By Jason Keidel
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My fellow New Yorkers…
The good news is that Sunday’s loss to Miami doesn’t mean anything. The bad news is the two wins two months ago don’t mean anything, either.
We can parse the particulars, but when we distill the difference between the Heat and the Knicks, the formula is as follows…
Miami has LeBron James and the Knicks have Carmelo Anthony. To quote the iconic New York movie, “Glengarry Glen Ross,” one team won the Cadillac and the other won the set of steak knives.
One player is transcendent. He can score from any slice on the parquet and has the size, skill and will to rebound — not to mention an assist savant. The other is a me-first hardwood megalomaniac who recently dropped 42 points and dished ONE dime. One player welcomed the egos of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and defers to them when necessary for team dreams. The other drove Jeremy Lin away and then had the stones to snipe at his contract, a universal no-no among professionals. (Does anyone still think Raymond Felton is a better option?)
One player took a wretched, 20-win Cleveland team to the NBA Finals. The other took an exponentially better Denver team to a conference finals one time. One player left Cleveland and they plunged back to a 20-win team. The other left Denver and the Nuggets have won more games than the Knicks since the trade. One player is judged by championships. The other always needs another player to make it work and is never responsible for his team’s results. One player was hounded by the media until he won his ring. The other is heralded without a ring and is coddled by a cadre of apologists (in and out of the media).
New Yorkers consider themselves winners. Likewise, we demand the most from our teams. Except when you wear orange and blue and play in the World’s Most Overpriced Arena.
Why is it all right when Anthony loses every year? Why is it all right for the Knicks to lose every year? Why is it all right for the Knicks to lounge after layups, stand around and whine to refs while James breezes by them for dunks? Why haven’t the Knicks ever committed a foul? Why aren’t you sick to see Felton fall to the floor, make a prostrate plea to a ref while Shane Battier drains a deadly three? Why is it okay to kill James for going five years without a ring, yet give Melo a pass for his decade (and counting) sans an NBA Finals appearance? Why are all singular players judged by singular deeds except Anthony?
It’s never Melo’s fault. It’s always his teammates, the refs, the coach, the clouds, the moon, etc. Poor Anthony is asked to do too much. Poor Anthony was a champion at Syracuse and has just been a hard-luck champ flanked by chumps. Forget that he never passes the ball and plays part-time defense and pouted while Lin basked in Broadway’s glow without burning in its glare. Why are New Yorkers, as hardworking and heady as any populous on he planet, so hoodwinked by a player who is assured of nothing every year except gagging before June?
Why is losing unacceptable with the Yanks, Mets, Giants and Jets, but not the Knicks? Has it occurred to anyone that the Knicks are the emblem of mediocrity? Worse, they are largely losers. The Miami Heat have two titles and are cruising to a third. They’ve barely been an NBA franchise for two decades. The Knicks haven’t won since Richard Nixon flexed his forefingers from Marine One and vanished into political ignominy. I turned 4-YEARS-OLD the last time the Knicks won.
The Knicks haven’t won since my family owned a black-and-white television. The Knicks haven’t won since gas was 39 cents a gallon. The Knicks haven’t won since Godfather II was released. The Knicks haven’t won since the Miami Dolphins — with a backfield of Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Mercury Morris — won the Super Bowl. The Knicks haven’t won since Yogi Berra took the Mets to the World Series. The Knicks haven’t won since Archie Griffith won the Heisman. The Knicks haven’t won since Reggie Jackson played for the A’s. The Knicks haven’t won since Bill Walton played for John Wooden. The Knicks haven’t won since George Foreman fought Joe Frazier in Jamaica and Ken Norton in Caracas. The Knicks haven’t won since the Immaculate Reception (if not the Conception). The Knicks, who need an exorcism, haven’t won since Linda Blair’s head spun and pea soup gurgled from her terrifying face.
We righfully bemoan the Jets and Mets for meandering around mediocrity. But with the Knicks the status quo is quite all right. For three years now we’ve heard about the aging mosaic around Melo, how it’s all about putting the proper pieces next to the franchise player. We let James have it until he got his ring, depsite singlehandedly lugging a grotesque Cleveland team to the NBA Finals. Has Anthony ever elevated a team beyond its parts? James is allowed no excuses. Anthony bathes in them.
The provisos are already in place: “If the Knicks win a round, I can live with that.”
Really? Why? Even when Michael Jordan was in his prime we expected to beat him at least once and were devastated when we didn’t. Yet now, as if we subconsciously know Anthony isn’t good enough to be the best player on the best team, we live within marginal wins. It’s rather acceptable to be losers.
Even Mike Francesa, the baritone bard of New York sports and the grumpy voice of reason, lathers his microphone with excuses.
“It’s all about building around Carmelo,” he says. “If the Knicks win a round, maybe two, this season is a success.”
No, Mike, it’s not. This 40-year-narrative is nauseating. Steve Carell went 40 years without sleeping with a woman and it made $100 million worth of laughs. But the Knicks’ 40-year championship virginity is a box-office bomb, brutally bad science fiction — a low-grade horror film that would make Ed Wood blush.
No doubt that the aggregate weight of a four-decade drought will drain a town. But since we won’t accept anything less than the best from ourselves, a team is a reflection of it’s town. The Knicks are awful because New Yorkers allow it, expect it and accept it. You pay the inflated prices, are spellbound by Spike and Seinfeld and Woody. Celebrity Row is a rotting lineup of cosmetically enhanced has-beens, an amalgam of aging actors whose halcyon days came decades ago.
Sounds like the team we’re watching in the World’s Most Overrated Arena.
Is Keidel overreacting, or do you agree with his overall sentiment? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…