, 100,000 New Yorkers let out a cry/scream/wail/shout that you’ll never forget if you were there.

8. Citi Field: Speaking of 2015, Citi showed what it could be as a home-field monster when the Mets took on the Dodgers, Cubs and Royals. It just hasn’t had enough reps yet.

9. Yankee Stadium III: Yankees fans try, they really do. It’s just neither as loud nor as intimidating as the building that preceded it. Blame the acoustics if you must, it’s just not quite the same.

10. Barclays Center: This has a strong chance of moving up this year. Nets fans were equal to the challenge in Games 5 and 7 of this year’s playoff series with the Bucks. They ought to have a few more opportunities this spring to climb the list.

11. MetLife Stadium: It hasn’t helped that there has been just one playoff game since the place opened, or that both teams have mostly been lousy. But there aren’t a lot of locals I know who have ever said, excitedly, “Going to MetLife today!”

12. Prudential Center: If this were a report card, to be fair I’d give it an “INC.”

Vac’s Whacks

The amazing thing about Aaron Judge is that you are almost never moved to talk about what a terrific defensive player he is — and yet he’s probably made close to half of the 10 best defensive plays in New York baseball this season.

As terrific as Rusty Staub was as a Met, you could easily make an argument that Staub-for-Ken Singleton (and three others) belongs on the list of all-time dubious Mets trades. Singleton announced his broadcasting retirement Saturday on YES. Here’s hoping it’s a healthy and prosperous one.

Please do not take this straight to the gambling app on your phone, but I have a weird feeling one of our local 11s is going to get off the schneid Sunday. Not sure which one. I said it was a weird feeling, not a strong one.

I hope Michael Conforto is back for at least another year as a Met, because if nothing else, he needs a better final chapter than 2021 provided. It’s not his fault that half the town predicted he’d be a batting champ and the other half always figured he’d be an MVP someday. He always stood up and demanded he be counted, even in bad times. That’s all you can ask of a player.

Whack Back At Vac

Lou Panico: I’m old enough to remember the Allie Sherman, Alex Webster and Bill Arnsparger eras. The Giants these last several years has that feel. The problem is that there is not a Pete Rozelle to send George Young from the NFL office to put out this dumpster fire.
Vac: Someone is Out There who can be George Young 2.0. It’s a matter of finding him (or her) and them hiring them.

John Sherwood: Your column earlier in the week about the Jets and Giants driving their fans away mentioned the old blackout rules. Now I’m remembering the blackout days in our attic adjusting the antenna trying to get a Giants game from Hartford.
Vac: Why do I have a funny feeling Jets and Giants fans this year wouldn’t mind a temporary return to blackout rules?

@tedreednc: Good column on angry Jets and Giants fans, but those who became Jets fans in 1969 are still here, I think.
@MikeVacc: And questioning their sanity, no doubt, but I think you’re right.

John A. Cirando: Fans who drive four hours each way to the game do not have the luxury of kicking a garbage can after the game — we would be arrested. Was Dave Gettleman’s picture on the can?
Vac: You can tell John is a Bonnie because he can find the funny even in a very depressing situation like the New York Football Giants.