By Steve Lichtenstein
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This year can’t end soon enough for Tri-State area sports fans.
It’s been a brutal 2013. Not only was the area devoid of championship parades, but all the local teams crashed pretty quickly in their respective postseason tournaments, if they were fortunate to get that far. Heck, even the Red Bulls choked away their top seed in the first round of the MLS playoffs.
Instead, the year was flush with disappointments — roster upheavals, devastating injuries to marquee players and loud calls on WFAN demanding coaching changes. And no, that’s not just the Brooklyn Nets.
But us New York fans love our teams through thick and thin, and there are actually a few things that give us hope for a better 2014 that we can be thankful for. So without further ado, here’s my second annual list.
(Note: it’s been such a lousy year, I’ll even include Mets and Rangers nuggets this time.)
20. Once the puck dropped on the NHL season in mid-January, we actually went a year without a work stoppage in any sport.
19. New Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, who may or may not match the success of his predecessor, but those entertaining 30-second John Tortorella press conferences did not make up for the two-and-a-half hours of boring hockey he forced his club to play.
18. The promise of ace Matt Harvey, who had Mets fans evoking comparisons with the dawn of the Dwight Gooden era before an elbow injury curtailed his season. Mets fans have to hope he can come back after his rehab from Tommy John surgery.
17. Speaking of injuries, Tyson Chandler’s value to the Knicks, as evidenced by the tailspin that has ensued following his departure from the lineup after incurring a fracture in his leg 10 games ago. The Knicks will be a much different team when he returns. Which brings me to…
16. The putrid state of the NBA’s Atlantic Division. After identical 3-10 starts (before Tuesday night’s games), both the Knicks and Nets were somehow only three games back for the division lead.
15. The brilliance of Islanders captain John Tavares. With relatively little support from his teammates, he is fourth in the NHL in scoring.
14. The Ian Eagle-Mike Fratello pairing on the YES broadcasts of Nets games. Their mix of humor and insight has kept me tuned in even through these tortuous times. They get a slight edge over the excellent Mike Breen-Walt Frazier duo on MSG Knicks telecasts.
13. The Yankees giving fans a chance to see Derek Jeter go out on a more positive note.
12. The Eddie Jordan hiring to restore order at Rutgers. As an aside to those who misremember the days when Jason Kidd was a Nets legend, it was Jordan, NOT LAWRENCE FRANK, who installed his version of the Princeton office to assist Byron Scott in leading the Nets to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances.
11. The MSG renovation, which has received rave reviews, a rarity in the Jim Dolan era.
10. The Jets defensive line, the team’s backbone, led by Muhammad Wilkerson.
9. My new favorite Devil, Eric Gelinas. The late-October call-up of the towering defenseman with the booming shot has given fans hope that there might be more here than just a bunch of guys way past their primes.
8. One of those aging stars—Martin Brodeur, who continues to display new levels of awesomeness in goal at 41 years old. Enjoy him while you still can.
7. Mikhail Prokhorov’s bank account. Yes, the beginning of the Nets season has started out as a catastrophe, but we know he wants to win. Remember the alternative.
6. The nine lives of Tom Coughlin. I don’t care what the Giants’ record is, you can’t count them out until it’s mathematically impossible.
5. John Idzik blowing up the Jets and rebuilding the right way, with young players supported by more inexpensive veterans.
4. Playoff hockey on Long Island. The building was electric during the Pittsburgh series in May—the Isles’ first since 2007. If they can find some defensemen, maybe they can make a push for a final hurrah before they move to Brooklyn.
3. The only moment worth savoring all year—the wonderful send-off the Yankees gave to Mariano Rivera, the best closer ever.
1. That I have a wonderful family, with extra thanks to my put-upon wife, who indulge me in my illogical passions for my favorite teams. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. May 2014 literally be a banner year in the Big Apple.
For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Jets and the NHL, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1
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