The Problems with New York Professional Sports

Alexander Ganias, ‘20

January 2019

Ever since the New York Gothams and Brooklyn Superbas baseball clubs were established in 1883, professional sports have been a cornerstone of life in this great city. It became more popular when the Yankees broke attendance records in the early twenties, and even more so when around the ’60s and ’70s each team had gotten an in-state rival: there were now 8 pro teams representing 4 of the 5 boroughs. The Mets, Jets, and Knicks all won championships from 1968-70, the Yankees dominated the 70’s, the Islanders dominated the early 80’s, and Madison Square Garden was home to two championship-quality teams from 1993 to 1999, in the Knicks and the Rangers.

Throughout the history of pro sports, one NY team or another has had at least one reign of dominance. But as we are closing in on the end of the 2010s, the big apple has been rotting in the stench of its sports franchises.

There are many reasons as to why, I will go over some of them now (DISCLAIMER: This article covers baseball, basketball, football, and hockey teams from the four boroughs. The NJ Devils, NY Red Bulls, and NYCFC, as well as college teams will not be included).

Lack of Playoff Success

As I mentioned before, every team has at least one stretch where they were consistently at or near the top of the standings (think the Yankees in the late 90s or the Nets in the early 2000s). Now it’s impossible to compare each team’s playoff success to each other, as they all play different sports; but, the number of championships that a NY team has won since 2010, is one (1). Yep, the 2011 football Giants are the only NY team to win a championship in this decade. That’s WITH a Knicks 2 seed in 2013; that’s WITH a Rangers Cup Final appearance a year later; that’s WITH a Mets World Series appearance a little over a year after that. The fact of the matter is, NY sports teams in the last decade have always fallen just short of greatness. But that’s IF they make the playoffs in the first place. The Rangers and Yankees have the most in the city (7 and 6 respectively), which is impressive; however, the other 6 have a combined 11 appearances. It’s safe to say that many NY fans usually ended up feeling disappointed and saying “there’s always next year” during the 2010s

Lack of Coaching Stability

As of today, the longest tenured NY head coach of the 2010s was Joe Girardi for the Yankees (2008-2017). When any team spins into a multi-season funk, heads seem to turn on the coach; which makes sense, as they’re the one that has to control the players, while also making them better at their craft. Girardi has since been replaced with Aaron Boone, and with the recent firing of Todd Bowles from the Jets, that makes the longest tenured coach in NY Kenny Atkinson of the Nets (2016-). It’s hard to keep a fanbase interested if every year they’re wondering if their coach is going to change (hello Knicks and Islanders).

High Expectations, or None at All

The next reason for a lack of success in the NY sports world is that some teams have pretty lofty expectations from writers, fans, and the team itself, while others have absolutely none. The best example of this is in the basketball department. In 2016 NBA offseason, the Knicks had traded for Derrick Rose, who had had great years with the Chicago Bulls but has suffered knee injuries that slowed his career down. The plan was to pair him with Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis to make their version of  “The Big Three” (a necessity in the NBA at that time, it has since faded out). Add in Bulls center Joakim Noah, and all the newspapers were bleeding blue and orange on the back pages. There was a lot of hype in the Knicks fanbase for the first time since Carmelo joined the team. But constant turmoil in the front office, another injury from Rose, and terrible coaching from Jeff Hornacek led to a disappointing 31-51 record. It shows how some teams get higher expectations than what they might deserve. Teams like the Nets, on the other hand, don’t get any press; the most they have gotten the last couple of years is one reporter from the New York Post (not to demean The Post, but the Media Capital of the World should cover it’s teams equally). Every paper outside of that usually gets their report through the Associated Press; papers like the Daily News don’t have a reporter at most NY games, about half of the teams. For the other half, there’s no opinion in the articles; merely stats, quotes, and a summary of what transpired. However, there are some catches…

Money, Money, Money

This isn’t just New York, but everywhere in the sports world. Owners are starting to care less about the team and franchise that they own, and are instead caring more about the bottomline. An example of this is James Dolan, owner of the Knicks and chairman of the MSG Company (who owns the Rangers). The way he has handled these teams in the last 15 years has been quite terrible, where neither team has won a championship, and in the case of the Knicks, there have been too many sketchy personnel decisions under his ownership.

Ticket prices for ALL teams are near outrageous, and parking (if for some reason, you decide to drive) is downright blasphemous. It’s near impossible to go to games on a regular basis, because fans don’t want to burn holes in their pockets, especially now during the confusing economic status of our country. The newspaper department is also suffering because of this: The Daily News was recently purchased by Tronc publishers, and as a result, all but nine of at least 30 members of the sports section were laid off. That includes writers like Jon Harper (baseball) and Frank Isola (basketball), two of the best in their craft. It’s all about money now in the sports world, and it shows. Less fans are going to care about their teams if the reports have no human feeling in them. Because of this, venues like Citi Field and the Barclays Center, are suffering lower attendances or those filled with fans of the other team. Tickets and parking are pricey, owners don’t care, and fans are not showing up for those reasons.

Don’t Give up All Hope

Now that’s not to say that all teams in NY suck. The Yankees have made 3 out of the last 4 MLB Postseasons, the Nets currently are in 6th place in the Eastern Conference, and both hockey teams are making pushes for the NHL playoffs. All in all, NY sports have always been interesting; one never quite knows what’s going on with them.