From what I understand, it is difficult for someone who has never been to New York to fathom the difference between New York City and New York state.
New York City is what you see more often than not on TV. Skyscrapers. Times Square. Yankee Stadium.
Contrary to what some may think, Niagara Falls, Syracuse, Buffalo, Albany, Rochester and Binghamton are not suburbs of New York City. Contrary to what many in New York City think, you can go a lot further Upstate than Poughkeepsie.
Once you do so, you discover an entirely different demographic. Upstate New York's cities are more like traditional rust-belt towns than modern centers of urban culture. Upstate is blue-collar, hard scrabble, t-shirt and jeans country.
Upstate New York, really, is like every place in the U.S. not named New York City or Los Angeles.
The people who live there, for the most part, have a minimal interest in NBA basketball, let alone the New York Knicks. You're likely to run into more Boston Celtic fans than Knick fans once you go pretty much anywhere North or West of Albany.
I have this not-so-common knowledge as a result of growing up in Upstate New York.
From what I've seen, whenever possible, "Upstaters" want to separate themselves from anything that is New York City. This includes allegiances to sports teams. And when they can't do that, they'll do the next best thing: they'll root for the lesser of two evils.
The New York Yankees seem to be the only exception to that rule, mostly due to their history.
The New York football team of choice upstate is the Bills. After that, you'll find more Giants fans than Jets fans, nowadays a likely side-effect of the Jersey Shore-like reality show the Jets have become.
Upstaters are not much for drama or trash-talk. Do the job, punch the clock, collect the check and go home. That's how we live and we want our sports the same way.
So now, for the first time since 1977, New Yorkers, upstate, city and Long Island, have two NBA teams: the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets.
The re-branding and relocation of the Nets is going to attract a newer, younger fanbase. We know this because young people flock to anything new and fresh. Kids who grew up in the five burroughs rooting for the Knicks just because their parents did are going to make a choice to jump on a new bandwagon. They don't care what you think.
People in mid-sized towns upstate like Canandaigua and Rome who are tired of seeing New York Knick drama show up in their local papers as if they are supposed to care are going to start rooting for the new guy to quiet the needless hype. They can relate to Brooklyn more than Manhattan. They will become Net fans without really knowing it.
They'll see Deron Williams, a working man's point guard, running the show for the Nets, distributing the ball to workman-like players such as Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson.
People like myself, who grew up a Celtics fan as a result of half of my family hailing from New England and convincing me that Larry Bird and St. Peter were equals, are going to take pleasure in watching the Knicks play second-fiddle in their own town for at least a season or two.
We'll watch with great anticipation to see if the Nets can overtake the Knicks and make them the Clippers of the East coast's premier city. I might even make the trip to catch a game.
We relate to and like Jay-Z, as many of us thirty-somethings grew up with his music serving as at least some of the soundtrack to our youth. We'll want to see his latest endeavor succeed in an arena that was designed with such a look that it could just as easily be sitting in downtown Elmira as it could Brooklyn.
The Knicks will continue to draw crowds to their Manhattan home like they always do, but as time goes on, the Knicks will become the Angels or Cubs—the team of choice for tourists and yuppies; while the Nets will become the Dodgers or White Sox—the team of choice of the blue-collar hometown sports fan.
Upstate sports fans and New York City youth, I am confident, will serve as the catalysts that will rename the Nets one more time. They will be the deciding factors that lead to the words "Brooklyn Nets: New York State's NBA team."
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