But somehow, I am a Ranger fan. I think as a young kid I turned on the TV and they were the first hockey team I saw and I liked the uni's. I think it was a simple as that. Anyway, this is a story about something so rare and contrary to what is so accepted in this country nowadays. Markus Naslund knew he was done, and walked away. He left millions behind that he could have easily justifiably claimed, if he chose to sublimate his self-respect, as is the norm.
Past the stuff we take for granted now - a splashy A-Rod book; the Yankees holding their fans hostage through a two-hour rain delay to finish a Monday night game at 1 a.m.; the U.S. Open golf tournament graciously throwing tickets to the public after not being able to sell enough of them to big corporations; the Mets sending Oliver Perez and his $12 million a year, guaranteed, to the bullpen.
Past all that was the story of Naslund, a Ranger for one season, retiring. Not just retiring at age 35, but walking away from at least $2 million, possibly $3 million, because he knew he didn't have it in him to keep playing at a decently high level. Naslund told the Rangers - who are owned by Cablevision, which also owns Newsday - that he was done, and that's it.
The Rangers have a long history of signing past-their-prime free agents and paying them as they decline. Cablevision's other sports team does that, too, and keeps on paying, thanks to the wonderful world of NBA contracts. In the NHL's relatively new cap era, buying out someone like Naslund, with a year left on a contract (two years, $8 million) that's not as laughably bad as some others in the league, would have been an easy move.
How refreshing. How crazy, even - and even more crazy that we think he's nuts to walk away from a chunk of change most of us will never see.
Greed, of course, is the norm now. Not just in sports, but sports is where it's taken to the most absurd extreme. The Yankees get headlines for making their most unaffordable tickets slightly less unaffordable, and now comes word in a report Tuesday that the team's fan assistance brigade told some fans during Monday night's rain delay that the game wouldn't be played.
So some fans left, heard the game was on, tried to get back into the new stadium and were rebuffed. No re-entry, as it states on those tickets.
Even the simple act of retiring is confused by greed. Compare Naslund with our old pal Brett Favre, who may yet come out of this second, absolutely-I'm-done-no-way-I'm-playing-again retirement to play for the Vikings. Favre is a competitor, everyone says, a guy who can't scratch that itch to play.
Well, no. He's actually a selfish, greedy egomaniac who can't be trusted to tell you the sky is blue. Maybe we'd be inclined to believe all the nonsense about Favre's love for the game if he, say, offered to give a Minnesota charity $10 million so he could join the Vikings.
If Favre returns, the back pages will be his.
Markus Naslund walked away Monday, quiet as can be, leaving millions behind.
That deserved more attention than it got.