Night in the City
With Yanks down and NFL's Giants off to 0-6 start, New York's sports scene off-kilter
NEW YORK -- These days, many of the folks who call this dateline home or who live in the satellite communities of this great city are dealing with unwanted free time and/or severely damaged pride. The colors of autumn seem gray and grayer to those sorry souls. The thermometer has registered in the 50s and 60s for most of the past month, but the days have seemed painfully cold. We're all quite familiar with the ways and wherefores of daylight savings time. But here in the five boroughs and their burbs, whole days seem dark to a good portion of the population.
The Yankees are in forced hibernation, and the football Giants are challenging standards established by Casey's 1962 Mets with their Super Bowl quarterback impersonating Marv Throneberry.
The Yankees left their fandom hurting and wondering about the team's no-Mo future. And Giants followers already have borrowed from what they recall from their Brooklyn Dodgers brethren and begun a wait for next year.
The forecast calls for a winter during which Broadway and other entertainment are apt to benefit from the bleakness of the fall.
The city has the Knicks and the reconstituted Nets, of course. The Jets, even with their Sunday loss to the previously winless Steelers, appear functional. And three hockey teams are lacing up their skates. But none of those franchises compares with the Yankees or the Giants, not in this market. None has the storied resumé of baseball's flagship franchise or the four-time Super Bowl champions. In comparison, the Mets and Jets are respective little brothers and sisters. And the basketball and hockey teams don't compete in Major League Baseball or the NFL.
That's the way it works here. Baseball and football, football and baseball. Yankees and Giants, Giants and Yankees. On this side, the long-established franchises. Over there, the Mets and Jets. The fan bases of the Yankees and Giants overlap, have for decades. When the Mets and Jets won their first championships in the same year, 1969, they made their own bond in Flushing. Until New Jersey put its Meadowlands where its mouth was, the Yankees and Giants shared a flat in the Bronx. They remain connected. The Mets are Jets are unquestionably linked, but by default.
The roots of the Mets and Jets are deep. But the roots of the Yankees and Giants are as deep as the Empire State Building is tall. The older franchises have combined for 35 championships, the Mets and Jets have three. The Mets and Jets rhyme. The Yankees and Giants win.
Though not this year.
The Yankees won the second of their 27 World Series championships in 1927, and the Giants won the first of their four, pre-Super Bowl, pro football championships the same year. The franchises have been cousins since. Both teams won championships 11 years later (Joe DiMaggio and Tuffy Leemans) and in 1956 when Mickey Mantle and Frank Gifford were the glamour boys of their sports.
The Yankees have been more successful in the subsequent 57 years, winning 10 more sets of rings, but the Giants have prospered, too, winning four Super Bowls, fewer than only the Steelers, Cowboys and 49ers.
Now, though, the cousins are troubled. After a season of X-rays, crutches, sutures and bandages, the Yankees are at a crossroads. To make their followers' faces more sour, the Red Sox are alive and, because of Big Papi, quite well.
The Giants are only winless and playing on banana peels. They have passed the crossroad, having not heeded the "Dead End" sign.
Where is a traditionalist to turn in this city? Thank God for the theater, the museums, the Garden and DVDs. Perhaps Jason Kidd can make the weeks before pitchers and catchers pass quickly.
Not that the Yankees and Giants have occupied every autumn and winter. The market went without from 2001-07, when the Canyon of Heroes was unused for a World Series or Super Bowl champion. But both teams made it to their sport's title games in 2001. The Yankees did in 2003, too. The Giants won in 2008, the Yankees in 2009, and the Giants again in 2012.
The city has been spoiled. But now the Yankees' Core Four has lost three members, and their "best option" at third base lives in limbo. Six games into their season, the most the Giants can hope for is preferred seating in their home stadium when a Super Bowl champion is determined.
It's a sad time for those who see uniform No. 42 and think of Jerry Coleman, Mariano Rivera and Charlie Conerly, sadder still if those folks were depending on the Giants to help them purge the images of the Yankees' shortfall and to deal with the uncertainty about the club's willingness to spend. The Red Sox have been refurbished and reinforced with superior pitching. The Rays and Orioles are less dependent on older players than are the Yankees. And the Yankees' farm system is fallow compared with what it was when Gene Michael was hoarding the seeds of the Core in the 1990s.
It could be that this empty autumn is an aberration. Or do the Dark Ages beckon?
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.