Perhaps the greatest winter holiday is once again upon us as aluminum poles are raised across not only the nation but the entire world of loyalists to Frank Costanza’s beloved day.
We here at amNewYork Metro choose to celebrate Festivus by looking back at the year that was for the city’s professional sports teams, starting with…
The Airing of Grievances
I’ve got a lot problems with you teams! And now you’re gonna hear about it.
This year has produced more blunders for New York sports than many would care to admit, these moments include, but are not limited to:
Ruining Sam Darnold
Now hear this all Jets fans who have celebrated embarrassing losses on the team’s alleged quest to #TankForTrevor – quarterback Sam Darnold is not the issue and Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence will likely follow down a similar strained path in green and white. As seen with Broadway Sam, lacking the proper offensive utilities and protection disadvantages even the greatest of young quarterbacks and inadvertently creates draft busts. With the departure of running back Le’Veon Bell and receiver Robby Anderson among so many other missing pieces to the offense, what is in place to prevent such reoccurring issues from hindering number 16?
For the New York Football Giants, remaining in playoff contention in December’s closing days is nothing short of a holiday miracle. That’s mostly because general manager Dave Gettleman has done little to address the team’s many positional needs or create a fort depth for when injuries arise to a team’s starting running back or QB. Not like that could ever happen in one season, right?
James Dolan is still here
Even when things appear to be going well, which you can say is happening now just because the franchise has a clear direction, there is always that sinking dread that manifests itself in the back of Knicks fans’ minds that James Dolan is still patrolling the owner’s box of Madison Square Garden. His regime has been a disaster for the last 20 years, how much longer can it last?
Firing Kenny Atkinson
Kenny Atkinson did nothing but develop the Nets from doormats in the East to a playoff team over three-plus seasons. And what was his reward? Getting fired during his fourth year with both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant sidelined. The Nets did him dirty, no other way to put it.
ALDS Game 2 MisHAPP
This one, this will sting for a long time if the Yankees are not to claim victory in the Fall Classic in 2021. Manager Aaron Boone’s mismanaged psych-out attempt of using announced starter Deivi Garcia for only a portion of the Tampa Bay Rays lineup before bringing in J.A. Happ can easily be viewed as what cost the Yankees a return to the pennant – not to mention a now loathed piece of foam padding in San Diego.
Of course, new owner Steve Cohen’s arrival came with an impatient fan base pounding their keyboards demanding the club go over the luxury-tax threshold and buy every big name out there. Cohen himself said the team was not going to “spend like drunken sailors,” but did say that a World Series should be on the horizon in the next three-to-five years. Mets supporters have been patient for so long under the Wilpons, they just need to wait a little while longer.
The fall of King Lundqvist
Certainly, not the exit fans or likely longtime goaltender Henrik Lundqvist desired to see in 2020. After a contract buyout, Hank signed with the Washington Capitals and will be unable to play the 2021 season due to a recently announced heart condition. These circumstances are doubly painful as the king neither remained a blue shirt for life nor hoisted Lord Stanley’s hardware – yet.
Not getting top-tier scoring help
The largest Achilles heel of the Eastern Conference Finalists was the absence of a top-tier scorer to anchor the first line and a sputtering power-play unit. Salary cap issues didn’t make this offseason an easy one, forcing the team to make the tough decision of trading away Devon Toews, but the Islanders are still without that consistently-dangerous goal-scorer heading into the 2021 season.
The Feats of Strength
And now as Festivus rolls on, we come to the feats of strength. Not all teams had it too bad this year. Actually, some have reached heights that have not been seen in a young lifetime while others show a truly promising future for the years ahead, starting with:
Making the Eastern Conference Final
The Barry Trotz and Lou Lamoriello partnership continued clicking as the Islanders made their first Eastern Conference Final appearance in 27 years, further throwing out the notion that this team should be treated as an afterthought. They came just two wins short of a Stanley Cup Final appearance, falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games.
The rise of Igor Shesterkin
One thing that’s defined New York Rangers hockey since the early 1990s has been remarkably reliable, franchise goaltending. Although the departure of King Hank has been a harsh pill for fans to swallow, there is a bright future between the pipes at MSG.
The Mets have gone from the basement to the penthouse after Steve Cohen bought the team from the Wilpon family, who ran the big-market club like they were housed in Idaho for nearly 20 years. The once-frugal franchise is now the big fish in the market’s pond, signing reliever Trevor May and catcher James McCann with more believed to be on the way.
Wild Card Game 2 vs. Cleveland
While the 2o20 postseason was ultimately a disappointment for the Bronx Bombers faithful, it still produced one of the Yankees’ greatest playoff memories in at least a decade. You know how it goes: Masahiro Tanaka in the rain, Gio Urshela clears the bags with a grand slam, and DJ LeMahieu’s RBI seals the epic comeback in the ninth. Easily the most feel-good Yankees moment of the year.
Becoming a team
Week by week, the Giants have become a team playing with enough fire to put Mister Heat Miser to shame. That’s been done at the hands of newly appointed head coach Joe Judge who has instituted a much-needed culture and attitude change for the better over in New Jersey. Whether or not Big Blue can rattle off winning the NFC East, Judge has proven that the upcoming years of Giants football should be anything but a laughing stock and that is something fans should dearly embrace.
Winning against a stronger opponent
While some traitorous fans may have rooted for an all-defeated Jets squad in 2020, the professional athletes who’ve endured such a rocky season showed their true intentions late Sunday afternoon in California – playing to win the darn game. Trevor Lawrence alone won’t be able to systemically change the New York Jets, but the team’s 23-20 win over the Los Angeles Rams saved the franchise from the forever stain of having an 0-16 season. That is a better long term outcome for this team, especially if Lawrence is not to pan out as an NFL great or simply have his career ruined by routinely poor Jets player development.
The franchise has a clear direction
For once, the Knicks didn’t fill their fans’ heads with delusions of signing the top free agents in the game or making ridiculous trades that would ultimately set the franchise back three or four years. Under Leon Rose, the Knicks are going with a youthful approach — they have 10 players that are 23 and under — to start turning around the culture of the organization.
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are together
For the first time since signing their headlining deals last summer, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are on the floor together as members of the Brooklyn Nets. So long, flirting with .500, hello deep postseason runs.
Hang in there, sports fans, a day will come when we can all once again cheer arm to arm for what will hopefully be the end of a championship drought that has quite overstayed its welcome.
Until then, all of us at amNewYork Metro wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy Festivus.
With reporting by Joe Pantorno