Sports figures say the darndest things, on the air, in print or in cyberspace. Here are some particularly memorable sound bites from the 2000s in New York sports.
1. “If I had the chance, I wouldn’t do it again.” – Charles Wang, May 2, 2009
Was the Islanders owner being bluntly honest when he admitted in Newsday that he regretted buying the team, or was it part of the endless political dance over the Lighthouse Project? Probably both. But it was a reminder that during a lackluster decade on the ice, the biggest story about the Islanders was how and/or whether they can remain viable on Long Island.
2. “What can I say? I tip my hat and call the Yankees my Daddy.’’ – Pedro Martinez, Sept. 24, 2004
Following the Yankees’ 6-4 defeat of the Red Sox, Martinez uttered a line that will follow him for the rest of his life. Pedro had given up a late lead under circumstances eerily similar to those of Game 7 in the 2003 ALCS, and he was ready to throw up his hands. The tables turned a month later, though.
3. “You play to win the game. Hello? You play to win the game.’’ – Herman Edwards, Oct. 30, 2002
After his team began 2-5, the Jets coach was questioned about his team’s motivation to win rather in a seemingly hopeless season. Edwards was incredulous – and quotable! The Jets went 7-2 thereafter, won the AFC East and beat the Colts, 41-0, in the wild-card round.
4. “I’m pushing my chips to the middle of the table. I’m raising the ante. This team is going to the playoffs.’’ – Jim Fassel, Nov. 22, 2000
The Giants had lost to the Lions to fall to 7-4 when coach Jim Fassel guaranteed in a rambling monologue the day before Thanksgiving that they would make the playoffs. Initially, most players were confused and/or bemused when told what he said. But they won seven games in a row after he said it, not losing until Super Bowl XXXV.
5. “I think it’s personal now. I don’t think it’s about basketball anymore.’’ – Stephon Marbury, March 15, 2006
The feud between Knicks coach Larry Brown and guard Stephon Marbury continued late in the 2005-06 season, with the men sniping at each other via the media. Marbury took his shots, and Brown took his. Such as this one: “You're the best guard in the league, and the team's 17-45. Yeah, it's the coach's fault.''
6. “An insult.’’ – Joe Torre, Oct. 19, 2007
So the Torre Era ended for the Yankees, with the manager dismissing the incentive-laden contract the Yankees offered him for 2008 – which included a cut in his base pay to $5 million. Torre made the playoffs in each of his 12 seasons with the team but was coming off three first-round failures in a row. Joe Girardi replaced him and missed the postseason in his first year.
7. “I never came here to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings.’’ – Rex Ryan, June 3, 2009
The Jets’ new coach fired a shocking salvo at the Patriots on WFAN before he had coached a single game, establishing a new tone after three years under Eric Mangini. Ryan backed up his bravado by beating the Patriots in Week 2, and now has the Jets at 7-6, a game behind Belichick’s three-ringed Patriots for first place in the AFC East.
8. “For the past two years, they’ve been choke artists.’’ – Cole Hamels, Dec. 11, 2008
The Phillies pitcher and reigning World Series MVP acknowledged the obvious on WFAN. Still, it was a shock to hear it come out of the mouth of Hamels. Did his words motivate the Mets in 09? Well, they did not choke again, cleverly avoiding that fate by not coming close to contention down the stretch. The Phillies won their second pennant in a row.
9. “I’m not gay. I’m heterosexual,’’ – Mike Piazza, May 21, 2002
In one of the strangest news conferences in memory, Piazza discussed his sexual orientation after an item in the New York Post suggested one of the Mets’ stars was gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the star catcher wanted to set the record straight, um, straight. Three years later, he married a former Playboy Playmate.
10. “I knew we weren’t taking Tic Tacs.’’ – Alex Rodriguez, Feb. 17, 2009
Toward the end of a decade full of lies, obfuscation and non-specific apologies on the subject of performance enhancing drugs, Rodriguez went further than most in admitting guilt. His news conference in Tampa was the most anticipated spectacle of spring training; by the end of the year, it seemed like ancient history.