Here’s something you’ve probably heard before: New York is the greatest city in the world.
Depending on whether or not you can name the five boroughs in between bites of your hero (no, not your hoagie, grinder or submarine), that’s a statement you likely whole-heartedly agree with or reject completely.
Of course, no New Yorker can verify their claim of urban supremacy. Most of us have never been to Paris or Rome or grabbed a bite at In ‘N Out Burger, one of the few meals that, allegedly, can’t be matched in the City. (And let’s be real, there is only one City.) And oh, sure, we hear Pittsburgh is a nice place to live. But…Pittsburgh over New York? Next you’ll be telling me I should grab a Morton’s rib-eye over a Peter Luger porterhouse, or that deep dish is better than neopolitan. And you’ll be wrong, of course. Because everything is better in New York. Including our sports teams.
Except for one.
I mean, a lot of our sports teams are bad. The Jets and Giants are about to go head-to-head in the MetLife-Who-Sucks-Less Bowl, Fred Wilpon is probably cashing a welfare check as we speak, and yeah, sure, the Rangers haven’t done much since the ’94 Cup, but that’s hockey. It doesn’t really count.
There’s only one franchise – correction: one team – that we’ll admit isn’t as good as everyone else’s. It’s the one that plays in the Greatest Arena in the World (wink, wink) and that’s gone through a bit of a 38-year rough patch lately.
This may come as a surprise, but New York sports fans harbor a bit of a superiority complex. The Yankees have always been The Best, a symbol of sports royalty, the team of the decade, most successful franchise of the century. (Thank you, Bob Costas.) Yet, World Series titles wouldn’t become a Bronx birthright until King George issued his doctrine saying so. Now, perennial ticker-tape parades are the 21stcentury equivalent of Manifest Destiny. Except manifesting destiny involves less Native American genocide and more hanging Chuck Finley breaking balls.
Once Jesus Steinbrenner’s sermon became gospel, it began to trickle down to the rest of the New York sports teams and their fan bases. The idea of an “all or nothing” philosophy jived with New Yorkers, who already believed they were better than everyone else. It only made sense that their sports teams should be too.
As this insanity began to infect the rest of the city (most notably following 9/11, when the ‘Team of Destiny’ HAD TO win the World Series), the Knicks were god-awful. And they continued to be god-awful throughout the decade. As the pressure of ‘all or nothing’ continued to grip the Yankees, the Jets and Giants moved in the right direction. The Jets’ hiring of Eric Mangini and their subsequent free agency/Brett Favre binge was viewed as a masterstroke at the time. Then Rex and San-chize stole the town before they got lambasted for not stealing the country.
The Giants won a Super Bowl and now endure a chorus of boos every time they show signs of not being the best team in football.
Yet the Knicks were left in the dust. After all, the Knicks have always been a conundrum, never quite as ‘storied’ as we liked to believe. They haven’t won a title since the Nixon Administration. The best players in franchise history are probably Walt Frazier and Willis Reed. Neither would make MJ’s knee’s quake, and both were on that pre-Watergate title team.
But the last decade? Roll out the caution tape.
Nothing to see here, people. Just eight coaching changes, one winning season (last year) and $11.6 million in punitive damages, none of which went to Jerome James. Move along.
So for the last five years, Knicks fans have been harboring delusions of grandeur. We believed with every fabric of our being that the Knicks would have a chance to contend As Soon as Isiah Was Gone. And then, when he was and we weren’t, we believed that we DESERVED a winner, and that that winner would come real soon, and that it would come in the form of some salary cap and logic bending messiah that magically transformed a decade old doormat into a fucking minx rug.
We believed LeBron would come for no other reason than he COULD. He could be the guy to finally put New York back on top! This is NEW YORK after all…So, uh, why not?
(Perhaps because his second best teammate would have been Toney Douglas or some overpaid/overhyped/underinsured/injury-prone amalgam of Joe Johnson, Amare, Carlos Boozer and Chris Bosh, you Famous Original Ray’s-gobbling buffoon.)
