By Peter Schwartz
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As we all gather with our families and friends for Thanksgiving this week, our sports teams will also get a chance to feast and give thanks. In the metropolitan area, we have teams that did well and not so well over the past year, but all of them have something to smile about.
New York Yankees
This past year was not a pleasant one for the Yankees and their fans. The Bombers didn’t make the playoffs for just the second time since 1993 while the Boston Red Sox won their third World Championship in 10 years. Throw in the A-Rod saga, Mariano Rivera’s retirement and the uncertain health of Derek Jeter, and the Yankees’ future appears to be a bit cloudy. But we’re talking about the Yankees. They don’t just sit around and feel sorry for themselves. Yankees fans should feel thankful for a few reasons. Don’t let this whole $189 million luxury tax thing worry you. The Yankees are about winning and using their resources to do it. They reeled in Brian McCann over the weekend and that could just be the start of a busy offseason.
And maybe the Bronx faithful can latch onto some karma. Remember the last time the Yankees missed the playoffs? It was 2008 and you know what happened the following year — world champions!
New York Mets
It’s pretty easy to understand the frustration of Mets fans. In the same week the Yankees signed McCann to a big money contract, the Mets’ first splash into free agency was outfielder Chris Young. But there is some good news for Mets fans and I’m not talking about saving money on your car insurance. There really is something positive to look forward to. There will be plenty of hits belted out at Citi Field this season — by Huey Lewis and the News on July 12 and by Boyz II Men on August 16. There will be two more concerts announced in the coming weeks.
Enjoy that turkey on Thursday, Mets fans! And if you haven’t seen it yet, try to get a look at the holiday card that the Mets e-mailed to fans and media. It’s pretty cool.
New York Giants
After losing to Dallas, it appears as if the Giants’ magic carpet ride has come to an end. Big Blue rallied from an 0-6 hole to win four straight games, but it doesn’t look good for the Giants to complete their run at the NFC East title. But Giants fans should not be sad! They have the recent memory of two Super Bowl titles under Tom Coughlin and they also can get excited about the future. The Giants could very well have a high pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
When was the last time that the Big Blue faithful were able to make noise in the gallery? They could have their highest pick since taking Philip Rivers No. 4 overall in 2004 before sending him to the Chargers in the Eli Manning trade.
Take it from a Jets fan — sometimes the draft can be exciting!
New York Jets
Before the 2013 season started, there wasn’t much optimism around the Jets. The defense figured to be pretty good, but Gang Green had a rookie quarterback on offense and a less-than-stellar group of weapons. Somehow, the Jets are 5-6 and in the middle of the race for the 2nd AFC wild card spot. Geno Smith has regressed over the recent weeks and has become a huge turnover machine. The Jets probably need to win four of their last five games to punch their ticket to the playoffs and that doesn’t seem likely to happen.
So what do you have to look forward to?
Change! If the Jets finish off their tailspin, you can be sure that GM John Idzik will show head coach Rex Ryan the door. That is of course if owner Woody Johnson lets him.
New York Knicks
This one is pretty simple, Knicks fans. Even though the orange and blue has not gotten off the to start that many expected, you have to be pretty excited.
Owner James Dolan made it clear that Isiah Thomas isn’t coming back. While you’re breathing a sigh of relief about that, you can also hope that next year you can be thankful if Dolan decides to spent more time with his band than being a hands-on owner.
Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov was hoping for bigger and better things when GM Billy King put together this roster. The big trade with Boston that brought Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn hasn’t exactly worked out, but all is not bad. The Nets have been disappointing their fans this season — but that’s what head coach Jason Kidd and company can be happy about. The franchise has a fan base that actually cares. After moving from New Jersey to Brooklyn, it has to be refreshing to have fans in the seats, but more importantly fans that actually live and die with every win and loss.
Finally, Evan Roberts is not alone!
New York Islanders
After making the playoffs last season for the first time in six years, the Islanders are off to a disappointing start in 2013-14. There’s still plenty of time for them to turn things around, but that’s not what they have to be thankful for. The Islanders know that brighter days are ahead as they are going to be in a new arena in 2015 when they move to Barclays Center. But the biggest thing they have going for them is that they have a bona fide superstar in captain John Tavares. In February, the area’s brightest star will get to compete on the world’s stage when he plays for Team Canada in the Winter Olympics.
New York Rangers
After a slow start, the Rangers have turned things around. They have a talented roster led by Henrik Lundquist, Rick Nash and captain Ryan Callahan. The Blueshirts have a good coach in Alain Vigneault. While it’s still amazing that GM Glen Sather has lasted all these years, the salary cap era has forced the Rangers to be smarter with their money and to draft well. But here’s the biggest reason why Rangers fans should be thankful. While owner James Dolan is completely hands-on with the Knicks, he basically lets the hockey people run the Rangers.
That’s all you can ask from him. He writes the checks and stays out of the way. Maybe Dolan should keep his hands off of the Knicks.
New Jersey Devils
After going to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012, the Devils missed the playoffs last season. The franchise was also going through some ownership issues which had to be a concern for Devils fans. Would the team actually leave the Garden State? Well, that’s what Devils fans have to be thankful for. The team’s ownership situation has straightened out and they are going nowhere. To make things even brighter, even as Martin Brodeur’s career heads towards an end, the Devils swung a draft day trade to acquire goalie Corey Schneider from the Canucks. Good times are ahead in New Jersey.
New York Red Bulls
While fans of the team experienced another playoff failure, the Red Bulls managed to do something this season that the franchise (dating back to the MetroStars days) had never done. They won some hardware when they finished with the best record in Major League Soccer and captured the Supporters Shield. Fans of this beleaguered franchise can be thankful for a terrific young coach in Mike Petke and a team that is now relevant and can compete for a championship.
New York Cosmos
After a 29-year hiatus, the Cosmos returned to competitive play this past season and won the NASL Soccer Bowl for the sixth time. But there’s so much more for the reincarnated franchise to be thankful for. They are champions with an exciting future. The Cosmos bring a team that was put together in a relatively short amount of time and won a title back with a chance to repeat. They are also looking ahead to possibly building their own stadium next to Belmont Park and a chance to participate in the U.S. Open Cup and compete against MLS teams.
New York Liberty
For the record, I don’t follow the WNBA but I do know that the Liberty organization has to be smiles as they prepare for their 2014 season. That’s because they are finally coming home. The Liberty has had to play at the Prudential Center in New Jersey the past three seasons because Madison Square Garden was going through its transformation. Next season, the Liberty will be back at MSG.
And there you have it, all of our local teams and what they have to be thankful for this holiday season. Maybe you are optimistic or pessimistic for different reasons, but it certainly looks like all of our clubs have a little something to look forward to.
Enjoy your turkey! Happy Thanksgiving!
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