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A Day at the Races, With Drunken I-Banking Ivy Leaguers

We were offered "party-bus" rides to the Belmont. We knew what we were getting into, or thought we did, and we were okay with that. As scheduled, we arrive at 11:30 Saturday morning at a rooftop bar in Murray Hill. There are the requisite young investment bankers, from the requisite smatter of Ivy League schools, dressed in the requisite popped pastel collars. There is talk of bets, of mixed drinks, of the two buses charted by Dartmouth-alum Deutsche Bankers. It is as expected.

Last Night in New York Baseball: The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat

Pro sports can be simultaneously rational and bizarre, painful and joyous, and in less than an hour last night all those elements came together to perfectly crystallize the New York big-league baseball narrative so far this season: One of our teams can’t catch a break, one can't do anything wrong, and that hour showed it. It’s a moment worth commemorating before SportsCenter's tsunami of highlights washes it all away.

Liberty Rookie Is a Real New Yorker

Liberty Rookies
After last year's dismal season, it seems odd that the New York Liberty would trade its star player, Becky Hammon. Regardless, the payoff looks promising with three superstar rookies (above) gearing up for the May 20 season opener: Jessica Davenport, Tiffany Jackson, and the local Shay Doron. Doron, 22, a Israeli-born University of Maryland grad, spent her childhood moving back and forth between New York and Tel Aviv. She settled here her junior year of high school to attend Queens' basketball-centric Christ the King. Why did your family decide to return to New York? The sole reason we moved back was for me to play basketball and have an opportunity to be recruited. Christ the King is the best basketball school in country. Are you Jewish? Yeah.

Rangers Lose; New Yorkers Shrug

The Rangers’ season ended yesterday afternoon with a 5-4 loss to Buffalo in the NHL's Eastern Conference semifinals at Madison Square Garden. You may or may not know this; it being a hockey game, you may not care. Indeed, New Yorkers seem to care about this so little that our mayor couldn’t even be bothered to bet a Junior’s cheesecake on the series. And that's exactly why, we realized as we sat in the last row of the Garden yesterday, watching a handful of exultant Sabres fans, we were almost happy for the other guys: We — New Yorkers, that is — just didn't want it. We didn't need it. In Buffalo, the Sabres are a point of civic pride, perhaps the point. Here, the Rangers are a perpetual second fiddle. There's football in the fall, basketball in the winter, baseball in the spring. Today’s tabloids tell you all you need to know: a couple of inches on the back page for the Blueshirts; the rest of the back cover — and most of the front — for Roger Clemens. When yesterday's buzzer sounded, Rangers fans sighed, moved on, and shifted their attention to baseball. But in Buffalo it’s not so easy. If the Sabres lose, that’s it till football season. And we know how that tends to work out. —Joe DeLessio

How to Pretend to Care About Hockey

It's NHL playoff time, and your New York Rangers start their postseason tonight in Atlanta. This is good news for the Rangers themselves and troubling news for the rest of New York, which is suddenly obligated to actually pay attention to hockey. How to follow a team you haven't watched in a while (or since 1994 or never) and don't much care about? Simple: Just pretend the Rangers play for other New York teams, the ones you've heard of. So who's the Rangers' A-Rod? Who's their Paul Lo Duca? After the jump, our guide to the Rangers and their other-sports analogues.

A Look Back at the Other March Madness

With the end of March, and, tonight, the end of its best-known Madness, we thought we'd let you in on a secret: There's a different March Madness, and it took place last month on a different set of hardwood courts. It's the College Squash Association Individual National Championships, which were held at the University of Pennsylvania's Ringe Squash Center, and they were — you may be surprised to hear — as exciting to watch North Carolina State's legendary comeback against Houston in the 1983 NCAA finals, just a little more understated.

This Is Not a Baseball Preview

We refuse, on principle, to offer a baseball season preview. We will not devolve into dewy-eyed fawns trembling in sweet-hearted wonder at the shimmering mysteries to come. ("New Season Brings a Fresh Start for Yankees," this morning's Times excitedly reports.) It's futile to make predictions about a sport in which a season lasts almost as long as human pregnancy — picking a World Series winner now is like predicting that a zygote will turn out to be eight pounds, five ounces, born via c-section at 6:32 on a drizzly November morning, with a mild overbite and his father's eyes. Trust us: You'll be wrong.