Of course, we never let logic get in the way. Even if LeBron didn’t end up in Miami, there was no reason to believe the Knicks were next on his list. (The guy didn’t even mention the ‘Bockers when he rattled off his list of suitors during The Decision.That’s true. Check the tape.)
So we moved on. Soon, we were SO SURE Chris Paul or Dwight Howard would “revive B-Ball in the Big Apple,” even as some salary cap expert from ESPN or FoxSports or SI rolled out column after column outlining how excruciatingly unlikely this was. Um, maybe if Jimmy Dolan decides to unload Amare OR Chris Paul decides he wants to take (INSERT DOUBLE DIGIT NUMBER HERE) million dollars less to play in New York…
So there’s a chance!
Eventually, reality hit us in the face like an errant pass from Stephon Marbury. With Chris Paul cursed with a We-All-Know-It’s-Coming ACL injury in Los Angeles and Dwight Howard more likely to ball in Brooklyn than Manhattan, our dreams of a Big Apple Big Three have evaporated. In its stead is a Big Two-Point-Five, or a Big Two or perhaps something less – depending on where you stand on Tyson Chandler, Carmelo’s defense and how many games Amare has left before his knees implode.
We’ve absorbed this pretty rosy reality fairly quietly, as far as New Yorkers go.
Have any of your Knicks fans friends been crowing lately? Did SportsCenter cover the Tyson Chandler press conference for more than 3.2 seconds? Who’s being talked about on WFAN right now: Carmelo Anthony or Eli Manning?
Somehow, given our decade of pain, Knicks fans really aren’t THAT excited/enthusiastic/confident about this year’s Knicks team.You see, we could have sworn we were getting a Ferrari for Christmas. So that Audi parked in the driveway doesn’t look too hot by comparison.
But that makes absolutely no sense. It’s still a fucking Audi. We’ve been through ten years of sports fan hell that we wouldn’t wish on anyone outside of Boston. Now, finally, we emerge with the best frontcourt in the league and a true contender…and we’re sitting in the corner, twiddling our thumbs and being complacent!?
Who cares if the Knicks were supposed to get LeBron? They didn’t. They also didn’t get Chris Paul, and they’re not snatching Dwight Howard unless Dwight is willing to sign for the veteran minimum.
The Steinbrenner Doctrine states that winning a championship is the goal in any given year, implying that not winning a championship constitutes a failure. So in order to not be viewed as a “failure,” any team that adheres to The Doctrine must win a championship EVERY YEAR.
The only way to not be bitterly disappointing is to be dynastic. That perspective is unrealistic enough for an efficiently run franchise with bottomless pockets. It’s an absolute pipe dream for the Knicks.
Sure, the Knicks’ dynastic dreams were thwarted. But those dreams were self-defeating in the first place.
Here’s the bottom line: if you’re a Knicks fan, and you’re not unfathomably, incredibly, undeniably excited for the next few months of basketball, then head to Peter Luger and go choke on a piece of the Best Steak in the World. Because, with or without Gilbert Arenas or Baron Davis or whatever other half-corpse Mike D’Antoni pull out of his casket to play point, this is far and away the best team the Knicks have fielded in a long, long time. Sure, they’re not going to win a title, but so what? That’s not the goal.
The Knicks will be decent. They will be fun to watch. At least there will be hope of something more than a low playoff seed and a first-round exit. And what exactly is the problem with hope, a commodity Knicks fans haven’t exactly had in spades and that T’Wolves fans would kill – no, actually – David Kahn for?
Eddy Curry was The Guy as recently as four years ago. Shawne Williams and Jared Jeffries were our Men in the Middle in 2010. Shouldn’t the idea of the Knicks being a contender – even if they’re not THE contender – be enough?
Heck, it should be more than enough. It should be the best thing that’s happened…since, well, New York.
So go down to DiFara’s, grab a few slices, and start yelling from the rooftop of your favorite skyscraper. It’s time to get excited again. The Knicks are back, baby, and better than we ever could have expect them to be.