BLOOMINGBURG, NY – I do apologize to the legions of Angry Ward’s fans anticipating another of his witty and truthful columns today but when you’re as clever as he is, a day off is mandatory… if not acceptable. That said, I apologize again for taking today’s assignment because if our readership employed ranked choice voting to rate the contributors, I’d finish two places beyond last… and I’m just fine with that. For today, I’ll delve into what makes our Ace so angry when it comes to sports, since I’ve known the crusty favorite for almost forty six years.
Angry Ward’s angry sports story begins with baseball as does most red-blooded American boys. Leave it to the late George Steinbrenner to get AW’s pre-teen blood boiling. While I don’t remember the specifics that turned this Yankees fan into a Seattle Mariners supporter sometime around 1978-79, it’s understandable whenever The Boss is linked to Pinstripe Anxiety. Collectively, we have to hand it to Ward for picking a team a few seasons beyond expansion with no pedigree, several thousand miles and three time zones from his Bronx home, and having to wait two days to see a box score in a NY newspaper from home games two nights prior. What baseball fan didn’t want to see how Doug Ault and Ruppert Jones did for the Mariners? You can see how annoying this can be for half a team’s games multiplied by how many years before the advent of ESPN. Yes, the man probably supplemented his baseball fandom, caving to the influence – if not badgering – of his older brother and Mets fanatic, cnc63 in rooting for the Mets as well. The Mariners have had a good share of the game’s greats (Griffey, Jr., Suzuki, a young A-Rod and Randy Johnson) in putting a smile on his puss with a few shining moments but zero World Series wins – or appearances for that matter. If the M’s don’t get his goat then there’s plenty of Mets heartache to back up the angst.
Among our group, basketball was something you played in elementary school gym class or in Grote2DMax’s backyard. The teams we all backed were a hodgepodge of equal dreck that the Knicks were putting on the hardwood post championship years and before Larry and Magic saved the NBA. Forgive us all for making the Nuggets, Mavericks – and for Ward, the Warriors – our teams of choice. World B. Free was a colorful character during the time. All three Western Conference teams could fill the hole, but played zero defense. Run DMC gave Ward some fodder for debating the best trio in the league at the time. Again, West Coast team meant little if any coverage so geography was Angry Ward’s adversary again…not to mention the drafting of the equally angry Joe Barry Carroll as a number one overall pick after trading Robert Parrish and a pick (Kevin McHale) in building the Celtics into champions. Current-era Warrior teams and one in the early 70’s surprisingly account for the most championships of all his favorite sports teams.
Minnesota. The State of Hockey and where Angry Ward traces his roots on his dad’s side (and I wish you all got to know that man like I did). Ward was late to the hockey party that I lived and maybe that rubbed off on him but once he took the bait there was no disputing that the North Stars belonged to him! Awful ownership plagued this franchise from it’s 1967 expansion. There were two improbable runs to the Stanley Cup Finals in ’81 and ’91 that ended in disappointments. Three years later they bid Minnesota adieu, settling in Ward’s favorite NFL city of Dallas, where in 1999 the sting of the Dallas Stars Stanley Cup win still cuts deep. Fast forward to the current day Wild making Minnesota home, but there’s no cheering Ward up over losing the colorful and lovable North Stars and I don’t blame him!
I’m way over my word limit here and you all know the Minnesota Vikings history and rather than belabor today’s topic, I’m giving up on the bloodletting of his angry sports emotions. The next time you see my old pal pat him on the back, give him a hug, tell him you love him, buy him a stiff drink and understand his pain.
That’s it, come back tomorrow for Ward’s probing protege, Buddy Diaz.