The Knicks Have Made Progress, Evidently

Cablevision honcho and Madison Square Garden chief Jim Dolan announced today that he's giving Knicks coach and president Isiah Thomas a multiyear contract extension based on the team's "evident progress" — a term that seems destined to join "mission accomplished" in the Optimist's Hall of Fame. Let's review what's evident, shall we? On the positive side, the Knicks have won 46 percent of their games this season (compared to just 28 percent last year) and are fighting for a playoff spot. On the negative, they're still the highest-paid team in the NBA (for which Isiah is largely to blame), winning even 46 percent of their games still means the Knicks are losing more than half, and they're playing mediocre ball against historically weak competition. In other words, the team's progress seems roughly on pace with that of the Second Avenue subway or the Freedom Tower. So while it's true they haven't measurably regressed, Dolan's use of the prefix "pro" strikes us as a bit much. If we were him, we might have played it safe and gone with "evident gress." There are definitely clear signs of gress. —Sam Anderson

New York's Greatest Tourney Tradition Is Dead

The NCAA announced its tournament brackets yesterday, and now, finally, March is duly heading into Madness. To commemorate the occasion, we asked Will Leitch — the editor of Deadspin and, we hereby proclaim, Daily Intel's senior bracketologist — to share with us his tale of a New York tournament tradition now, sadly, lost to history: A week ago, one of those only–in–New York traditions bit the dust; the famous "Jody's Pool," based out of Staten Island watering hole Jody's, will be discontinued this year. The pool was notorious for its massive pots; last year's grand prize was $1.5 million, making it the biggest pool in the country. The problem is, when you have a pool that's worth that much, people tend to notice. First, the press; then, the IRS. And with three words from grizzled owner Jody Haggerty — "Definitely no pool" — it was over.

A-Rod Is Underwhelming, Now Statistically Proven

A slow Friday at the New York sports desk was enlivened by the arrival of this season’s Baseball Prospectus. The massive tome, featuring analysis of every player on every Major League team, down to those with even the slimmest chance of actually seeing big-league playing time, has a reputation for making highly accurate predictions. So what do the gurus think about the New York teams' chances? You’ll have to buy the book (or subscribe to the Website) for the complete story, but the general sentiment is bullishness on the Yankees (whose off-season personnel moves are praised for their long-term wisdom) and bearishness on the aging Mets (who “may have finally gotten out from under the Braves only to find that they’ve already peaked”). But perhaps most interesting are the comments on Alex Rodriguez.

Isiah's Knicks Follow Tradition, Lose to Nets

If you thought the Academy Awards had the market cornered last night on empty theatrics, predictable results, and lukewarm competition among pampered, overpaid, washed-up stars, then you weren't watching the Nets' ritual flogging of the Knicks, now a quadrannual affair. The iron law of this ceremony, at least over the past five years, is that the Knicks lose and, because their record is already so bad, it means absolutely nothing. True to form, last night they efficiently converted a nine-point halftime lead into a nine-point loss. But there was also a surprise: This time, if you really lowered your standards, and squinted, and maybe watched your TV through sunglasses, it almost seemed for a minute like it sort of meant something.

Damn Yankees

This week's revelation that Derek Jeter and A-Rod are no longer BFF has thrown New Yorkers into a collective inner turmoil unseen since the darkest days of the transit strike. Although the relationship's psychological subtleties have been parsed exhaustively across the nation's sports pages, much of the city remains confused and distracted. In an effort to facilitate some kind of public catharsis — and, frankly, to explore our own emotions on the subject — we'd like to offer a one-act play, Joe Torre's Come and Gone. It's after the jump.

Super Bowl Ads: Apparently, Guys Do Dumb Things for Beer

Last night's Super Bowl commercials were, as expected, a hilarious and witty set of well-executed premises leaving viewers with increased affection for and knowledge of the various brands the usual series of "jokes" about things like letting an unkempt, rapey-looking fellow into your car against your girlfriend's objections — because he has beer! Also, there was a pitch for something called salesgenie.com that was so earnestly terrible it actually evoked sounds of sympathetic pity — the kind of noises one might make upon seeing a three-legged dog getting chased away from his food bowl by a pack of strays — at our viewing party. Where, we should add, we were roundly chided by the group for not realizing that the actually quite-good Coca-Cola Grand Theft Auto takeoff has been running in movie theaters for some time already.

