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The Year in Sports 2009

The Boys (and Girls) of Summer

Ahh, we move on to summertime in New York and while one set of baseball fans here had a wonderful time, the other suffered through one of the worst seasons they’ve had to endure in quite some time.
The bad news first. Meet the Mess.

Have you ever just redone a room in your home and as you unveiled it to family and friends, your neighbor’s dog takes a big dump right in the middle of it? Well, that aptly describes the Mets’ first season in their brand, spanking new ballpark, Citi Field. And what a steaming, stinking dump of a season it was.


Let’s see, where do we start? Wildly overpriced tickets, generally lifeless play on the field, a front office that behaved like they had missed the cut for MTV’s Jersey Shore and a final record of 70-92…take your pick. Kind of made Mets fans miss the complete collapses of the previous two seasons.

The clock is ticking on the Omar Minaya-era and a slow start to the 2010 season could mean Armageddon in Queens.

We know, we know, we should have led with the Yanks, but as we said, they really were the entire story in New York sports this year so you might not have gotten this deep into the piece if we had.

But what a season it was in the Bronx. It was a season that began with doubts about the bullpen, questions around the lineup and, surprise, an Alex Rodriguez controversy. While the PED (performance-enhancing drugs) story hung in the early springtime air, much the way the stench of a landfill might, Rodriguez’s early May hip surgery shifted the focus off himself and back onto the playing field and seemed to remove what had become a major distraction.

After a stellar final season at USC, Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez had a rollercoaster of highs and lows in his first year playing for Gang Green. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

After a stellar final season at USC, Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez had a rollercoaster of highs and lows in his first year playing for Gang Green. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

In an odd way, A-Rod’s hip problems may have been the best thing that happened to the Yanks all season. The controversy died down, he came back rested and focused and immediately began ripping the cover off the baseball. And perhaps the shortened season served him well in the postseason as the Yankees third baseman had the best October he’s ever had.

It was certainly a season of redemption for many Yankees, but none more so than for skipper Joe Girardi, who failed to make the playoffs (an unheard-of transgression for this franchise) in his first season, but rebounded to become the first Yankees manager not named Joe Torre to win a World Series in 31 years. He was questioned for going with a three-man rotation in the postseason, but it worked to perfection as the Yankees went 11-4 and generally outpitched and outplayed the opposition—really from mid-season on through that early November night when Shane Victorino’s infield grounder set off yet another celebration for Yankee Nation.

The Deep Freeze

On to the ice, where we naturally lose our footing again. The area hockey team generated slightly more than yawn in 2009.

The Islanders finished the 2008-2009 season with the worst record in the NHL, a trick they hadn’t turned in more than 30 years. As they struggle to find both consistency and an identity under second-year head coach Scott Gordon, it has been refreshing to be reminded once again that NHL hockey is actually played in Uniondale. It’s finally okay to talk about goals, hits and saves with regard to Nassau Coliseum and not just think of the parcel of land it’s located on as a future, multi-purpose real estate project with pretty little canals and lovely boutiques.

For a team currently defined by owner Charles Wang’s Lighthouse Project, the recent positive steps, however shaky some nights, are a welcomed diversion from the political quagmire this project has been the last few years. If the Islanders organization has actually started building something (that’s not made of concrete), the fans will fill the place once again and all this ridiculous talk of relocation to Kansas City, Seattle or Siberia will cease.

So then, as you can see, if you weren’t wearing a Yankee cap this year you were essentially set adrift in the New York sports year. Here’s hoping that 2010 brings some additional hardware our way, because for fans and franchises, as Tom Petty once sang, the waiting is the hardest part.

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