By DJ Gallo
These are heady times to be a New York sports hater.
Every team in the New York metro area is a complete wreck or, at the very best, is currently spinning wildly out of control while heading off a high mountain road with no guardrail.
The failures are well-known, thanks to the vast New York media detailing and cataloguing each new humiliation for the whole world to enjoy. Yet it’s simply too enjoyable to not briefly run through them all again.
The Yankees are $200 million of big-name mediocrity and have the continued stink of Alex Rodriguez steam-pressed into their pinstripes. The Giants went 7-9 and played worse than their record, as Eli Manning seemed to complete seven of every nine pass attempts to the opposing team. The Knicks and Nets both entered this season with title hopes (stupidly, but still, they did) and are now reduced to battling it out for the final playoff seed in the pitiful Eastern Conference – the sports equivalent of a diseased street rat fighting to get the last bite of flesh from the carcass of an already dead, poisoned rat. The Rangers, Islanders and Devils are essentially a presentation of “The Knicks and Nets: On Ice!” as they trip and fall through the Metropolitan Division, the NHL’s version of the NBA Eastern Conference. And then there are the Mets and Jets, who remain very much the Mets and Jets.
Ahhhhh. It’s all so wonderful. We may very well be in the Golden Age of New York sports failure. Is it not an amazing time to be alive?! Breathe it in, New York sports hater. Cherish it. Imprint this time in your memory so you can revisit it and feel this same joy even years from now.
And now stop.
I have some terrible news: We need New York sports teams to be good. We all need to consider even [chokes back bile] … rooting for New York teams.
Okay, whoa. Whoa whoa whoa. Where are you going? Don’t leave. Not rooting for them more than your own favorite teams. That’s not what I mean. Not even rooting for them to win championships. But rooting for them to be good. Rooting for them to be legitimate contenders.
Here’s the terrible truth: sports are better off when New York teams are good. They don’t all have to be good. But a Big Apple full of Mets and Jets is not only bad for New York, it’s bad for your favorite teams, too.
Deep-down, sports fans already know this.
It’s why so many fans think David Stern may have rigged the 1985 NBA Draft lottery so the Knicks would get Georgetown star Patrick Ewing. It’s why so many fans think New York teams get preferential treatment from refs and the league offices – all of which, not coincidentally, are found in New York.
No one would suspect the NBA of rigging a draft in favor of Charlotte. There’s a reason there are no leagues headquartered in Kansas City. And it’s no accident that Pittsburgh didn’t get the first cold weather Super Bowl.
New York matters. New York is important. Accepting what your obnoxious New York sports fan friend has always said is unsettling, but he’s right.
This is not an opinion. This is elementary mathematics. Approximately 23 million people live in the New York metro region. That’s 20-percent more than Los Angeles and more than double Chicago, the U.S.’s third-largest metro region. Pittsburgh has 2.6 million. Charlotte has 2.4. Kansas City has 2.3. You could combine those three cities into one, double that city in size and it still wouldn’t equal New York in pure numbers.
Numbers are what league commissioners care about. Those numbers, converted into dollars, are what make sports leagues successful. They help make your favorite teams successful, too.
The highest-rated World Series of the last nine years was the 2009 Series. Guess who played in that? Yep. The New York Yankees. Super Bowl XLVI in 2012 had the most viewers in the history of the game. Guess who played in that game? Yep. The New York Giants. Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals was the most-watched NHL game of the 1990s. Guess who played in that game? Yep. The New York Rangers.
Good New York teams, thanks to that 23 million in population, and a few million more in bandwagon fans, deliver huge ratings. Huge ratings deliver bigger TV deals -- and every team gets a cut of that cash. With more money, your favorite team can get better by bringing in free agents or re-signing its own players. It can invest in scouting, build a new stadium, or install cup holders in front of every seat so you don’t spill half your $9 beer on your lap. Whatever.
But the point is this: good New York teams are good for your team. You don’t have to be a New York fan, just maybe don’t enjoy kicking all of them when they’re down so much. It’s only hurting you.
TV revenue is only part of it, too. New York stars sell more jerseys, which in turn makes every team more money in licensing deals. No New York stars, fewer sales.
The huge New York fanbase puts fans in the seats on the road. When New York teams are winning, more fans fill your team’s stadium. In 2009, when the Yankees had a 103-win team that went on to win the World Series, they averaged 34,482 fans per game on the road. In 2013, with a sad collection of aging, overpriced players who were never in contention, they averaged 33,632 fans per game on the road. Take that 850 fans per game, multiply it by the $27.73 average MLB ticket price, add in some more for food, merchandise and parking, multiply all that by a three-game series and you’re looking at significant money every team lost simply because the Yankees were a non-factor.
Still not convinced? Okay, then try this: It’s simply more fun to see your team beat a good New York team than a bad one.
What made the Marlins’ upsetting the Yankees in the 2003 World Series so memorable was that it was the Yankees. If that same team produced a World Series win over the A’s or Rays? Eh. Just not as fun. Last year Indiana Pacers fans no doubt enjoyed knocking the New York Knicks out of the playoffs far more than they did defeating the Atlanta Hawks one round earlier.
No one is saying you need to root for New York teams to win championships. Feel free to pull for them to go down in flames when the stakes are highest. Sell it to yourself as an even crueler form of rooting against them.
But realize the sports world is a better place for everyone when New York teams are winning.
DJ Gallo is the founder of SportsPickle.com and has written for ESPN.com, ESPN The Magazine, The Onion and Comedy Central. He has appeared on SportsCenter, ESPNews, and G4 and is a frequent radio guest and published author. Follow him on Twitter at @DJGalloEtc, @sportspickle and @thatdjgallo.
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