Non­fic­tion

The Mag­nif­i­cent Sea­sons: How the Jets, Mets, and Knicks Made Sports His­to­ry and Uplift­ed a City and the Country

Art Shamsky;Barry Zeman
  • Review
By – August 10, 2012

Can it be 35 sea­sons since the Jets, Mets and Knicks simul­ta­ne­ous­ly stood atop the sports world? And 35 sea­sons since Neil Arm­strong walked on the moon, the tri­al of the Chica­go Eight and the elec­tion of Richard M. Nixon as Pres­i­dent? Hard to believe! 

The Mag­nif­i­cent Sea­sons, writ­ten by Art Sham­sky with the aid of Bar­ry Zeman, evokes the mem­o­ry of that 16-month peri­od when, against a back­drop of civic and nation­al strife, three pro­fes­sion­al sports teams rep­re­sent­ing New York City con­sec­u­tive­ly won cham­pi­onships. By mak­ing ref­er­ence to events that were con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous­ly occur­ring out­side of sports, Sham­sky con­veys how dispir­it­ing a time this was for so many Amer­i­cans, and in par­tic­u­lar for New York­ers, who were on the cusp of their fis­cal cri­sis of the mid- 1970’s. The impact of the string of world cham­pi­onships was accen­tu­at­ed by their hav­ing occurred in an era so marked by death — the Viet­nam War, the Kent State Mas­sacre, and the assas­si­na­tions of Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. These vic­to­ries divert­ed a grow­ing group of sports fans and lift­ed their spir­its, which is why these teams con­tin­ue to have an icon­ic identity. 

Adding to the dra­ma of vic­to­ry in the unscript­ed world of sports, all three of these fran­chis­es enjoyed first-time suc­cess­es. Under­dogs all, their his­to­ry of medi­oc­rity made their achieve­ments all the sweet­er. The teams were pop­u­lat­ed by per­son­al­i­ties who returned their fans’ affec­tion. They were head­ed by strong lead­ers who were dif­fer­ent from one anoth­er, yet all demon­strat­ed respect for their play­ers and their sport, a keen sense of fair­ness, and an insis­tence on ded­i­ca­tion and unselfish­ness. Sham­sky, hav­ing been a mem­ber of the Amazin’ Mets, pro­vides an insider’s view, but his account of the Jets’ and the Knicks’ sea­sons is equal­ly entertaining. 

Reliv­ing his­to­ry” 35 years after an era sharp­ens one’s insights because mem­o­ries, seem­ing­ly for­got­ten, sud­den­ly reap­pear. For exam­ple, when Sham­sky reminds us of the base­ball play­ers in 1969 who missed games because of mil­i­tary oblig­a­tions, one can­not help but think about how our pro­fes­sion­al sports land­scape has changed. He recre­ates an era that was unique, in part because the play­ers were not so dif­fer­ent from the fans they rep­re­sent­ed, albeit more tal­ent­ed ath­let­i­cal­ly. For the sports fan who wants to remem­ber or learn about a sim­pler time, when ath­letes were com­mu­ni­ty heroes because of their accom­plish­ments and loy­al­ty, The Mag­nif­i­cent Sea­sons is an enter­tain­ing invest­ment of time. 

This book would be an even bet­ter read if it had been more skill­ful­ly edit­ed. How­ev­er, this is not intend­ed to fault the author, who has writ­ten an enjoy­able book that gives the fan a chance to relive the excite­ment of an unprece­dent­ed munic­i­pal win­ning streak.

Noël Kriftch­er was a pro­fes­sor and admin­is­tra­tor at Poly­tech­nic Uni­ver­si­ty, hav­ing pre­vi­ous­ly served as Super­in­ten­dent of New York City’s Brook­lyn & Stat­en Island High Schools district.

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