Woe upon New York sports this winter

Shaun Livingston puts his hand to his eye Shaun Livingston puts his hand to his eye in the fourth quarter of a game against the Detroit Pistons. (Nov. 24, 2013) Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

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Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept. ...

Chin up, New York!

We here in the metropolitan area still have many entertainment options to give thanks for, even after Dan Bailey's 35-yard field goal for the Cowboys on Sunday launched a thousand "pitchers and catchers" references.

Um, let's see . . . there's the Nutcracker and the Rockettes and the Hallelujah Chorus for the holiday-minded, and those Oscar-bait movies that always come out around now, and, when all else fails, conversation with loved ones.

Or maybe a fun board game, perhaps Chutes and Ladders as a tribute to the 2013 Jets.

Following our local professional sports teams, though? Not so much.

This was not in the game plan! A month ago, it would have surprised no one to learn that come Thanksgiving, the Jets and Giants would be playoff long shots, reduced to lending their practice facilities to other teams in late January.

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But it would have surprised everyone to learn that the Knicks and Nets are tied for 27th in the 30-team NBA in winning percentage.

This was supposed to be a winter to remember for the City Game, with two legitimate contenders for deep playoff runs and maybe even a dethroning of LeBron.

That still could happen, but so far, both have been flops, and it is getting late early.

Hockey? The Rangers appear to have recovered from a sluggish start during a long road trip but still are hovering around .500, and the Islanders are in last place. Is it almost time for the Olympics?

The Yankees have more question marks looking forward than they have had in years, although they still appear poised to spend, most recently on free-agent catcher Brian McCann.

The Mets . . . who knows? Maybe they can host the All-Star Game again someday.

All of this is a far cry from, say, 2012, when the Giants won the Super Bowl and all seemed relatively well in New York-area sports, or at a minimum interesting, what with Linsanity and Tebowmania and R.A. Dickey and such.

Now our only short-term hope for excitement beyond the narrow confines of hockey fandom is for one or both NBA entries to shake off that early malaise.

Even more than the Giants and Knicks, the Nets are the dreariest disappointment in town, a team that acquired big names who would be better served preparing their Hall of Fame speeches than playing, and put a novice coach in charge.

This is why we can't have nice things, New York! We get caught up in star power and pizzazz and lose track of the fundamental things that still apply, a lesson the Red Sox relearned and taught us this past season.

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The rest of America surely finds all of this rather amusing, at least until it finds itself stuck watching the Redskins and Giants on Sunday night in a game that for some unfortunate reason was not flexed out of prime time.

Consider skipping it and instead taking a walk, or reading a book, or digging up that recording of Super Bowl XLVI -- or Super Bowl III, as the case may be.

The Yankees' pitchers and catchers report on Valentine's Day, by the way. It's a date.

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