7:28 am Sep. 9, 2011
People might assume that because I’m a Mets fan, the only thing I have to look forward to this fall is the ongoing, painful-to-watch decline of the of the team's ownership.
But the glorious thing about New York's diverse sporting scene is how many opportunities there will be to enjoy the roar of the crowd between court hearings. In fact, hardly a day will go by this fall without the pleasure of first-rate sports entertainment for the discriminating fan.
This very weekend, in fact, Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls kick off the first of five home matches to close out their regular season. Their expected march to a title has hit a roadblock, as it always seems to for this franchise, dating back to when they were known simply as the Metrostars. But a weak Eastern Conference has given New York a chance to make the playoffs anyway.
A victory Saturday night at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. against bottom-feeder Vancouver can begin the process of making the October 4 match against David Beckham's Los Angeles Galaxy seem less like rout-to-be and more like the battle of super-teams from big markets that the league originally envisioned. Hurricane Irene rescheduled that match from August 28, giving the Red Bulls three weeks off to heal key injured and tired contributors like forward Luke Rodgers, midfielder Jan Gunnar Solli and center back Rafa Marquez. If New York goes on to win the MLS Cup, Irene deserves a playoff share.
September also means watching the Yankees coast into the playoffs. Despite persistent and reasonable questions about the back end of the team's rotation, the Yankees are 2.5 games clear of the Red Sox for first place in the AL East, and 9.5 games ahead of Tampa Bay, so a post-season spot is virtually assured. For Yankees fans, September can be for complaining about A.J. Burnett. October will be reserved for another march to a championship, or something less, which will be met by a level of shock and indignation by Yankees fans that will be incomprehensible to the rest of us.
As for the team across town in Queens, on-field, end-of-season pleasures will include seeing whether Jose Reyes can win a batting title in what might be his last season in New York, whether Lucas Duda can hit a ball so far that people forget his fielding, and watching David Wright play every day, a pleasure too quickly dismissed by critics of the team. Who knows, Johan Santana might even make a rehab start!
This weekend also marks the start of football for the two area NFL teams, each with very different expectations. But unlike most years, it is the Jets who will be saddled with the label of favorite, as they kick off the season by hosting Dallas on national television. For those who like their rivalries bitter, the Jets head to New England on October 9. Eight days later, the Jets host Miami on Monday Night Football, giving us all a chance to relive this play.
As for the Giants, seeing them lose nearly every free agent of value in an abbreviated offseason, followed by a preseason that seemed to injure every returning starter save Eli Manning, has the team looking to tread water. If you like rooting for the underdog, their quest for relevance in the city begins Sunday afternoon, September 11, when they play on the road against the Redskins. And if you needed another reason to root against Philadelphia, the Giants travel to face the Eagles on September 25, where they will come up against the image-rehabbed Michael Vick.
The NBA lockout means that there’s currently no Carmelo Anthony-Amare Stoudemire-Knicks basketball to look forward to. If the lockout stands, it will mean among other things that you will not get the chance to boo LeBron James at the scheduled Madison Square Garden opener on November 2.
But no NBA doesn’t mean no basketball. An October event not to miss is Midnight Madness on Friday night, October 14 (October 15 is the first day NCAA teams are allowed to practice) for St. John's, a college basketball powerhouse once again. The Red Storm made the NCAA Tournament last year in what was coach Steve Lavin's first season, which was a nice story. But this season’s version of the team has much more talent—last season's Norm Roberts holdovers give way to Lavin's recruiting class, which was ranked third in the nation by ESPN. If pep rallies aren't your thing, check out St. John's against Arizona, another revitalized college program, at Madison Square Garden on November 17 at 9:30.
And if you like your college athletics a little less big-time, my alma mater, Bard College, travels to take on Yeshiva University in basketball on November 22. The Bard program features its strongest recruiting class ever, including its first ever top-100 New York player, Jose Canario, and hope springs eternal that the team I saw fail to win a home game until my senior year back at the end of the 1990s can finally thrive under coach Adam Turner. By "thrive," of course, I mean finally beat Vassar for the first time in 18 years. We Bardians just hate Vassar so much.