Great leadership, talented youth and terrific goaltending are among the things New York-area sports fans can be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Football relevance, too, which we’d bet few saw coming this soon.
Sure, there was some disappointment – this is sports, after all. But plenty of the local teams are in a good place. Including the Mets and Yankees, even if both of their seasons ended before anyone would’ve liked.
So raise a glass of Thanksgiving cheer to the likes of Jacob deGrom and Aaron Judge. Celebrate the announcement of a new soccer stadium, revel in an amazing rink run that might be leading to bigger things and appreciate the on-court amazingness of Kevin Durant.
Yes, we’re aware of the championship drought in the so-called big-four sports in New York. But there’s a cornucopia of things to like in the stadiums and arenas around here.
Let’s take a look at 10 of those things:
It’s still football season. Really!
Feels like a long time ago that the Jets and Giants were any good by the time we carved the turkey. Recently, it’s been all about draft positioning at this point and while that’s great for future hopes, it makes Sundays boring. This year, both teams are still in the thick of the NFL playoff picture, have earned some swag and aren’t just playing out the string. Sunday sizzles again.
We may have seen Serena Williams’ final match at the US Open, so let’s just appreciate what we got to watch for all these years. The woman who has a claim as the greatest champion of all time first won at Flushing Meadows in 1999 and captured the tourney title six times, tied with the great Chris Evert for the most in the Open Era.
DeGrom and Judge are both free agents and could sign elsewhere, so we may have seen the last of them in New York uniforms. DeGrom reached the heights of “best pitcher in baseball” as a Met and Judge was 2022’s “best player in baseball” with the Yankees when he smashed an American League-record 62 home runs. It will be difficult for either team to recoup the brilliance lost if they depart, but it’s sure been something to watch.
Young Jets are sharks
It’s easy to dream on the days ahead for Jets players such as Garrett Wilson, Breece Hall, Sauce Gardner and Quinnen Williams, as well as their present. The quarterback position might not be fixed yet, but there’s a fine base of talent elsewhere. Plus guts. We loved Wilson’s take on the offensive failures against the Patriots last week. And that he was a young player speaking up at a time at least one other Jets didn’t seem to get it.
In his first year as NFL head coach, Brian Daboll has led a transformation of the Giants, who entered this season a hideous 22-59 since their last winning season in 2016. Daboll has been helped by a healthy Saquon Barkley and mostly clean play by Daniel Jones, but he’s also gotten his team to play tough football while trimming mistakes. Maybe the Giants have indeed found their coach.
No, the Mets did not hang onto the NL East lead last season or win a playoff series. But they did reinvent their culture and new manager Buck Showalter deserves credit. In going 101-61 and reaching the MLB postseason for the first time since 2016, the Mets enjoyed a 24-game improvement. Under Showalter, the team was more mature and more prepared. It showed and he was named NL Manager of the Year because of it.
The first stadium in New York built specifically for pro soccer is going up near Citi Field for NYCFC, the club that won the MLS Cup in 2021. The 25,000-capacity stadium is scheduled to be completed in 2027. Meet you there?
Fire and brimstone
The New Jersey Devils are the hottest team in the NHL – their win on Monday was their 13th in a row, matching a franchise record set in 2001. Lindy Ruff’s team fell short of win No. 14 Wednesday night at home against the Maple Leafs. But the streak carried the Devils to the top of the Metropolitan Division. They finished seventh last year and did not make the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.
We love the best of everything in New York and it’s no different when it comes to goalies. Enter Igor Shesterkin, the Rangers’ star who won the 2021-22 Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best at the position when he had a 2.07 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage. He also was a big part of their run to the Eastern Conference Finals last season and a big reason the Rangers hope this season can be even better.
The Nets are often a quagmire of dysfunction – discuss them at Thanksgiving dinner at your own risk – but it’s still pretty amazing to watch Durant. The Brooklyn superteam has not worked so far, unless you count drama, but Durant remains an all-time great player.