Column: Best and worst sports cities of 2017

John Mara, owner of the New York Giants, speaks to reporters in East Rutherford, N.J., Monday, Dec. 4, 2017.  The Giants made a rare in-season house cleaning, firing coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese on Monday, less than a year after the team made the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
(Seth Wenig/AP)

It’s December, which means it’s the time of the year when ESPN airs 20 reruns of the “Best Plays of the Year.” I always loved these growing up, and they’re great for getting nostalgia from the plays you may have forgotten.

In this final column of the calendar year, instead of counting down the best moments of the year, let’s take a look at the bigger picture of the 2017 sports world by finding out the year’s best and worst cities for the four major sports. I’ll limit the process to cities with three teams or more in the MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL.

We’ll go with the bad news first…

Worst: Atlanta, Phoenix and New York

Atlanta:

Atlanta had the Falcons reach the Super Bowl, which is normally a good thing. However, the city had to suffer through one the biggest collapses in sports history on America’s biggest stage. I’m not even a Falcons fan and the constant 28-3 jokes are absolutely brutal. The Falcons are 7-5 this season and are still in playoff contention even though they’re third in their division.

The Hawks are the second-worst team in the league this season and are looking atrocious. In the beginning of the calendar year, they managed to make the playoffs despite a record of just over .500. The Braves finished as the eighth-worst team in the MLB, failing to make the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.

Phoenix:

The Suns led the way in the mess that is Arizona sports in 2017. Phoenix finished with the second-worst record in the NBA last season and their tanking has continued this season, as they sit at 9-16. The Suns are such a disaster that Eric Bledsoe tweeted he didn’t want to be there.

The Coyotes are quietly just as bad, if not worse. Last season, Arizona totaled 70 points, finishing third-worst in the NHL. The Coyotes are at an even worse pace this season, currently ahead of only the Buffalo Sabres. (Buffalo would also be on this list, but they only have two sports teams.)

The Cardinals are 5-7 and are starting Blaine Gabbert at quarterback, so that tells you all you need to know for their season.

The lone exception to Phoenix’s failure is the Arizona Diamondbacks, who had a stellar season and won the Wild Card Game before losing to the Dodgers in the NLCS.

New York:

It’s not often that New York City (and surrounding areas in New Jersey) is among the nation’s worst sports cities, but that’s what happened in 2017.

To start the calendar year, Odell Beckham Jr. went on a boat and the Giants got blown out by the Packers in the playoffs. The Giants are currently 2-10 and the Jets aren’t doing much better at 5-7. Both teams are in last (or tied for last) place in their divisions.

The Nets and Knicks are just as bad. Last season, the Nets finished as the worst team in the NBA and the Knicks weren’t far behind, finishing 12th in the Eastern Conference. Both teams are improving so far this season, but they are still on the outside looking in for the playoff picture.

The Islanders missed the NHL playoffs and the Rangers were bounced in the second round.

The Mets finished as a bottom-six team in the MLB, reaching only 70 wins in a frustrating season marred by Matt Harvey. The Yankees are the only exception for New York teams, reaching the ALCS and falling in seven games with a young roster.

An honorable mention goes out to Philadelphia, who would also be in the running, but the recent surges from the Sixers and Eagles have put the city back on the upswing.

And the winner (loser?) is…

Phoenix. The combination of two teams in the bottom three of their respective sports and Blaine Gabbert is enough to combat the relative success of the Diamondbacks. Add in the fact that Phoenix is constantly rumored to lose their hockey team, the Worst Sports City of 2017 goes to Phoenix. (You got lucky, Atlanta.)

Best: Boston

The Patriots won another Super Bowl in February and are well on their way to home field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs. Tom Brady is 40 years old, but is having a great season once again due to the incredible coaching and roster surrounding him, making him look like he’s nowhere near done. Did I mention he’s 40?

The Celtics earned a surprising No. 1 seed in May before being sent home by Playoff LeBron. But the Celts were way ahead of schedule in their masterful rebuilding process, and are now looking like the East’s best team once again with Kyrie Irving playing like the (flat) world is in the palm of his hands.

The Red Sox made the playoffs and lost to the future World Series Champions, and their young core encourages even more optimism for Boston fans. The Bruins also made the playoffs this spring and are over .500 so far this season.

It doesn’t get any better than being a Boston fan, folks. Despite the complaining you might hear, they had the best year in sports in 2017, and it’s not even close.


Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at joshua.buser@uconn.edu.