By Jason Keidel
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There's no playbook, rule book or treatise on team loyalty. But there's an implicit agreement among men that once we fly the flag of a sports franchise we are with them until we expire.
We don't know where this preteen omerta originated. But even as children we're chided for switching sports allegiances.
Why? Why must the masochism apply to the one place we find pleasure, our oasis from he monotonous mediocrity of life. We squat in some cubicle nine hours a day for a decade, only to have our self-esteem further bludgeoned by our baseball or basketball team.
Joe Benigno and Jody McDonald mused over the idea of fandom yesterday, saying that some poor chap born in 1980 and bequeathed the most unholy trinity of Jets-Mets-Knicks has nothing of note over which to cheer, recall, or rejoice. You were five or six when the Mets won, which doesn't count. The Jets-Joe Namath duet predates my middle-aged behind. And the Knicks, are, well, maybe the worst franchise in basketball, if not pro team sports.
The Mets actually have a fertile future, a conga line of young arms in the waiting, and with Matt Harvey on the marquee in 2015. If you can bear another likely plunge down the NL East this year, the Mets should actually wrestle for a playoff spot soon. Maybe you can take a nine-month nap in the interim.
And while the Jets, in a strictly statistical sense, are the worst of the bunch, having the longest title drought, they were one win from a playoff perch last year. They drafted the defensive rookie of the year (Sheldon Richardson), and even Dee Milliner showed some promise at the end of 2013.
If Geno Smith, Mike Vick or some QB vagabond can bring some stability under center, the Jets can return to their more palatable place they reached during Rex Ryan's honeymoon years.
But the Knicks? There are no adjectives, cliches, promises or platitudes that can turn this tanker around. And the worst part is they cannot be fixed because the main problem is the man holding the remote.
One of the problems being born a billionaire is there are no life lessons to be learned. At least not any with of genuine consequence. So when Jim Dolan wrecks another season for no reason there is no one to taunt him, haunt him or fire him.
When Raymond Felton is the talk of the town then you have a franchise fractured beyond repair. It was nauseating to hear the homers at MSG gush and giggle over their useless win last night, snapping a seven-game losing streak, nudging them to 17 games UNDER .500.
You'd have thought the Knicks were Notre Dame ending UCLA's 88-game winning streak. The shills behind the mahogany at MSG have some of the most dizzying array of excuses in the catalogue after each game. They don't even analyze. They apologize.
Carmelo Anthony, who can't lead a good team to a title, is seriously pondering his exit strategy. I heard a fascinating stat from Elias. Joakim Noah, the Bulls' hyperactive big man has had a lovely 2014. Since February 1, the Bulls' Energizer Bunny has had four games with at leat ten assists. Carmelo Anthony has had five such games in ELEVEN years.
But despite my notorious hatred of Melo's game, this season isn't on him. Indeed, Melo has played well above his wretched teammates, coach, owner, arena, etc. While it was a joke to expect the Knicks to repeat last year's obvious anomaly (54 wins), no one saw this unnatural disaster coming.
There's some kind of fan protest this month, which is the ultimate irony. disgusted Knicks fans are actually taking time off from work, taking it to the street, to remind themselves and to show the world how addicted they are to this grotesque franchise and, by extension, addicted to the endless perils and pain that comes with rooting for this wretched organization.
I don't even hate the Knicks anymore, nor am I as troubled by the Carmelo Kool Aid gang. It makes perfect sense now that you're really bipolar over this since the Knicks have sent you so many conflicting messages over the year. What else could you be? Other than jaded, disgusted and defeated.
And while I could go on for days about Melo, he's never been the source of their hideous history. It was Dolan, is Dolan, and will be Dolan. Until daddy takes back the remote.
So why not leave? I say it's okay because I did it, of course. While the media was mauling Pat "The Rat" Riley for fleeing the Big Apple or South Beach - a move that makes serious sense in retrospect - they missed the point. Pat Riley leaving wasn't the mistake. Letting him go was.
And with him went yours truly. I saw, smelled and sensed the writing on the wall. Forget Magic and Showtime for a moment. What he did in New York alone, remolding the moribund Knicks into a team that was a whisker from a championship, was enough to warrant a serious bump in salary and power.
But the Dolans just watched him walk. Any team dumb enough to let Pat Riley stroll out the door doesn't deserve my support. Nor do they deserve yours. The problem, of course, is you can't really latch onto another club with any real sense of excitement.
There's an almost pubescent excitement that comes with picking your team for good, like a skin tag or spiritual tattoo. You're gonna ride with these dudes until you die. How's that going? And why should you put all the effort into a relationship? Indeed, if you left the Knicks now, it wouldn't be pleasant, but it would be prudent. And you'd save yourself decades of defeat, money and self-loathing.
Of course, Riley has run the Heat like a real boss, with three titles into his tenure, and a fourth likely this June. Why would the Knicks want any part of that? Why get Dwyane Wade and Shaq and then LeBron and Bosh when you can have Felton, J.R. Smith, Andrea Bargnani, and no first-round pick for the most fertile draft class this century?
It's easy to label the Knicks losers. But why must we join them? They say not just a tree but also a team grows in Brooklyn.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel
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