Now that the Yankee ticker tape has been swept into the sewers, it is past time for something corrective.
Because, Yankees fans have been wandering the streets with nitrous oxide grins; you people all look like you just walked out of a hash house. Some action simply must be taken. This is no kind of winter posture for the cold, mean streets of New York. Time for some mean drug to alter the consciousness before this place lapses utterly into a lurid pleasuredome.
Luckily, for all involved, there is the delightful, reverse Midas touch New Jersey Nets.
As has so frequently been the case throughout history, something magical is happening in the air over Newark. As of this writing, the Nets are now 1-19, the single worst start in NBA history. They have fired their long time coach Lawrence Frank, by all accounts a nice man, and very fine coach who won more games than any other in franchise history. This is like expelling a dissident from a gulag, with a cash settlement. (It will seem even more like this at the end of next month, if the NBA approves the sale of the Nets to a Russian tycoon named Mikhail Prokhorov, who by the accepted logic of stereotype, can only be acquiring the franchise for the most disturbing of pretexts.) In any event, we should all be exactly as lucky as Lawrence Frank.
To area fans the Nets have always been a non-descript afterthought. Even during their runs to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003, they were not an easy team to become invested in. Those teams were helmed by roughnecks like Kenyon Martin and the admittedly brilliant but thoroughly unlovable Jason Kidd. They were plainly built to be the best team in a weak East, but never really stood a shot at a championship against Western Conference powers like the Lakers and Spurs. They were good teams with an expiration date built into the finals. And they weren’t all that much fun to watch.
This Nets team is different: this is the most exciting moment in franchise history. They stand on the verge of accomplishing something so distinguished that this metropolis must do nothing more or less then hoist them on their shoulders and declare them their team of the winter, spring and summer: their dark heroes of oblivion.
Consider the special course that they have taken. They have not gone through the inadequate, piecemeal rebuilding which characterizes the Knicks long, slow climb back to mediocrity. To the contrary: this organization has laid it on the line. With arduous commitment, they have decided to lose every single game.
There are generally two schools of thought on the Nets. One is that they are young, injured to the point of triage and building for the future. Devin Harris and Brooks Lopez are commodities with the potential to grow into the cornerstones of a serious, long running Eastern Conference contender. Were they eventually able to add a superstar along the lines of Lebron James or even Chris Bosh, this train wreck could shortly manifest itself into an outright championship threat for years to follow.
The other propagated notion is that this cursed franchise has only a dark and unsettling future. The long rumored move to Brooklyn remains an ephemera, and as likely as not will never take place. Some believe the team will remain in an extended purgatory of losing seasons and low attendance, until eventually they are contracted, quietly moved to St. Louis, or simply forgotten to be added to the 2012 schedule entirely.
The correct answer to this question is: who cares? The time is now! The moment is upon us. We are 1-19, and we are clearly in a position to challenge the ’72-’73 Philadelphia 76ers for the worst record in NBA history. That team went a daunting 9-73. Like DiMaggio’s hit streak, it is a record which may never be broken. But god love the Nets, they do have that chance.
This is absolutely crucial. Following this year’s World Series, what better reprisal of the never ending New York and Philadelphia rivalry could exist then this: our best is better than your best, and our WORST is so degraded that we can render your view of failure mere paltry? You can’t beat us in ANYTHING.
New Yorkers now need to think of this Nets team the same way they once did the 1995 Yankees who won 114 games. The hallowed passages of greatness achieved by that team, in the likes of Jeter, O’Neil, Rivera and Williams are in some ways not so different from what we now require from Rafer Alston, Keyon Dooling and Jarvis Hayes. Having started something, we need to finish it. All hands must be on deck. Cheering for the Nets to fulfill their destiny, that is now our bailiwick. We can do 8-74.
No one remembers the 20-win team, but my word, if we could somehow only win 8. Eight is enough to fill our lives with love.