At some point, I was planning to address the Giants reaching the Super Bowl as well as the "action down under." The latter topic, of course, refers to the Australian Open, with which those of you who watch ESPN2 are familiar and not some porn goings-on.
And then Heath Ledger died, presumably by accidental overdose.
I was leaving a City building downtown, about 5ish, when I checked my Blackberry for an e-mail that had yet to arrive; in doing so, I read the CNN Update and literally stopped, in the street, in my tracks.
I called Kaia within thirty seconds of reading the news and she had, ostensibly, the same reaction as had I, and, presumably, had most people: "Holy shit. How awful."
None of the details -- that there were prescription or non-prescription sleeping pills found near his body, that he had intentionally or unintentionally overdosed on some medication and/or drug, and that he may or may not have been depressed -- are of particular note. Either way, no matter the circumstances, he's gone, and that's extremely a sad, tragic bit of news. Reading earlier in the week about Suzanne Pleshette, Sir Edmund Hillary or Sam The Butcher passing away were sad footnotes to an otherwise Hilary Clinton-Barack Obama-dominated news week. But hearing about Heath Ledger's passing -- who seemed full of promise, heart, talent and a bright, impressive future -- was very sad.
It seems almost insignificant to mention the upcoming Australian Open finals involving Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic, or the impending finals between Roger Federer and whoever is unlucky enough to have to lose a three-set match to make Federer's victory official.
Similarly, it seems somewhat anti-climactic to mention the Giants -- incredibly -- are heading to Phoenix to face the unbeaten Patriots in the Super Bowl. Incredible for me is the right word -- never in a million years did I think this year's Giants team had it in them to go beyond one playoff loss at best; the fact they've extended themselves to reach the Super Bowl is amazing. As a friend of mine said, "Anything beyond one win in the playoffs for this Giants team is gravy; they should not have made it this far, so if they happen to lose the Super Bowl, no biggie. They had a great season either way." I fully agree. I'd love to see them win, but facing a juggernaut like this year's Patriots -- the first team to reach 18-0 in, um...ever -- suggests the Giants won't come close. But I'm hoping they can pull off an upset and be mentioned in the same breath as a team that tried -- and failed -- to have an undefeated season. If it happens, great. If not, good job nonetheless to the boys in Blue.
Finally...tonight marks the ceremony during which the New York Rangers will formally retire Brian Leetch's #2 jersey. As to who Brian Leetch is, he is as instrumental to the Rangers' 1994 Stanley Cup victory as was Team Captain Mark Messier (#11, retired), Goaltender Mike Richter (#35, retired), and Adam Graves (#9, not retired). "Leetchy" was a rookie in 1994, and not only earned the Conn Smythe -- the MVP of the playoffs, and the first American-born player to do so -- and he did so quietly, with class, dignity, and earned the respect of the league, not just that year but each year since. The festivities begin this afternoon around 5, so I'm hoping I can get to the Garden to watch the ceremony in the ancillary theater adjacent to the Garden. If not, I'll be more than happy to experience it in HD. I promised a couple of my teammates who are out of town -- one in Japan and the other in Florida -- that I'll record and save it for them. It should be another bittersweet reminder of how special 1994 was to Ranger fans, and more importantly, how difficult it is for teams to consistently reach the goal of winning the Cup.
And yet, somehow, all this other stuff pales in comparison to our discussion of Heath Ledger.