Friday, November 2, 2012

Change You Can Believe In

Make the switch
So with the Brooklyn Nets about to make their debut -- and yes, it should have happened already, but once a century hurricanes are not to be denied -- there's all kinds of noise over whether or not its OK for long-suffering Knicks fans to shed their team allegiance for the shiny new club.

As you might imagine, I have some opinions about this.

First and foremost -- if you have the flexibility to change your allegiance as an adult without wild swings of cognitive dissonance... I envy you. Immensely.

When I was a tween and the Ron Jaworski Eagles were in decline, my family remained huge Eagles fans. Those were lean and awful years, with the Cowboys, Redskins and Giants taking turns winning it all, and my naive childhood dreams of Philadelphia being a City of Champions (seriously, look at what happened from 1976 to 1982, and then the five years after of horror)... well, I still watched every game and died with them. But I also started to root for the Packers (great jerseys, fun teams, crazy snow visuals, etc.), and then the Niners, mostly because they were the teams that you had to root for if you didn't want to see the Skins, Giants and Cowboys win.

Had I gone from dalliance to fandom for either of those franchises, my football fandom for the past two decades would have been immensely better. Instead of a seemingly endless collection of Detmers and overly cautious or overly turnover prone false contenders, I'd have been wallowing in the Montana-Favre-Young-Rodgers eras, which is to say, four guys who are all going to Canton for more than the tour. Instead of multiple NFC championship title losses and a single Super Bowl loss, I'd have my pick of over a half dozen title runs, and both teams have employed quality linebackers in the past ten years with actually sane levels of run-pass ratio.

Instead, um, I got Andy Reid. So, um, yay me.

Now, it hasn't been all bad: for much of the century, only the Giants have had a better time watching their club in the division, there were actual playoff wins and contention of a sort, and there were rarely years in which the start was devoid of hope. So while I'm envious of other team's fans, I don't really have a good reason to just change my affiliation.

Knicks fans? Oh dear heaven, do you have more cause.

First off is location; if you live in Brooklyn, you have a team now, for the first time in 50+ years. Embrace them. Outside of the borough, it's a little sketchier, but that's where the Knicks work their magic.

From Eddy Curry to Isiah Thomas to the Jeremy Lin travesty, this franchise has done nothing -- nothing -- but play the fans like marks at the world's worst carnival. And at the highest prices in the Association. One playoff win -- one! in forever! in an Association where over half of the teams go every year! -- in this century, and that was a 3-0 save face moment against a disinterested Heat team. Ted Dolan isn't elderly, tied in with some deus ex machina Madoff scam, or, well, going anywhere, This is a swamp of eternity, to the point where many Knicks loyalists feel stupid to stay.

Now, the other side.

Changing your fandom is unnatural. You'll feel self-conscious about it for a long time, and dislike many of the come-lately fans around you, especially if you are past a certain age. Especially for a franchise like the Nets, who have been cursed historically and are more or less tossing the last 35 years in the dumpster (despite, well, much more playoff success than the Knicks, thanks to the Jason Kidd years), the sense of Instant Invention is off-putting.

Secondly, there's a very real possibility that all you are doing in going from the Knicks to the Nets is taking a shinier ride to nowhere. That Joe Jackson contract is a killer, Deron Williams is already talking about bone spurs in his feet that are going to limit him all year, Brook Lopez might be the worst rebounding 7-footer in recent NBA history, and the brain trust of Billy King and Crazy Russian Owner doesn't exactly scream out long-term growth. I like the Nets' talent this year, and I still don't see them getting a home court edge in the playoffs or going deep. Being a Brooklyn Nets fan might never be any better than right now, when they still haven't actually played a game.

Having said all of that, to me, the choice is clear. The Nets have hope. The Knicks do not. The Nets have an owner that may learn from his mistakes. The Knicks have an owner that is a mistake. The Nets have a fan base that isn't going to be couched in old money and defeat, in a market where shiny is more important than winning.

So, if you live in New York, and you can... by all means, run, do not walk, away from the Knicks.

But run there once, and don't come back if the Knicks are somehow better this year. You get to make this move once, not twice.

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