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It's time for a sports divorce...

I think I'm ready for the ultimate sin a sports fan can create:

I'm going to change my loyalty from one team to another.

See, here's the thing: As a kid, I had favourite players, but not so much teams; I would root for a team because of my favourite player, with the only exception of the Canucks, who I was raised into loving. When I was little - very little, we're talking 7 - 10 - my favourite baseball player was Don Mattingly, so I would watch the Yankees. My favourite football player was Walter Payton (Tecmo Bowl didn't hurt! XD), so I would watch the Bears when I could. Hockey, I was a huge Beezer (John Vanbiesbrouck, before he started hating black people) fan, so I grew into the Rangers (though I could never leave the Canucks behind; I figured "Hey, it's not like they're going to play a meaningful game against each other, right?", being in different conferences... that's right, even what was supposed to be my proudest moment as a sports fan is tainted and bittersweet). And Basketball, I IDOLIZED Larry Bird, so I watched the Celtics.

As I grew up, I started to attain some reason, and started gravitating to actual teams, as I learned that players weren't always attached to their teams. In Baseball, as Mattingly had some AWFUL years because of his back (and the Yankees followed suit), I started rooting for the Mets, who I strangely fell in love with despite them also sucking back then (here's a hint: whenever you have something called the "Todd Hundley Era", usually, mention of said era is followed by a lot of cursing). In football, I couldn't watch the Bears, so I fell in love with the Jets (who also sucked). Hockey, my allegiances stayed true, as I split my love for the Rangers and Canucks. And in basketball, I couldn't help but adore the New York Knicks, who had the benefit of being 1) from New York (I've always favoured New York sports over New England), 2) having some players I adored as a kid (I was and still am a huge John Starks fan, even after 2-18), and 3) were not only good, but TOUGH. If that 1994 Knicks team played in today's post-Auburn Hills brawl NBA, they'd lose every game 165-60 because all of their big players would have 60 game suspensions for fighting and they'd be rotating guys on 10 day contracts, and they'd have Barbara Walters specials dedicated to the "Thugs of Sport". They made most hockey teams look like pussies.

It was rough being a Knicks fan because the team was good, but could never get over that hump; something ALWAYS got in the way. First it was Charles Smith putting up about 2343423324 put-backs on what had suddenly become one of those trainer rims that are about as wide as the ball, and the Knicks losing that 1993 playoff series. Then, in 1994, in a series that most people remember because the OJ Simpson car chase interrupted it, the Knicks got the Houston Rockets to game 7, only for 2-18 to happen (when I reference "2-18", that is a reference to John Starks - a late replacement in place of Rolando Blackman - shooting 2-18 in that game. He was always a streak shooter, and the way to break a bad streak is to keep shooting... but that game was torture to watch, and I remember getting slapped because I screamed "STOP FUCKING SHOOTING!!!" at the TV. Remember, I was barely 14. XD). The rest of the mid-90s involved the Knicks never really getting anything going, and becoming more limited as their star, Patrick Ewing, got older, and started losing skills but not ego. The Knicks, in a shortened 1999 season, made a surprise run to the NBA Finals, only to get their asses handed to them by the San Antonio Spurs, and that was about it for the Knicks in terms of relevance to the NBA's standings.

At that point, they started some lean years, marked by some very bad free-agent signings, some very bad trades and some very bad drafting, as the Knicks didn't make the playoffs for a while to start this decade. Due to their salary figures - combined with the fact that there's a soft salary cap in the NBA, that limits teams going over it in terms of flexibility - they had become a running joke within the NBA, as GM Scott Layden took most of the fall for it. There was a coaching carousel thet read like Genesis; Riley begat Van Gundy, who begat Chaney, who begat Wilkens, who begat Williams. And their record suffered, as there was some lean times.

Then, Jimmy Dolan (I'm taking the cue of Bill Simmons; he's Jimmy Dolan to me), the most incompetent owner in sports since George W. Bush owned the Texas Rangers (and a bonus of being a world-class piece of shit), decided to drop a bomb: he hired Isiah Thomas as team president and GM. Thomas - always bombastic - shook things up firing Don Chaney for Lenny Wilkens (only the all-time winningest coach in history, in the Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach), and trading Howard Eisley, Charlie Ward, Antonio McDyess, Maciej Lampe, Milos Vujanic, two 1st round draft picks, a mint condition Frank Robinson bubblegum card, St. Charles Place and two railroads for Stephon Marbury, Cezary Trabanski and Salary Cap Albatros Penny Hardaway (to me, that's his official name). Admittedly, it was a good trade (despite Penny's contract), as the Knicks gave up just about nothing (McDyess was the only good player, and he was always injured and is a 6th man nowadays), and Marbury - for better or worse - is the face of the Knicks, and still a damn good player. People were talking about the Knicks again, and surprisingly, it wasn't all negative (for the record: I took a positive approach to the Thomas hiring, figuring we needed a shake-up).

However, the record only got worse, as the Knicks took on more and more bad contracts, culminating in the abominable signing of Jerome James. This led to Wilkens resigning and Herb Williams being brought in as a warm body coach. That didn't help things. Therefore, Thomas and Jimmy decided to bring in the biggest free-agent coach ever: Larry Brown. They saw it as a perfect combo; after all, Brown is known as a great coach when it comes to turning losing programmes around, he's a New York guy, and his stock was high from winning with Detroit. I saw it as a disaster in the making; the Knicks had too many egos for him (he needs players that are more or less obedient robots), they didn't play great defence, didn't have the tools to play defence well to begin with, and he was known for power struggles, and the Knicks front office is one of the worst in history in terms of political squabbling.

