In reviewing the 2009 sports year in New York, the conversation clearly begins with the New York Yankees 27th World Series Championship. Then there was the Yankees run to a World Series title. And of course the New York baseball season was capped off with the Yankees winning the World Series.
Yup, that’s a wrap, folks.
With apologies to Yankees fans everywhere, the New York sports year in review was, in a word, barren. Of course Yankees fans are undoubtedly still basking in the glow of their team’s six-game triumph over the Philadelphia Phillies in early November. But c’mon, the rest of the teams that call Metro New York home didn’t even sniff success, and in several instances experienced disastrous seasons.
Let’s start, for the sake of being tidy, at the beginning of the calendar year and get the first atrocity out of the way: the football Giants. An early January playoff date in the Meadowlands with arch rival Philadelphia ended in a bitter 23-11 defeat that they haven’t really fully recovered from to date.
You actually have to go back to late last year to trace the Giants’ demise as an 11-1 start to the 2008 season was shattered when the mercurial Plaxico Burress decided to, literally, end his career with a bang. His evening out to a New York nightclub was cut short when the star receiver shot himself in the leg with a handgun. The bullet not only ripped through Burress’ thigh, it severely damaged the Giants’ chances for a Lombardi Trophy repeat as QB Eli Manning seemed to spend the aforementioned game against the Eagles looking for Burress downfield, forgetting his favorite target had been suspended and was about to begin the worst year of his life.
Despite the messy end to the previous season, the 2009 Giants at first looked like they had moved on with a 5-0 start, but it appears that was merely a smoke screen. The team has sputtered since, going 2-6 and looking nothing like the 2008 club that rumbled out to that 11-1 start just a year ago. An interesting and equally depressing statistic regarding Burress—the Giants are 8-10 since “Quick Draw” pulled the trigger.
As for the J-E-T-S, the metro area’s longest suffering fans are simply being treated to yet another season of torture and frustration from the boys in green. And it all looked so easy the first three weeks—A 3-0 start led by what looked like an unflappable rookie quarterback had Jets fans thinking big. Twenty-three-year-old Mark Sanchez, fresh from an amazing final college season at USC, certainly looked like the real deal in leading the Jets to the first 3-0 start behind a rookie QB in NFL history.
However, the clock struck 12 in New Orleans in week four and the team is 4-7 since the fast start. That early season reckless confidence seems to have disappeared from Sanchez’s game and the kid has simply fallen back to Earth…OK, with a thud.
While both football teams may still have a few chapters to add to their 2009 stories, the book appears as though it is going to have a predictable ending—the guy gets the girl and lives miserably ever after.
For the last nine seasons, the only compelling reason to watch Knicks games on television was to track the sartorial stylings of Walt “Clyde” Frazier and marvel at his trademark Bullwinkle J. Moose vocal impressions and his sublime blend of prose and poetry. It must be sad for Clyde, a legend from the team’s glory days, to endure the Knicks’ sullied reputation on and off the court.
With GM Donnie Walsh continuing to untangle the mess that was the Isaiah era, the Dolanization of this once-proud franchise may recede as a personal foul against the team’s fortunes.
Looking towards the balance of this season, there is some reason to believe that the forces of stability will help this team contend for a playoff spot, as low a bar as that may be. It’s nice to see David Lee finally getting his props. Lee has been constantly touted as a trading chip despite his gritty play on both ends of the court. He would have been a good fit on most of the Ewing-Oakley-Mason Knicks teams and the storied 1970-1973 teams.
But all of this is a prelude to the summer of 2010, when the LeBron sweepstakes commences. Quite presumptuously and arrogantly, the Knicks continue to structure their roster and manage their salary cap as if LeBron is already locked in. Unless there has been some collusion to which we have not been alerted, there are no indications that LeBron is on board. If Mr. James decides he does not want to be part of this circus, the Knicks have gutted their roster for nothing. And if the Knicks think that all it will take is money, they may be barking up the wrong 6-foot-8-inch tree.
But there is a light at the end of the locker room tunnel—At least they’re not the Nets.