Let's assume for a second that you are actually from New York, or from somewhere reasonably close to New York that did not have its own viable NBA franchise for which you could root. Connecticut, perhaps, or even New Jersey! It's likely that at some point in your life, during the 90s, probably, the New York Knickerbockers became, as the iconic PA announcement goes, your New York Knickerbockers.
You remember all those deep playoff runs: the endless battles with Michael Jordan's Bulls or Reggie Miller's Pacers. Larry Johnson's 4-point play. John Starks' crazy, left-handed dunk over Jordan and Horace Grant. And you also remember Charles Smith. Fucking Charles Smith. It was insanely fun, the whole thing, but it was ultimately heartbreaking. There are regrets. There's unfinished business. The faintest hint of promise that some day they'll get it right.
And that hint of promise, along with the very distinct possibility that your whole life will go by without them ever getting it right, is important. It's one of the ways sports can mirror real life: you get up each day with the hope that it will be better than the one before it, that despite all the things you kind of fuck up and maybe don't do to the absolute best of your abilities, you'll figure out some far-flung way to get it all figured out, even if deep down you only barely believe it to be true. Maybe it's no way to live, but that's never stopped you before.
It would be easier, of course, to simply reinvent yourself as something else entirely—to walk away and start fresh, refusing to recognize the ghosts that once haunted you, to the point where they will cease to exist. Just like that, freedom would be yours.
This is precisely the opportunity the Brooklyn Nets are providing for millions of New Yorkers. They've got a shiny (but also sort of rusty) new arena, a sleek new logo, and the support of the most famous rapper alive. You could buy a new hat! Maybe a t-shirt! While at the same time aligning yourself with the most in vogue of our five boroughs! And you'd never again have to think about James Dolan, or about any single aspect of the Isiah Thomas, Stephon Marbury, Eddy Curry or Amare Stoudemire debacles.
It's tempting, but you should resist.
This city is full of people who've reinvented themselves, people who were in a situation that was not to their liking and who reached deep down and found the courage to change it. It is without question the single biggest reason New York is such a great place. But this sense that New York gives you, that you can or should be able to just change every single thing about the world around you, is what makes us seem so spoiled, so disconnected from the rest of the country.
We have everything we could ever possibly want right here at our fingertips—we have great schools, great culture, access to jobs in any just about professional industry you can imagine. It's the kind of place where you're never stuck with anything. Don't like your career path? Try a different one. Sick of the food options around you? Just walk a few blocks in another direction. Don't like the old buildings around you? Not to worry—a developer will probably come in and knock them down anyway. I'm not suggesting you need to apologize for your wealth of options; hell, you were lucky enough to be born here or brave enough to have moved here, so good for you—all those options are your due reward.
But would it really be so bad to have one aspect of your life where you simply deal with the hand you were dealt? Where rather than correcting anything that could possibly seen as a flaw, some ugly mark on your otherwise perfectly cool and desirable lifestyle, you give yourself over to it entirely? Embrace the constant disappointment, find honor in it. Use it to learn about how the rest of the world lives, or about how you used to live before you broke free in all those other ways. Allow yourself to be stuck with something, to rely on that hint of promise when you're thinking of jumping ship.
It's only sports. But it's also not.