Aaron Leibowitz | The Fan
Start spreading the lose
Published: Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 08:10
If New York really is the greatest city in the world, as most of its inhabitants assert it to be, then its professional sports teams should probably start playing like it. Lately, and especially in recent months, we’ve seen the lights go out on Broadway: New York sports teams have been abominable.
I am from the Empire State, just outside the greatest city in the world — yeah, I said it; wanna fight? — and can admit that, at this moment, New York is near the bottom among cities with a franchise in all four major sports.
By Nielsen standards, there are 12 metropolitan areas with a baseball, basketball, football and hockey team: New York, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Philadelphia, Phoenix, the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington, D.C.
We’re not discussing which are the best, so Boston fans can just relax. We are discussing which, right now, are the worst.
Minnesota is a worthy candidate. The Vikings are 1-4. The Twins finished 66-96 and the Timberwolves went 31-51. The Wild (it’s a hockey team, people) lost in the first round of the playoffs.
The nation’s capital has also become accustomed to disappointment, between the disastrous Wizards, the underachieving Nationals, the playoff-choking Capitals and the poorly named Redskins.
And Philadelphia — well, let’s just say Philly is the worst and leave it at that.
But who am I to talk trash? There is not a single championship-caliber team in New York. In the current or most recent season in the Big Four sports, the combined winning percentage of the nine New York teams (not counting the Bills and counting the Devils) is .523. That’s not Minnesota bad, but it’s certainly New York bad.
Let’s break down the New York mess.
The Mets just completed their fifth straight losing campaign and followed it up by announcing their star pitcher won’t be, you know, pitching in 2014. The Yankees had their worst season in 20 years, and now they find themselves hamstrung by long-term contracts and the pariah to end all pariahs, Alex Rodriguez.
The 0-6 Giants — bless Tom Coughlin’s soul — couldn’t beat my high school football team right now, while Jets fans are just thrilled their team is better than a team that couldn’t beat my high school football team right now. There’s not much hope for a Super Bowl, especially with the Patriots winning games.
In hockey, the Rangers are off to an atrocious start; the Devils have yet to win a game and the Islanders, though they reached the playoffs last year, are still the Islanders.
The one place where there’s some hope is on the basketball court. The Knicks are still too old, but they should be good enough to generate excitement and maintain a healthy rivalry with the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets should be good enough to convince their fans they have a title shot, and if Jason Kidd plays his cards right, they could become a legitimate Eastern Conference force.
Still, New York sports are in the midst of a dark period. In the recent past — that is, during my 21-year lifetime — when all else has failed, the Yankees and Giants have been there to pick up the slack. Now, they are in no position to do that.
How do you explain the decline? According to Forbes, five of the nine New York teams are among the 50 most valuable franchises in professional sports. But now more than ever, it’s not simply about having money; it’s about spending it wisely.
Lately, New York teams — many plagued by terrible ownership — have failed to do that. Now, they are paying the price.
Aaron Leibowitz is a senior who is majoring in American studies. He can be reached at Aaron.Leibowitz@tufts.edu.