I needed Long Island to get our team back

So many of us who grew up on Long Island were the products of broken hearts: it was our fathers and our grandfathers, our uncles and older cousins who had given their souls over to the Dodgers when they ruled Brooklyn, when it seemed impossible to believe they wouldn’t forever be anchored in the Borough of Churches.

Then Walter O’Malley altered, permanently, the meaning of “forever.”

So this is for them, every bit as much as it is for us. From the moment the Dodgers headed west there were groups formed whose lone purpose was to bring them back home, however fanciful that might have been. There is still a Facebook group entitled “Bring Back the Brooklyn Dodgers.” But that was never going to happen; O’Malley struck gold in Southern California. The Mets were born. Time moved on.

Once, during the 1959 World Series, an intrepid group of sports writers led by Newsday’s Stan Isaacs spotted the official 1955 Dodgers World Series banner hanging on a wall at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown L.A. With the help of a few busboys, the banner was removed, hijacked to Isaacs’ home in Roslyn where it stayed for almost four decades.

That was as close as the Dodgers ever came to coming home.

The Islanders are actually coming home.

So we get what our fathers and grandfathers and uncles never got, a second chance to have a team in our midst — and, yes, that includes those of us who no longer actually live on Long Island. Dodgers fans transplanted their yearnings to wherever they moved later on — to the Island or Jersey or Westchester, to Florida or Arizona or the Carolinas. You never could take the Brooklyn out of those kids, and won’t ever take the Long Island out of these kids, no matter where our present dwellings are.

Though they did take the Islanders out of Long Island.

Wednesday, we got them back.

“This day is for you!” said Jon Ledecky, the man who made this happen, the man who will build the 18,000-seat arena near Belmont Park that will officially make the Islanders Islanders again, sharing a dais with players John Tavares (who may now be more inclined to stay an Islander himself for life) and Cal Clutterbuck; with Long Island’s unofficial poet laureate, Billy Joel; and with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“The Islanders are back where they belong and that’s what today is all about,” Cuomo said. “It’s a great day for the team, the fans and a great day for Long Island.”

And you know something: it really is.

Yes, the Islanders had technically not even left the Island when they shifted their operations to Barclays Center — to, ironically, almost the very spot O’Malley had selected when he still deigned to keep the Dodgers here. You could talk up the benefits — terrific public transportation access, far more to do around the arena than there ever was at the old barn in Uniondale.

Didn’t matter.

Barclays is a great place to watch a basketball game. It’s a first-rate facility to catch a concert. But as a hockey venue, it always felt forced, like trying to shove a trapezoid into a circle.

Also, it was 718, not 516.

That was the biggest difference of all.

And that, ultimately, meant it was never going to work.

“When the Islanders left,” Cuomo said, “they left a big hole in the heart of Long Island.”

Now, they come back and they fill that hole. They’re back on Long Island, back on Hempstead Turnpike, ZIP code 11003, even if they’re only a two-line pass east of the Queens border. Doesn’t matter. They’re ours again. They’re Long Island’s again.

I was at the Joel concert that closed the old Coliseum in August 2015, and while the show was unforgettable the melancholy hung heavy in the air that night. He spoke often of the Isles, between songs. There were “Lets Go Islanders!” chants that would break out every so often. There was a sense that Long Island had taken one on the chin that night. And it had.

But it’s like Joel says at the end of every concert he’s ever given: “Don’t take any [crap] from anybody!” It took two years. But here we are, back in the game. Here the Islanders are, back on the island for which they were named in the first place. Grandpa, you never did see the Dodgers come home again.

But son of a gun if your grandson didn’t see the Islanders make that trek. This one’s for both of us. For all of us.

Source: https://nypost.com/2017/12/20/i-needed-long-island-to-get-our-team-back/

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