By Michael Bernardo
You must have a special heart to be a fan of blue and orange teams in New York City.
The biggest city in the world plays host to two sports teams of these colors… well, three if you’re an original fan of the Islanders whose Long Island pride was big enough to force them out of the Nassau Coliseum and into the Barclays Center… but that’s another disaster for another day. I’m talking about the New York Mets and New York Knicks.
To be a Met fan in New York, you probably were forced into it through generations of Met fans that date as far back as those who rooted for the Brooklyn Dodgers or New York Giants before their sad departures to the west coast roughly 60 years ago. I say that because nobody is a Met fan by choice. If you’re a Knick fan, it’s more than likely an inherited trait as well. You may be a fan of the original New York Nets of the ABA (history lesson kids, go educate yourselves). But if that’s the case you may be hiding under a rock to hide your face from being shown at the Barclays Center to root for the Brooklyn Nets, who may be worse off than either of these teams. However, the blue and orange teams of New York have some distinct similarities that may not make you feel good about spending your paychecks at their next home game.
First and foremost, as a fan of the Knicks and Mets for the entirety of my 24 years on this Earth, I know one thing: heartbreak is destined in one form or another. These are two franchises with minimal post season success, and even less championship success with two rings to show for each team. To make matters worse, their league rivals have enjoyed years of success while we have endured years of misery, ie. the Celtics of the 1960s and 1980s, the Lakers of the 1980s and 2000s, the Bulls of the 1990s, the Braves of the 1990s, the Nationals currently, and do I even have to mention the Yankees?
Don’t get me wrong, both franchises have showcased Hall of Fame players: Tom Seaver, Mike Piazza, Patrick Ewing, Walt Frazier, among others, but they also have had more than their share of players who either had potential and lost it, were at the tail end of their career, or enjoyed success for another team: Doc Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, David Wright, Nolan Ryan (another history lesson kids), Justin Turner, Daniel Murphy, Penny Hardaway, Tracy McGrady…you get my point here… Their postseason success has been minimal, but nonetheless has ended in heartbreak every single time.
During my lifetime, the Mets have made it to the postseason five times, with two trips to the World Series. But I’ve never celebrated on Broadway at the Ticker Tape Parade in October. The Knicks have had even more postseason success since 1993 as they’ve reached the playoffs 14 straight times from 1987-2001. But #23 on the Chicago Bulls had something to say in many of those playoff appearances. However, when he went on to play Baseball that one summer or enjoyed his second of three retirements, the Knicks made it to the Finals twice. But if you’re ever having a bad shooting game, look up John Starks in the 1994 NBA Finals Game 7 and you’ll feel better about yourself. And instead of partying like it’s 1999, Patrick Ewing took a backseat to injuries and lost to the Spurs in 1999 NBA Finals as the reign of Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich would begin. Although the Knicks were the first, and still only, 8th seed to reach the NBA Finals.
Heartbreak from these teams doesn’t only come from the within the playing boundaries. There have been some mishandlings from the front offices as well. And by some, I mean too many for even the most inept of franchises. Let’s start with the Mets.
Ownership has been a disaster since the start of the century. Fred and Jeff Wilpon’s involvement in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme has crippled them financially and resulted to this day in the team acting as if they were a mid-level market when it comes to paying players. Look up Bobby Bonilla Day and I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of it; unless you’re a Met fan. Then you’ll probably just cry. Injuries and the front office’s inability to manage them has also been notorious with the Mets. Those in charge of player development, the medical team, and the training staff have also made questionable calls. There have been many occasions where the medical staff had misdiagnosed an injury, causing the player to come back prematurely and worsen his ailment. Personnel has also played a role in the injury department as many times, the press conference would down play the severity of the injury, leaving fans to feel a bit better only to later learn that they were lied to. Then of course, there’s James Dolan.
If I wrote out and explained all of the reasons why James Dolan has ruined the Knicks, I’d be writing a 12 volume novel. But for now, I’ll just give the abridged version. Player relationships have all but diminished, especially after the latest debacle with ’90s great Charles Oakley being escorted out of the Garden with direct order from Dolan himself. Ticket prices have skyrocketed through the roof with an under-performing team because of both questionable contracts and personnel hirings; Isiah Thomas and Phil Jackson as General Manager, and many…many…many contracts to players who were both overpaid and well past their prime. The Mecca of Basketball known as Madison Square Garden has been anything but, solely because of this man’s reign of terror.
So there you have it kids. Feel bad about hopping on the bandwagon for the Cavs or Warriors? Probably not. But then again, any sh*tty team’s fan base would jump right over to the hottest team in their sport. But not fans of the Knicks and Mets. To be a fan of the Blue and Orange means sticking with them through and through, thick and thin no matter what. Yeah it might suck. I’m sure I’d be a much happier fan rooting for the Pinstripes or the Warriors. There are plenty of sports fans that only root for the hot team just because. But that’s not what these fans do. If there’s one thing I can say about being a fan of the Knicks and Mets, it’s that while it’s miserable, it’s real.