Somehow, I - and most of the tri-state area - were more accurate than the two men running my favourite basketball team into the ground. The Knicks finished 23-59, and the Brown era - one year - was marked with frequent lineup changes, a rookie class that bristled under the lack of playing time (Brown hates rookies, and that's more bothersome when you also take into effect that all three of them are potential All-Stars), and a career sabotage pulled off by Dolan, Thomas, and even Brown himself. It was an unarguable disaster. The only good that came out of it was that Thomas ended up coaching the team himself last year. I thought from the beginning that this was a good thing; Thomas is an underrated coach to begin with, and he's good at getting the players' ears. They almost made the playoffs, when they really had no business sniffing them.

That's bad enough. The mismanagement, the losing, that's all bad enough, I can take them; after all, I'm a Jets fan, right?

The final straw just happened. The sexual harassment trial of Anucha Browne-Sanders was a humiliating affair for Knicks fans. Between the stories of management back-biting, the lies that were coming out of Dolan's yes-men, the deposition of Dolan himself, the revelation that the man could care less that Isiah Thomas is destroying his team but goes through the outfits of the Knicks and Rangers dancers with fine-tooth combs, the statement by Thomas that while a white man calling a black woman a bitch was 100% unacceptable, a black man doing it wasn't nearly as bad, the former intern who absolutely blitzed Sanders in testimony AFTER fucking Stephon Marbury, and getting a tonne of promotions, and all the assorted details about this case, Dolan himself, and the way Thomas works... I'm humiliated and shamed. By the way, if you thought this was fun, they've got to handle another discrimination and harassment suit soon, from a Rangers Dancer who - surprise - was fired after complaining.

(Incidentally, for anyone that thinks the corporate world isn't the most soulless, cutthroat thing you can be involved in in modern day America, think of this: Sanders couldn't SHIFF another job because of this suit. She had to move to Buffalo, no one else would touch her. I wrote something a while back about a piece I saw on a job search site - had to be on Yahoo - that was about "what to do about sexual harassment". The answer to the question was: nothing, shut up, grin and bear it, and wear that push-up bra! The reasons were that it's still a man's world, most companies will just find a way to fire the squeaky wheel, and there's a chance that it will follow you around. I thought a woman telling other women to be glorified sex objects was horrifying and disgusting, and slammed the article, wondering how anyone could be such a soulless, mindless whore. Now I understand it's the only way to get anywhere in the corporate world, and that Ms. Browne-Sanders probably should make her $11.6M stretch, especially after the Knicks appeal and appeal and appeal, not with any hope of winning, but likely with the intention of pushing her lawyer fees up, to stick it to her the way they stuck it to Brown and the Rangers dancer, too)

Therefore, I've decided that I've had it. I'm divorcing my relationship with the New York Knickerbockers, and to tell the truth, I'm considering my relationship with the Rangers while James Dolan owns and runs them.

Now, that leaves me finding a new NBA team. That's not easy; for 16 years, all I've known was the Knicks, and whoever they were playing. I like Basketball, but not enough to order the Full Court package, you know? Of course, modern situations hamper things. I've come up with a few options:

* Boston Celtics - This is the easy choice, because they're 1) Local, 2) Bird's former team and by extension who I supported in the 80s, and 3) might be very, very good now. However, that last part is what makes me flinch; I'm afraid of being viewed as a front-runner now that they have Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to go with Paul Pierce. On the flip side, in three years, when Allen falls apart, and Pierce and Garnett are too old to do anything, and they plummet back down to Earth, "front runner" is the last thing I'll be called.

* Dallas Mavericks - I am a huge, unapologetic Mark Cuban fan, and can only pray that the old cunts that run Major League Baseball let him buy the Cubs so he can make them relevant again (I also wanted him to buy the Penguins, if only because he wouldn't move them to *insert non-hockey American city here*. Cuban has turned the Mavericks from a running NBA joke to not only a very good NBA team, but also one of the most progressive (it's the favourite place for players to play, he takes care of his players and general employees alike). However, once he sells or moves on, there is no longer a reason to root for Dallas, as I can't follow the team well from here, and I simply do not like much about Texas. Sorry, Dale.

* Wherever Gilbert Arenas plays - He's the Mark Cuban of players. I adore this guy, not only because he's a good player who pulled himself out of some tough situations, but also because he's brutally honest about everything. How many people would say "I'm opting out in a year, I have to get a bigger contract, sorry guys! ^__^"!?

* Toronto Raptors - Obligatory Token Canadian team.

* Become a basketball vagabond - I admit that when it comes to watching basketball, I don't like the NBA much - I'd rather watch the women's game - but this option gives me the most freedom. I can unapologetically follow whatever trend that suits me, to my heart's content. "Arenas is playing in Memphis? I'm a Lakers fan now! Oh, there's an expansion team going to Vegas? Go Hookers!". The bad part of this is that it makes me feel dirty.



As any sports fan can attest to, it's never easy saying "I no longer like my team... I can't stand them". Allegiances are never easily moved, and there's always a part of that team in anyone that does switch (unless you're Liz, and another Canadian team has a really hot goaltender *SHOT* XD), and I admit a large part of guys like Allan Houston, John Starks, Patrick Ewing, David Lee and even Stephon and Isiah will stick with me as I root for whoever I choose (likely Boston). But... it's time. And I cannot stand to support a team that has been like this for this long, not just losing on the scoreboard but losing as people as well.

Comments

samuraiter
Oct. 7th, 2007 01:26 pm (UTC)
Mark Cuban has the balls to attempt Dancing With The Stars. Give the Mavericks a go, I say.

Baseball bores me, but, in football, I used to support the Steelers ... 'til the Bengals had the one year in which they did not suck. Then, I switched. Then, the Steelers injured our QB. After that, never a Steelers fan again. :-( I find it safest to support the Patriots, nowadays, since they have a solid team, and the Colts are more or less local, so ... no shame there, either.