Notoriously unforgiving fans have given share of free passes

So I was listening to my man Costello on the radio with Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts the other day, and they brought up a fascinating subject: In a sports town where almost nobody ever gets a pass, who has gotten the biggest pass ever?

Benigno, no surprise, picked Todd Bowles, a particular favorite of his. Costello mentioned pre-2015 Terry Collins. Both are excellent choices. Bowles has gone 10-22 the past two years with what seems like a minimum of outrage. Collins — who, in fairness, drove a lot of Mets fans nuts even before his remarkable hit-on-18 streak in ’15 — really didn’t start to feel any heat until his last two years.

(Though, in fairness, your humble narrator did call for his job in 2014, which I like to call the “Coughlin Corollary” since Tom Coughlin became a two-time champ and shoo-in Hall of Famer not long after I wrote a similar column about him. Maybe I should’ve fired Jeff Hornacek before Porzingis hurt his knee, for his own good …)

Anyway, it does strike me as a fascinating subject in New York, where we’re supposed to be the roughest, toughest, rootin’-tootinist sporting judges anywhere. But it does happen. And here’s a short list of odd untouchables who have somehow wandered our midst in the 20 years I’ve been part of that sporting jury, recognizing, of course, that this is a subjective spectrum, that criticism is often in the eye (and the ear) of the beholder (and the beholdee):

Garth Snow: Again, this is only a free pass if you don’t count the voices of thousands of devout and devoted Islanders fans who have been begging for years that there be a change at the top, no more so than this year when his do-nothing instincts allowed the season to die on the vine in what should’ve been an all-or-nothing pitch to John Tavares why he should be an Islander for life — especially since the Islanders are scheduled to be actual Islanders again in a few years. But, then, that’s what happens when you are the clear ninth-of-nine team in a nine-team market when it comes the media scrutiny and attention.

Chris Mullin: And, yes, hat in hand I admit to being at the front of that line. It’s one of the reasons I hoped (and wrote, originally) that I hoped Mullin would never get the St. John’s job, because if we accept that all coaches and managers are hired to be fired, you’re playing with a harsh bit of fire when you hand the keys over to a beloved icon (the primary reason I’ve always been glad Don Mattingly never managed the Yankees). Mullin enters Year 4 with players still leaving in droves, with no continuity — and without the veteran in-game assistant he desperately needs to help with game-day Xs and Os. Still, the media (again, point to me at the front of that line) keep waiting on sunnier days in Jamaica. And waiting. And waiting.

Rex Ryan: Actually, what happened to Rex was similar to what happened to Collins. For years he was kept out of the line of fire by personality (Ryan’s humor, Collins’ regular-guy-ness) and so a few losing seasons seemed to get masked or covered in camouflage. And then, like Collins, it seemed to turn on a dime. I suspect both men would laugh if it were ever mentioned to them they were given one of those free passes. I was there though. I saw them. And handed a few out myself.

Phil Jackson: Just kidding. Nobody’s pass was revoked faster than ol’ No. 18’s.

Billy King: Like Snow, he was helped by a secondary team (in Snow’s case, a tertiary team) in the home market. And, yes, I heard from quite a few Nets fans when the Celtics Trade From Hell was announced who (to their credit) pronounced that deal a disaster from the second the ink was dry on the press release. It just seemed to take a while for everyone else to catch up — and it feels like some of us in Pile-On Central have been trying to make up for that ever since.

David Wright: And this predates the injuries that have rendered him a ghost on the very team for which he served as Face for so long. There was a time when Wright seemed fast-tracked to Cooperstown. It might be too simple to label the turning point the moment he was hit in the head by a Matt Cain fastball in 2009, but it does seem a decent line of demarcation. But Wright’s “pass” should also serve as a lesson and a blueprint for others who work New York’s vast sporting room: Fans and media folk alike are human beings. If you’re a decent person (and Wright is every bit of that) with a genuineness to your character (again, a full supply), you may not get a free pass but you will get the benefit of the doubt, and sometimes more than once, and that can start to feel like a free pass after a while.

Vac’s Whacks

Has there ever been a more predictable at-bat than Fernando Rodney vs. Gary Sanchez, Thursday afternoon, ninth inning at Yankee Stadium? Is there anyone who didn’t see that coming?

Man, is it ever fun to work with The Clicker, Andrew Marchand, again. Especially this week.

I had a suspicion “The Americans” was due for a bounceback final season after the snoozer we got in last year’s penultimate run. But I never expected this. This is can’t-turn-away TV.

Every time I watch LeBron James (above) in the NBA playoffs, I think about something the great Jack Whitaker told Jack Nicklaus after his near-miss at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 1982: “It’s a pleasure to be in your time.”

Whack Back at Vac

Vic Copello: Instead of us having to keep seeing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s mug for every selection at the draft, how about a different legend from the team on the clock who is selecting come out and make the announcement. It would have been cool to see Joe Namath announce the new Jets QB, or LT announce Saquon Barkley. Enough with Goodell!

Vac: You would think 30,000 people might grow tired of booing the same guy over and over. And you would be wrong.

Scott Wolinetz: Well, here’s hoping Saquon Barkley isn’t the second coming of Blair Thomas.

Vac: Or, since we’re meandering down Happy Valley’s greatest hits: Ki-Jana Carter.

@MichaelTMangan: Over the course of a 162-game season you are going to see just about everything. Mickey Callaway will be fine, as will the Mets, if the starting pitching remains as good as it’s been thus far.

@MikeVacc: I would like to see the Mets’ staff be more than a two-man show. Because the nicknames have already started. Like this one:

Kevin St. Pierre: Jake and Thor and let it pour!

Vac: Which, honestly, is the best I’ve heard since the original with Spahn and Sain.

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