Why NY sports could rise again in the 2020s
1st January 2020
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Look, I’m as guilty of this as anyone, I know that, I get that, I accept that. I’ve lived much of my life in and around New York. As a kid I rooted for some of its sports teams, rooted against some. As an adult I’ve been lucky to be in every building when it was at its loudest, felt them all shake and rattle with joy and anticipation (well, except MetLife; that one tends to be a mausoleum no matter if it’s frosted blue or green …)

…. ah, jeez, there he goes again. Sorry. Yes. It’s gotten to where I can’t go a single paragraph without lapsing into some kind of sky-is-falling narrative about just how bad things have been around here lately. Spiro T. Agnew had a phrase for guys like me once: “nattering nabobs of negativism.” But, then, the vice president didn’t live in our town, in our times. He wasn’t a New York sports fan the past 10 years. He didn’t see what we have seen.

Ah, but a new day dawns now, a new year, a new decade. It also happens to be my birthday, and if you can’t allow optimism to carry the day on your birthday, then there’s something wrong with you well beyond the outcome of a basketball game (actually, if you’re a Knicks fan, that’s almost 20 full years of bad basketball game outcomes, but …)

… hey, he went TWO paragraphs that time. That’s progress!

And now, ahead of us, we have a fresh decade and an empty canvas. Look, on Jan. 1, 2010, there was probably little reason to expect that, not long after, the Giants would duplicate their Super Bowl mastery of the Patriots, a wonderful bookend for Big Blue fans. There was little reason to anticipate the great orange wave of 2015 that carried the Mets to the World Series. On Jan. 1, 2010, you’d never even heard of Saquon Barkley or Jacob deGrom or Aaron Judge or Jamal Adams. Now it’s impossible to imagine life in New York without any of them.

And that — imagination — is the best gift we have today, Jan. 1, 2020. What can be is far more alluring than what was, because right now, anything is possible for us, for New York, for the athletes and teams that make up what is still a magnificent tapestry of fun.

DeGrom could win a third Cy Young Award in a row this year. And follow that with a fourth and a fifth.

Judge and Pete Alonso could replicate the old M&M race of 1961 from opposite ends of the Triborough sometime in the next few years, the two of them hitting homer after homer, crawling across the summer toward Roger Maris’ 61 (and Barry Bonds’ 73).

The Yankees, you can surmise with as much certainty as such things allow, will win a championship between now and Jan. 1, 2030. But how many? How many will they win going away, and how many will they win thanks to Game 7 heroics … and how many will they lose when the next embodiment of Bill Mazeroski, Luis Gonzalez or Jose Altuve announces himself?

Fearless prediction: The 2020s, unlike the 2010s, will feature at least one other New York team winning a championship. The Giants were lonely last decade. This one? Will the Mets ever get it together — either now or in a few years, when we expect that even the ball boys will be signing multiyear millionaire deals in the new greed-is-good era of Gordon Gekk — er, Steve Cohen? Will the Giants figure it out again? Will the Jets, whose drought already has membership in AARP and by 2030 would be nearing social security?

What will the Nets be when Kevin Durant returns to join Kyrie Irving (or should we say — and I don’t believe this qualifies as negativity — when Irving returns to join Durant?) We still fancy ourselves a basketball city, despite all the dreadful evidence to the contrary. Can a fully-loaded Nets team really make a push for the NBA Finals? Will the Knicks finally find the right guy, a guy like Masai Ujiri, say, and give us the Garden back? Heck, based on his early work, can Mike Anderson give St. John’s fans what they’ve missed for damn near 30 years, which is a regular aspirant for the NCAAs?

All of this is possible.

All of this is out here.

How good will Alonso be? Jeff McNeil? Michael Conforto? How many games will Gerrit Cole dominate? How many years until we ask if Gleyber Torres is as good as Derek Jeter?

Sam Darnold or Daniel Jones? Or both?

Carlos Beltran or Aaron Boone? Or both?

How many nights in the coming decade will Kaapo Kakko light the lamp at the Garden? How many nights will RJ Barrett fill up boxscores there?

How many warm, humid June Saturdays will we spend whittling the hours to post time, wondering if we’re about to see a Triple Crown again?

We don’t know that thoroughbred’s name yet. But we will. Same as we’ll someday know the future Hall of Fame center fielder who shows up in either Queens or The Bronx in 2027, and the game-changing linebacker who’ll prowl somewhere in MetLife in 2029.

Maybe we’ll even see one of our soccer teams win a championship one of these years, and we’ll see if the greatest melting-pot city of all really goes all-in when that happens.

I’m ready for all of it, starting Wednesday with Knicks-Blazers at the Garden, New York’s first game of the new decade. No need to wallow any more. The ’20s will once again roar.

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