New York is rarely mentioned in the tormented fan base debate. Since 1980, New York metro-area teams (including the New Jersey Devils and Nets) have won 17 championships, and finished runner-up 11 times. The longest gap between titles in that stretch was the 2003 Devils (won the Stanley Cup on June 9, 2003) and the 2007 New York Giants (won Super Bowl XXII on February 3, 2008), a span of just 1,700 days. Of the nine area teams, only the Jets have not been to a championship game/round. You would think every sort of fan would have gotten a moment of glory to revel in a championship during that span.
But I am 25 years old, born in 1984. I have been following sports since the early 1990’s. My earliest sports memories are of the Knicks annual playoff runs, intense Islanders-Rangers games, and awful but oddly enjoyable Mets teams (enjoyable probably because I was too young to know otherwise). And as a fan of the Mets, Jets, Islanders, and Knicks, I have yet to see my teams win a title. I just missed the Isles’ historic run of four-straight Stanley Cups from 1980-83. I may have been alive for the 1986 Mets, but I was too young to remember anything. And the Jets and Knicks have not won titles since way before I was born. I have seen nearly 70 seasons of sports in my lifetime, and I am still holding out hop for that first title, in any sport.
Sure, there have been some great memories along the way. The Jets run to the AFC title games in 1998 and 2009 were enjoyable, this season especially with rookies Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene, and Rex Ryan. The Mets postseason runs in 1999 and 2000 capped memorable seasons before ultimately ending in crushing defeats to the hated Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees, respectively. The Knicks battles with the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, and Chicago Bulls were emotional roller-coasters, and two title runs fell a few victories short, one year that was supposed to be ours (1994) and another that surprised everyone (1999) against two Texas centers. And anytime the Islanders got into the postseason in my lifetime was enjoyable as they came few and far-between.
So why be a sports fan, especially of these four teams, if all it leads to is disappointment? Why not switch to the Giants and Yankees, teams with better track records, or stop following sports altogether and save myself from the soul-crushing losses? Because I am a fan and these are my teams. My grandparents bled blue for their Brooklyn Dodgers. They sat through decades of “Dem Bums” before they turned it around with Hall-of-Famers Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Roy Campenella, and Pee Wee Reese, and won five National League pennants from 1941-1953. But the pennants only lead to heartbreak, as all five of those pennant winning seasons ended with World Series defeats a team in their own city, the Yankees. When the Dodgers finally broke through and won it all in 1955, the year my father was born, the team was gone to Los Angeles three years later.
After five years in fan wilderness, the Mets came along and my grandparents eagerly jumped on the bandwagon. They might have been awful, but they belonged to the fans. The sixties also saw the birth of the Jets, and along the way they picked up one of football’s first superstars in Joe Namath. The Knicks were also putting together a core of players that would bring an NBA title to the basketball-crazed city. My dad was just coming of age when all three won titles in a span of 18 months. That sealed his love for his teams, and it was a love he would pass on to me. We may disagree on hockey (growing up in Brooklyn in the sixties before the Islanders existed, he became a Rangers fan) but our love for the Mets, Knicks, and Jets runs through our family tree.
That’s what the theme of this blog will be: Waiting for a Championship. I’ve had to endure my team’s rivals and the teams I hate, the Yankees, Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Patriots, Giants, Rangers, Devils, Lakers and Celtics, be among the teams to win it all in my sports-fan lifetime. I just want to see each of my teams win a title in my lifetime. The Jets fell short this season after a run nobody saw coming, and the future looks promising. The Islanders are a young team with solid nucleus led by John Tavares and should improve in the coming years. The Knicks are holding out hope that Lebron, Wade, Bosh or some combination of marquee free agents leads them out of oblivion. And the Mets are coming off three gut-wrenching seasons, made even worse by the World Series titles of the Phils and Yanks. But I know those gut-wrenching pitfalls will be worth it when I finally have a chance to celebrate a championship.