So I’ve been thinking a lot about my basketball feelings since Tuesday night’s game, the 100-97 thriller over the Nets at the Barclays Center.
To see the Knicks steal one despite no real production out of Raymond Felton, the worst game of Tyson Chandler’s year, zero points from Steve Novak and Ronnie Brewer was enjoyable. To see Carmelo Anthony play at a level I really have never experienced a Knick playing at was spectacular (I became of fan awareness age for Patrick Ewing; Bernard King is just before my time).
But you know what I didn’t feel? Any particular glee at seeing the Knicks beat the Nets, in particular.
Not that I felt upset about seeing the Nets lose; it isn’t as if Mikhail Prokhorov’s billboards have inspired some kind of sympathy. Nor did the idea of switching loyalties ever make much sense to me; I don’t think one can choose such things, anyway. Just that seeing the Nets lose didn’t do anything for me.
You must not mistake me for someone too pure of soul to enjoy schadenfreude. Far from it; that’s among my favorite hobbies.
Accordingly, part of the joy from seeing the Knicks beat the Miami Heat, twice, by 20, was seeing the Heat lose, twice, by 20. Even writing that sentence was fun.
The same is true of the Knicks beating the Celtics, which actually happens now, but didn’t for around a decade, and the Sixers, too. Even the Pacers, mostly due to residual Reggie Miller dislike.
So what gives here?
I think there are a few moving parts at play.
One is, I grew up just outside of Philadelphia, with my fandom chronology ranging from early Ewing to the present. Well, for most of the 15-year run Ewing and the Knicks had in the playoffs, the Nets were awful. They largely existed as a reasonable road trip from my South Jersey home, if I wanted to see the Knicks play with a largely Knicks-friendly crowd, at often reduced prices. It was easier than getting tickets to the Spectrum, and MUCH easier than getting into Madison Square Garden.
And during the past decade, when the Jason Kidd Nets had their success, the Knicks were simply in no position to do anything. It was hard to feel anger at the Nets’ fans, either. Who could really say they didn’t deserve some success, or that the Kidd years would come close to making up for the original sin of letting Julius Erving get away? They made the finals? Great, Knicks weren’t going, anyway.
And now? They’re in Brooklyn. It’s like seeing an acquaintance finally move out of his parents’ basement. You don’t exactly feel like you’re missing out by not having his life; just vaguely happy he’s getting himself together.
This new Nets team isn’t filled with hatred-inspiring players, either. Who am I supposed to dislike? Reggie Evans, the most 90s-Knicks player in the league? Andray Blatche, for maturing? Joe Johnson, for being good, just not worth his contract? Kris Humphries, for marrying poorly? Deron Williams, a class act playing hurt? I mean, where’s the hate supposed to come from?
Even dealing with the Nets professionally has been a pleasure. The staff is responsive and attentive.
Ultimately, I suspect the dislike will come from the same place as the passion we’ll eventually see in Brooklyn among home fans: the passage of time, grudges and slights still in the future. Remember, at one point, the Miami Heat were just a harmless squad led by Rory Sparrow.
So I’m just throwing this out there. Am I the only one who feels this way? Or are you all feeling the same way?