Belmont and that's not all on big NYC sports day

June 7, 2012 - 2:09 AM
Sports in the Spotlight

This combination made Tuesday, June 5, 2012, from file photos shows, at left, New York Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey on May 22, and New York Yankees' Derek Jeter on April 17. Fans around the world will be focused on the New York metropolitan area as it hosts at least four and maybe five major events, including a regular-season, three-day series between the city's two baseball teams, the Mets and Yankees, starting on Friday, June 8. (AP Photos/Files)

NEW YORK (AP) — New York likes to think of itself as the hub of, well, pretty much everything. Finance, fashion, theater. And this Saturday, sports can claim a spot on that list.

Fans around the world will be focused on the New York metropolitan area as it hosts five major events: the Belmont Stakes, featuring I'll Have Another's bid for the first Triple Crown in 34 years; a world-class track and field meet, the Adidas Grand Prix, at Icahn Stadium; an exhibition soccer match between two of the game's great rivals; a regular-season matchup between the city's two baseball teams, the Mets and Yankees; and, Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals between the New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings.

True, sports lovers may start their day watching the women's final at the French Open from Paris and end it by checking out the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley welterweight title fight in Las Vegas, but between morning and late night, it's all New York.

To mark the big day, The Associated Press talked to people with a connection to each of the five sports — horse racing, track, soccer, baseball and hockey — and asked them why a fan who could only attend one event should go see theirs. The AP also asked what they'd go to see, if they couldn't watch their own game or race.

Here is what they said:

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METS STARTING PITCHER R.A. DICKEY

— On why a fan should go see baseball:

"It's the New York Mets vs. the New York Yankees. We're both playing well. It's a trophy game, it's for bragging rights. The winning team gets its colors lit up on the Empire State Building. It's like an intrastate rivalry in college football. It'll be an exciting environment."

— And if you couldn't go to the baseball game:

"I would go to see the Olympians in the track meet. The track first, then the Belmont, then the soccer, then the hockey. I was in the '96 Olympics and got a chance to watch some events from track side. I remember seeing (gold medal sprinter) Michael Johnson coming around the turn, those golden shoes, that was really something special. If you're talking about athletes, I'm thinking that means human beings more than horses. I'd rather see a human being run fast than a horse."

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SUNIL GULATI, PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. SOCCER FEDERATION (also an economics professor at Columbia University)

— On why a fan should go see Brazil vs. Argentina:

"You've got one of the world's great rivalries, and one very rarely played outside South America, a few miles outside of Manhattan. And you've got what everyone would agree are two of world's five best players on the field at the same time."

— And if you couldn't go to the match?

Gulati based his answer on what his 14-year-old son would like to do. "I'd take him to the hockey game. My son hasn't been to the hockey game," he said. Then he hesitated. "But Neymar and (Lionel) Messi in the same game?"

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TOM DURKIN, NEW YORK RACING ASSOCIATION TRACK ANNOUNCER (will call Belmont at the track):

— On why a fan should go see the Belmont Stakes:

"Because this is something that is going to happen only once every 34 years. The Yankees and the Mets play, what, six times a year? The Stanley Cup, it's hockey. Argentina and Brazil. They play all the time. A Triple Crown happens once in a generation."

— And if you couldn't go to the Belmont?

"I would go see the Empire Classic, the 10th race at Vernon Downs (a harness racing track in central New York). Why? Because I own a horse that could win it."

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TOM RENNEY, FORMER NEW YORK RANGERS COACH

— On why a fan should go see Game 5 of the Stanley Cup:

Renney said a Game 4 win would show the Devils haven't quit. That, he said, "lends itself to the support any hockey fan should give the game of hockey . not just the New Jersey Devils and the L.A. Kings. The Stanley Cup finals are not over, and the New Jersey Devils do have the ability to come back, especially at home."

— And if you couldn't go to Game 5?

"If not able to attend the game, I would go to the track (Belmont) and watch a seldom-seen, lifetime experience. History repeating itself is a distinct possibility."

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DAVID OLIVER, AMERICAN RECORD HOLDER IN THE 110-METER HURDLES AND 2008 OLYMPIC BRONZE MEDALIST

— On why a fan should go see the Adidas Grand Prix, part of the Diamond League series:

"This ... question is extremely hard!" Oliver said in an email. "If you could only buy one ticket, it should be to the NYC Diamond League because: Mets/Yankees will be played on Sunday, Game 7 on the 13th will be a much better game to attend, there will be racing at the Belmont, but only at the track meet can you actually get an autograph from the athlete. I know the Triple Crown is at stake but just DVR it and re-live it over and over. Do we really watch soccer in the USA? No competition for the Diamond League!"

— And if you couldn't go to the meet?

"If I couldn't go to my event, hands down I would be attending the Brazil vs. Argentina friendly. I'd be going for the simple fact that if both teams fielded their top teams, I'd be watching some of the world's greatest soccer stars in Gonzalo Higuain, Messi, Javier Mascherano, Maxi Rodriguez and Sergio Aguero for Argentina taking on one of the most successful countries in World Cup history and their young guns Hulk, Neymar and Marcelo. Will be an awesome match."