The Manning Connection: Giants in 2017!

After returning the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XLI for a touchdown last night, the Bears were on pace to score 1,800 — that's MDCCC — points. This would almost certainly have been some kind of record. Unfortunately they weren't able to sustain it, and — after the teams engaged in a fun impromptu fumbling contest — the game quickly settled into traditional S.B. fare: slow-ish, mediocre, almost enough to make you lose your Taco Bell Carne Asada Steak Grilled Taquitos. During the annual Janet Jackson "Scandalize the Heartland" Halftime Challenge, a giant shadow of Prince fingered his phallic guitar while the NFL embarked on its most ambitious attempt yet to answer the age-old question: How many fireworks do you have to shoot off before anyone starts to care that you're shooting off fireworks? (Answer: Way more than they were shooting.) In the end, the Colts walked away with a handy XXIX-XVII victory. But the real storyline, and the one that most conveniently lends itself to our frankly rampant Giants-centrism, was quarterback Peyton Manning's long-delayed holy ascension into eternal glory.

In Metsmoriam: Mourning the Death of Youth, Hope, Love, Joy, Beauty, and All Other Abstract Nouns

The saddest thing about the Mets' loss in Game 7 last night — sadder than wasting maybe the greatest catch in the history of catching, sadder than the franchise player striking out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to end the season — is not that the team has been knocked out of the playoffs, but that it's been knocked out of existence. This is not to say that they'll look much different next year — the core of the team (Beltran, Reyes, Wright) has been locked in with monster contracts — but the vibe is gone forever.

A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Game 7

You are Mets manager Willie Randolph. Congrats! Despite a tragic string of injuries, your team has successfully scrapped its way to Game 7 in the NLCS. Unfortunately, now you have no one left with functioning arms to throw the ball. What pitching decisions will you make to try to reach the golden paradise of the World Series? To start journeyman pitcher Oliver Perez, turn to page 9. To concede the game, turn to page 12.

Seeking the Mets' A-Rod

If you've lost track of where we are in the playoffs, this is the part where the Mets lose — as they did last night in St. Louis, 4-2 — because they don't have any pitchers. So let's fast-forward directly to the scapegoating. Word on the street suggests that we're going to need an A-Rod soon — by which we mean, of course, not another MVP third-baseman but a mildly underachieving great player on whom we can beat out all of our repressed collective aggression. And, fortunately for Schadenfreude connoisseurs, a possible successor has already stepped up: Mets third-baseman David Wright.

In Weekend Play, Neurotic Mets Go One and Two

When last we saw your New York Mets, Carlos Beltran was on the brink of becoming a national folk hero and the team was skipping toward the World Series. Over the weekend, however, things got more Mets-like. The team entered a mojo vacuum. Beltran exchanged dramatic home runs for harmless grounders. Pitchers blew leads; hitters stopped hitting. They were victimized repeatedly by a man with the stupidest beard in professional sports (a highly contested position). Every Cardinal hit landed two inches from a diving fielder's glove — it seemed like the world had tilted slightly. The Cards — their pitcher! — bounced a home run off the top of the wall. A thin, old, sparingly used backup outfielder hit a home run in the ninth inning off the Mets' best pitcher. This wasn't just losing, it was total demoralization. And much of it played out in front of an eerily wholesome midwestern crowd: The Missourians waited quietly between batters, booed politely, wore synthetic stupid beards, and waved immaculate white towels (at Shea, they would have been covered with pigeon crap) as the Mets fell behind in the series 2-1.

And You Shall Name Your Children ‘Carlos’

For a very long time at Shea Stadium last night, nothing happened. Pitchers Tom Glavine and Jeff Weaver defied age and mediocrity, respectively, and went back and forth like Tom Seaver and Bob Gibson. Albert Pujols, the world's best hitter (and, according to scientists, the fastest finger-tapper since Babe Ruth), struck out and lined out. The Mets took turns politely grounding out to second base. It started raining. Ugly Betty pulled at the remote from two channels up. You could feel the crowd getting more and more nervous the longer Glavine pitched — it was like watching the makeout scene in a horror movie. Then, finally, something did happen, the first potentially defining moment of the Mets' playoffs.