Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Michael Jordan broke New York City and Knicks fans. They may never recover.
Michael Jordan broke New York City and Knicks fans. They may never recover.
Photo: Getty

For all their bravado and noise about being the center of the Earth, what New Yorkers really enjoy most, and are best at, is complaining. And whining. And really that applies to most of the East coast, at least from D.C. on north.

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Three inches of snow apparently turns NYC into Hoth, even though Minneapolis residents call your worst winter moments “May.”

Whenever someone casually mentions even liking deep dish pizza, New York City schools are closed so everyone can run to Twitter and Facebook to declare that, not only is New York-style pizza the best, but apparently is the foundation of our country and the real cause of victory over the British in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

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One delayed subway line for an hour is the subject of several M. Night Shyamalan movies, whereas I’ve never been on a “L” train that’s ever gone over 18 MPH.

It’s sports that New Yorkers love to bitch about most. And the hype preceding, as well as last night’s premiere of, “The Last Dance” has allowed the worst of the worst of New York’s self-flagellation-while-self-aggrandizing tendencies to step into the spotlight.

That would, of course, take the form of Knicks fans.

Apparently, a documentation of another team is the worst crime perpetrated on New York since Madoff, or Jimmy Fallon moving “The Tonight Show” there.

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I say this now to all Knicks fans — and New Yorkers, in general — as not even really a Bulls fan back in the day or now: Suck it.

Here’s the thing. The Knicks really matter to you. They’re the heartbeat of New York. Oh, I know. You’ll claim it’s the Yankees, trying to weasel some of their glow onto yourselves while ignoring that a pigeon and a cockroach are having a knife-fight over your exorbitant rent. There were even those three days in 1994 when you wanted to think the Rangers were.

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The Giants and Jets play in New Jersey, you don’t care.

But the Knicks, they’re New York. They unite everyone there. New York is one of the few places where basketball truly matters.

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We understand that, which is what makes the 1990s Bulls so much better. Here’s the thing: Chicagoans don’t really care about basketball. Never did. Don’t even know much about it. If you need proof, check out how much this city reveres the Ben Gordon or Derrick Rose-led Bulls teams, which went to exactly one conference final and promptly watched LeBron James pat them on the head and tell them how cute they were before punting them into Saturn’s rings.

Before Michael, basketball was a whisper in this town. And it is again. And life has pretty much continued unabated (in normal times). Chicago Stadium was half-full most every night. Then Jordan showed up. And what we have now are generations of Michael Jordan fans. It doesn’t really matter to us. We had fun, enjoyed the show, but it was the toy department. What mattered was how much it mattered to you.

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See, you’re not angry at the Knicks. Not really. You pretend you are, but you aren’t. What you’re angry about is that something truly great and wondrous took place and thrived somewhere else. You can’t stand that. You think that anything truly great and life-changing has to be in New York. The best have to play there or they aren’t the best, plain and simple. Your string of Yankees legends from Ruth to Mantle. Reggie Jackson is more an Athletic than a Yankee, but not to hear you or him tell it. Alex Rodriguez. Hoarding Gretzky and Messier again (though that didn’t really work out, did it?). Stealing Parcells from New England to come back to New York (though that didn’t really work out, did it?). Your constant fantasy that LeBron would come to New York simply because he had to. Where else could he go, you thought? This is where it matters. You were so sure. You’ve lost him twice.

Well, Jordan never came to you. He only came to New York to kick your ass. And he kicked your ass so hard that even you had to admit it mattered. You couldn’t pretend that it was less than simply because he wasn’t yours. Not only was this world class/divine being something you couldn’t have, he regularly reminded you of it. Rubbed your nose in it. And then he came back here, to a place that could truly love and cherish him, and not treat him as just another in a collection.

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We had listened to you champion your greatness for long enough. We bit our tongues with every mention of “Flyover Country,” or “Second City,” and the like. There was no point in arguing, because there’s never been a New Yorker who actually listened. Check the current president for any and all proof.

So we took what mattered most to you and then slapped you across the face with it. For an entire decade. You never recovered. You may never. We didn’t really need it. We weren’t even sure what it was. Probably still aren’t. What would have been a defining, city-uniting championship for you was just a party to us. All six of ’em. What you have dreamed of every day is simply a wall-hanging here. It’s an, “Oh yeah. Remember that?”

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And we gave you a chance. You needed Hue Hollins to bail you out. Because you would have lost to the Jordan-less Bulls if it wasn’t for Hollins. You needed simply lord-defying luck/cheating to get past a severely handicapped Bulls team. It had Pete Myers at the 2, for fuck’s sake! And what did it get you? John Starks playing Donkey Kong against Houston in Game 7 of the Finals. And it was over. Never to be heard from again. We let you have the floor, and you broke a heel and then cracked your teeth on it.

But don’t you get it, New York? Everyone else does.

THIS IS HOW YOU WANT IT.

You’re happier this way. When you get to complain, to wail, to curse your luck is exactly when you’re happiest. Y’see, championships and success in New York, they’re just status quo. Your entire persona, your attitude, your life, is built on the notion that you’re the best and there’s nowhere else to be. You’re not anything until you’re in New York, right? So titles and championships, they’re just confirmation. There’s no joy. There’s no elation. You think it’s just business as usual. A statement of what is and what’s always been.

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But this, this constantly being under the thumb...that’s when it’s different. When you feel unique. When you feel human. When you really FEEL something, anything. It’s the only time you do. You can’t know happiness. Fun. Delight. They escaped you long ago when you decided they were merely the standard. You erased them. But this drudgery that is the Knicks, and the constant reminders of how truly miserable they’ve been for decades, how miserable you’ve been for decades, that’s when you can stick out. That’s when you feel a connection to anyone else, to anything else.

You don’t hate the Bulls. You hate our ignorant joy. You hate our euphoria, because you’ll never have it. We get to strive for greatness, to reach for it, to work toward it. You take it as a given, and hence will never know when you have it. White Sox fans’ or Cubs fans’ one triumph means more to them than the 27 Yankees’ titles mean to Yankees fans combined. It’s a memory and fulfillment you’ll never know. They don’t stick out for you. We have beacons for our entire lives that we can always reflect on and be thrown right back into jubilation. You have blips, if that.

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So continue to light your candles every Sunday night, Knicks fans and New York. Continue to open however many veins you think are required. Cry into your Charles Oakley jerseys, and remember he was the last piece the Bulls had to discard before ascending into history, and we put him in the bin marked, “Knicks”.

Put on the video of Charles Smith unable to dunk with 17 attempts. You’re only feeding us more. You’re only propelling us to places you’ll never visit. You gave that up either when you moved to New York, or when you were born. Your parents, grandparents, ancestors sentenced you to this. And what did it cost you? $12 for a beer, that’s what.

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But it’s what you want. You know it, I know it, everyone knows it. This is what makes you feel anything but dead inside. Revel in it. We see you.

Also, The Strokes suck. Stop foisting them upon us.

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