The other day, I found myself having a sports pipe dream. What if ex-Giants closer Brian Wilson, now a free agent, and likely-to-be-former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith sign with the Mets and the Jets, respectively, next season?
Anyone who likes these two athletes and is not a fan of the New York underdogs will say “Please, God, no.” And I get it, as a San Francisco resident and fan of both athletes and local teams. But as someone who grew up at Shea Stadium when it was home to the Mets and Jets, the impending availability of these two marquee players gives me a glimmer of hope.
First, I really like Wilson. Even though he has caused me countless ninth-inning near-coronaries, he’s a great, exciting closer — and an off-the-field riot.
Then there is poor Smith. Some Niners fans say the team became good despite Smith, while others say all he needed was the right coach. Either way, Smith is almost certain to play in a new uniform next year after giving the Niners his blood, sweat and tears for seven seasons.
Of course, from the top down, the Jets are a mess and there is no way anyone who cares about Smith wants him anywhere near Woody Johnson’s love affair with Tim Tebow. But that team certainly needs to solve its quarterback situation. Mark Sanchez, whom I like and think can revamp his career elsewhere, has been emasculated. Tebow is a joke and Greg McElroy hasn’t shown starting quarterback stuff. What is going to happen with the Jets on any given Sunday — let alone next season — is anyone’s guess. But wouldn’t it be great if Smith were part of the solution?
Wilson going to the Mets is more likely. After signing David Wright to a lifetime sentence at Citi Field, the Mets need to prove to the pretty face of the franchise that they are serious about contending. This starts in the bullpen.
Wilson might not only save a few games, but also give the players inspiration. He can draw a crowd, and with Mets attendance being pretty erratic, the team needs someone who will bring disgruntled fans back to the ballpark, especially since NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey was just traded. The bright side to this is that the Mets now have $5 million that could be applied toward a deal with Wilson. Other free agents might be more likely to look at the Mets more seriously as well.
What’s in it for Wilson? Can you think of anyone who would eat up the New York press with more gusto? As a ham for attention, Wilson’s beard, fashion and overall demeanor would be a stark contrast to the Yankees’ subdued closer, Mariano Rivera. Wilson has everything the cross-town squares frown upon: facial hair, a mohawk, visible tattoos and a massive public persona. And he seems like the kind of guy who would like a challenge. After all, the Giants were pretty dismal during his first couple of years here.
Even if Wilson and Smith end up in New York, you might be thinking, “Keep on smoking,” neither team is playoff-bound before the 22nd century.
But no matter how dysfunctional the Mets and the Jets might be, I have a soft spot for my childhood teams and hope that one day both will re-emerge as true contenders, so long as it does not come at the expense of my Giants or Niners, who have an excess of talent.
Ideally, it could be a win-win situation for my divided sports heart.
Pamela S. Busch is The San Francisco Examiner’s wine columnist.