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Saying the quiet part out loud

*Exhales deeply

New York Rangers v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Jason Mowry/Getty Images

Last night, I had one of the three worst dreams of my life.

The first worst (as far as order, not intensity) came in my early adolescence. My extended family was all together, setting a long table for dinner. We weren’t anywhere I recognized; just a large, lovely dream house. Everyone was working together and laughing. Once the table was set, we all sat to eat. Everything went pitch black, followed by the clanking of the front screen door opening, followed by a chainsaw turning on, followed by screaming — first everyone in the dream, and eventually, I realized, me. I’d woken up screaming.

The second hit me in my 30s. I was in Hell. Hell was utterly empty and pretty bland. Contrasting every depiction I’ve ever seen or read, this Hell was just an empty landscape, windless, with rough patches of grass and rock and rocky cliffs all around. One of the cliffs had an opening large enough to enter. I did. It was a shallow cave, about 10 feet long. I walked to the end of it, to study the rocky wall, then turned to leave. I couldn’t. Once I’d reached the wall, some invisible barrier formed immediately behind me, running from the ground up over my head. I couldn’t turn. Couldn’t move an inch. I was stuck. Forever.

Last night I dreamed it was 2018. The New York Rangers had sent a letter to their fans before the NHL trade deadline explaining why, despite having an outside shot at the playoffs, they were moving in a different direction. The club proclaimed higher ambitions for themselves and their future. The letter centered on “reshaping our team” for “years to come,” as well as the acknowledgement that moving in a new direction “may mean we lose some familiar faces, guys we all care about and respect. While this is part of the game, it’s never easy.”

Then the Rangers started trading veterans — in the dream they looked like Bill & Ted, but I knew they were Ryan McDonagh and Rick Nash — and focusing on building via their younger players. I dreamed they had ridiculous luck with their ping pong balls, moving up in consecutive drafts to land Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lefreniere. Suddenly the dream lurched forward a few years, time whizzing by like the psychedelic tunnel ride where Willy Wonka’s boat gets very Tim Leary.

Now I was in this dystopian future where James Dolan — despite the Rangers showing growth over a couple of seasons — suddenly fired team president (and franchise icon) John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gordon, though in the dream that duo were the spitting image of the two brothers from Dukes of Hazzard. Dolan sat for an interview (one way I knew this was a dream) and explained the tempestuous termination thusly: “Honestly, we have enough talent now to compete for a Stanley Cup. But other owners, other general managers have been telling me for a year that they can’t believe how stocked we are with talent, but talent alone doesn’t do it.” A billionaire making a sudden change in the direction of a multi-billion dollar franchise because his competitors told him he should. Imagine! How silly dreams can be.

Then time flew ahead of me like someone tossed it there, like yarn before a loom, and the next thing I knew it was now. This time it was the New York Knicks showing steady progress with a youthful roster. Dolan was sitting at a desk across from two men resembling Tim Allen and Smokey Robinson (who’ve come to resemble one another in the waking world) but who I knew to be Leon Rose and Scott Perry. Dolan was telling them they were fired.

Next thing I knew he was sitting for an interview with me, explaining that one day over some slices at Pizza Suprema, Joe Tsai and Mark Cuban had been effusive in their praise of how stocked the Knicks were but concerned they were missing something — toughness. Maturity, maybe. After Julius Randle struggled with a bad ankle in a five-game first-round loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Knicks, on the orders of Dolan, traded Obi Toppin for P.J. Tucker, Immanuel Quickley for Patrick Beverly and Quentin Grimes for Danny Green.

I woke a little freaked out, but mostly relieved. How silly dreams can be.