Being a sports fan in New York is just about at an all-time low. Here we are, the greatest fans in America, with a history of legendary sports teams, and what we have right now, it seems to me, is just an awful failure of management.
Last year, New York basketball fans went crazy for Jeremy Lin, the electrifying guard two years out of Harvard who came in from nowhere to turn the New York Knicks around. It was the middle of the season, but the team went, on the back of charges Lin led, from one of the worst in basketball at least to mediocre. The stands were packed. Everybody couldn’t wait until this year. Where’s Lin today? In Houston. The owners of the Knicks—the people who own Cablevision on Long Island—wouldn’t match an offer Houston made to take Lin away from New York. It was too much money. We let him get away.
Then there’s the matter of the New York Mets. This team has been mediocre or worse for years. In 2010, the knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey arrived on the scene. Every day his time came up in the pitching rotation for a home game, the stands at CitiField were packed to see this phenomenal man at work. And he’d win. At a time when the Mets were still in the cellar, Dickey would throw his knuckleball in great corkscrew arcs and opposing hitters would swing at it and miss. He became a 20-game winner in 2012. At the end of the season, he won the Cy Young Award, presented to the best pitcher in each league. Would he be back next year? Nope. He’s been traded to Toronto for three minor league prospects and a catcher nobody’s heard of. Why? He’s 38. No future in him, they said, although he sure leaped into the headlines for the first time at 37. Also, the owners, now dealing with a sensational player, would have to pay more money to keep him, and the owners, the Wilpon family and their partners, are embroiled in the aftermath of the Madoff catastrophe. Turns out they may have MADE money during Madoff’s early successes. And they have agreed to pay back some of that to the losers. So things are in flux in that department.
Now we come to quarterback Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets. Here was a young man, cute as a button, with a great college record, a good rookie year, a better second year and then a disastrous third year. Last year was his fourth year. It was even more disastrous. Never in the history of the NFL has a rising young quarterback, improving for two years, suddenly developed the willies, or the yips, or a loss of nerve or whatever in his third and fourth years like Sanchez did. Not only did the Jets finish near the bottom of the pile. Sanchez, among the 36 starting quarterbacks, because of his fumbles, interceptions, incompletions and sacks, ranked 36th and last in the ratings. Next year? As things stand now, Sanchez is likely to be the quarterback for the Jets next year, too. He has another year on his contract, no matter what. And the amount he will be paid, whether he plays or not, is $8.25 million. That’s enough of a burden on the owners to prevent them from shelling out for a new quarterback.
Finally I have to say a little something about the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Nets.
The Yankees, who pay more in salaries to their players than any other team in baseball, are still playing with their last-generation stars. They do the best they can and we love them dearly but there comes a time when they should be retired with full honors. Instead, they are playing on as the Over the Hill Gang and they are half a step too slow. Where are the new young stars? It seems to be a failure of the scouts and front office. It’s not the money, that’s for sure. The Yankees went reeling in the playoffs.
Finally there is the one bright spot in New York sports, the Brooklyn Nets basketball team. They are brand new, they fill their new arena every time they play, and although they have no superstars, they are up toward the top of things, not at the top, but far better than anyone could have expected.