It has been only two years since the Subway Series, but it seems like a lifetime, especially now that we must endure an all-California World Series. For New Yorkers, this is like the old Iran-Iraq War -- is there any way to fix it so that both sides lose?
New York's sporting woes have been well documented of late: There's no more to say about how the Mets sputtered, the Yankees tanked, and the Giants and Jets expired. Latrell Sprewell's mysterious hand injury was fine entertainment until Antonio McDyess's kneecap cracked. Suddenly the Knicks were down the tubes, too.
Of course, our high-priced heroes have let us down before. But rarely all at once, and never at a time like this. The city, after all, finds itself once again in the nasty grip of recession and war, and in circumstances like these, New York's teams have tended to come through, right when we needed them to.
Consider the late sixties. As the Vietnam War raged, John Lindsay was busily navigating the city into the fiscal abyss. Then, in 1969, the Jets, the Knicks, and the miraculous Mets reeled off a string of titles. This not only lifted the city's spirits but also forestalled the collapse of Lindsay's political career. A mayor who presided over three championships in one year had to be doing something right.
Or maybe not.
By the late seventies, New York was fully in the fiscal abyss, and though there was no war, they might as well have been dropping bombs in the Bronx. But as tenements burned and crime surged, the Yankees took two straight World Series.
Next came the early-nineties malaise and the original Saddam showdown. But in a Super Bowl almost overshadowed by fears of a terrorist attack, an underdog Giants team ground out a victory. Then Pat Riley arrived from L.A. to coach the Knicks, and New York could feel good about basketball again.
So how could sports lift the city this time? We could learn to like hockey -- are there classes at the Learning Annex? -- and pray that the Rangers' crop of free agents doesn't flame out the way previous ones have. Or we could do as Mike Wise of the Times suggests and open our hearts to the Nets. That might be a recipe for disappointment, though. With the acquisition of Dikembe Mutombo, the Nets may be the only decent team in the league whose two best players are not great at scoring. Uh-oh.
Here's a better idea. Root for New York to land the 2012 Olympics. Holding the Games here may or may not be a good idea, but the competition is San Francisco, and there is no way we can let California win again.