While flipping around the TV in between Antonio Cromartie expletives and threats, I recently came across the 1963 classic comedy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. For kids under 70 who've never heard of it, the movie is an old-time blockbuster filled with every comedic star of that era: Jonathan Winters, Phil Silvers, Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, Buddy Hackett, among many others, not to mention legends Spencer Tracy and Jimmy Durante. What does that have to do with New York sports? I was kind of hoping you wouldn't ask, but since you did, here you go: Are New York teams grouping together for a potential blockbuster year? Are the stars aligning for an upcoming heyday in New York sports? Will it soon be a New York, New York, New York, New York world?
With the loss in the AFC Championship Game, the New York Jets closed out the book on a championshipless 2010. And the odds of multiple championship game/series appearances by the local teams in 2011 are long. But is 2010 and 2011 the years where New York teams are laying down the foundation for sustained success in seasons to come? The New York Yankees are perennial contenders. They're It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World all by themselves, with a blockbuster budget and stars galore. They pretty much do whatever they want every offseason, except buy Cliff Lee's love, of course. Assuming that there will be an NFL season and seasons to come, the Jets are already serious Super Bowl contenders, after reaching two consecutive conference championship games. And the New York Giants have a core in place to make a serious run at a title, if they can just solve their little end-of-season meltdown problem.
And things are getting interesting over at the Garden. Sure, Cinderella stories are scattered all over the sporting-world history books, but a 2011 championship for the New York Knicks or New York most likely won't happen. But the two MSG tenants are setting themselves up for a future of contending with the building blocks of this season. If the Knicks get a center and another scorer to go with this year's culture-changing acquisitions, Amar'e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton, is it so far-fetched to see them making deep playoff runs in another year or two? And their on-ice brethren the Rangers have a young nucleus that's getting better by the day and forming a playing-the-game-the-right-way identity with every passing week. And they're turning out stars in Henrik Lundqvist and Marc Staal, not to mention cornerstones like Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan and Derek Stepan. What happens when all these 24-year-olds are 27 and have a number of seasons together under their belt? Contending deep into May and June might be the result.
It may be a stretch to include the remaining four local teams, but the New York Mets, though they may not have any money, at least have hope, with a new front office and many contracts coming off the books after this coming season. Plus they do have a group of talented players already in place. The 2011 season may be the year where they make all the right decisions and set themselves up for a future run of success. And they may even have brand-new owners sometime in the near future. The New Jersey and New York Islanders are building from scratch, but the Isles have a gang of youngsters, including potential top-level talent in guys like John Tavares, Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo, that are only going to get better. Right now, the Nets may be kind of a hodgepodge of nothingness, but they have draft picks and resources galore, along with a new owner who wants to win and a new home down the road. As for the New Jersey Devils? Who knows what they'll turn out to be in the coming years.
But most of the local teams are heading in an upward projection. There's hope for all nine. Will we soon enter a heyday like the late-'60s/early '70s, when the Knicks won two titles (and lost in the finals in between), the Jets won the Super Bowl, the Mets won the World Series and lost another, the Rangers lost a Stanley Cup Final but were one of the best teams in the NHL during that era and even the Nets won an ABA title. Why can't we have multiple local teams fighting for championships in 2012, '13, '14 and '15? Maybe 2010 and 2011 will be looked back upon as the years that propelled a successful new era in New York sports history.