It’s happened. The Bills are officially New York’s best football team. And the Bills aren’t even good.
As participants in one of the biggest markets in sports, New Yorkers have long bragged about the success of their teams. The gloating particularly focuses on how their teams are viewed in the same respect as those of cities like Los Angeles and Boston, with high media coverage and constant dynasties. Boston is probably the most storied sports town in history, hosting the powerhouse Celtics, Red Sox, Patriots and Bruins. Los Angeles hosts the Dodgers, Lakers, Clippers and Rams, all successful franchises with recent playoff success. These cities consistently put out good teams and are viewed as highly touted athletic destinations. Why can’t New York put together the same result?
For the last couple of years, New Yokers have seen a quick decline in the quality of their sports teams. The Giants have become a trainwreck after sending away Odell Beckham Jr., perhaps their one true star, thus fully committing to the rebuilding process. The Jets are consistently terrible. The Rangers and Islanders have quickly seen themselves watching the NHL playoffs at home. And my poor, poor Knicks. They’ve had one “successful” year out of the last 20. They had a chance to fix things last offseason, with rumors of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant eyeing a team up in the Big Apple. But that, like everything else New York sports teams have tried recently, fell apart too.
Historically, most New York sports teams that have been successful did so either through clever trades or growing homegrown talent. Take the Yankees. The team has found ways to build their roster organically. Every generation in baseball history has a Yankee that has ascended to legend status after being acquired in a trade. Names like Jeter, DiMaggio and Ruth bring memories of cheers and championships.
In recent history however, other New York teams have been less than successful at following in this mold The last Knicks team that reached the NBA finals got there as the world’s largest underdog, following a 27-23 record in a lockout shortened season. The last time the Giants made the playoffs, Obama hadn’t even started his second term in office. This season, they’re eyeing a disappointing 0-3 start. This comes after the Giants drafted former Duke quarterback Daniel Jones, which came with a plethora of criticism. What New York sports need is a rebranding.
New York has long stayed true to its cliche as the city that never sleeps. A home for athletes who, if they bought into the ethos, and performed, would have eternal love. That love still exists, but star talent seems to be drawn to cities with greener pastures.
Boston is seen as the city of championships. Greatness has been there as far as we can remember. Los Angeles is warm all year and by the ocean. It seems New York just can’t compete. Yet, should New York find themselves successful, the amount of money that could be made from the world’s largest fanbase would be unprecedented. And it’s not just franchise owners: Players moving into the massive New York market would surely benefit from increased exposure and advertisements.
This past season, the New York Knicks finished the season with a league-worst record of 17-65. And yet, the Knicks were valued at a whopping $4 billion, coming in as the fifth most valuable sports team in the world and the most valuable NBA franchise (Forbes, “The World’s 50 Most Valuable Sports Teams 2019,” 06.22.2019). Read that again: The Knicks had one of their worst seasons of all time, and were still valued higher than the Warriors and Patriots, coming off their respective championships. The Yankees, meanwhile were valued at $4.6 billion, making them the second most lucrative sports franchise in the world.
If the power of the New York market has their current, tanking team ranked top in the league, imagine the money the Knicks could make with a championship. Free agents could make an unprecedented amount of money from branding alone. Frankly put, to succeed in today’s environment, New York sports teams need to shift their focus from legacy and historic pasts to money. A player-empowerment movement has swept across teams in multiple leagues, as contracts and comfortability have become the main priorities for stars. LeBron James’ move to the Los Angeles Lakers was not because of their past success, nor the appeal of playing with Lonzo Ball, but to help build his brand. Shortly after his relocation to Los Angeles, LeBron announced an HBO talk show, production credits on TV shows and a star role in the planned “Space Jam” sequel. Think about it: Could LeBron do any of this while living in Akron, Ohio? No. New York needs to market its marketability. That’s their key to success: Let the world know that if you come, the money will be waiting with open arms.