My baseball and basketball allegiances sincerely belong to the New York Yankees and New Jersey Nets. Recently, being a fan of one has affected how I am a fan of the other. The Yankees are 2009 World Series Champions! Their rise to the top comes after a period of relative mediocrity following a depressing loss to the Boston Red Sox in 2004’s ALCS; One of the best times to be a Yankee fan closely following one of the worst. The opposite is true for the New Jersey Nets. After an unlikely and exciting period of success between 2002 and 2007, which saw multiple playoff and NBA finals appearances, the Nets have fallen into oblivion. They are now hoping to avoid the worst record in NBA history; One of the worst times to be a Nets fan closely following one of the best.
The 2009 World Champion Yankee team won with superior hitting, pitching and desire. The Yankees simply outplayed their competition throughout the post-season. Some striking post-season statistics taken from my Sports Illustrated “World Champions 2009 Commemorative Issue”:
- Alex Rodriguez batted .365 with 6 Home Runs, 18 RBIs and 2 Stolen Bases
- Hideki Matsui batted .349 with 4 Home Runs and 13 RBIs, 6 of them coming in the 6th and final game of the World Series
- CC Sabathia pitched for 3 Wins and 1 Loss in 5 Games with a 1.98 ERA and 32 Strikeouts over 36.333 innings
- Mariano Rivera pitched for 5 Saves in 12 Games with a 0.56 ERA and 14 Strikeouts over 16 innings
Undeniably impressive stats, and only a sample of how well the Yankees played throughout the postseason. Heads up base running, come from behind wins, and an important mental victories (LA Angels of Anaheim) were also keynotes during their Championship run. Let’s not forget the Yankees three-man rotation that exemplified a desire to win. Stats and attitude aside, the Yankees also featured, and still do, the largest payroll in Major League Baseball. This cannot be overlooked.
Changing gears to the New Jersey Nets; I cannot stand Nets bashing, particularly from New York Knicks and Boston Celtics fans (which occurs often). How is it that persons who “supposedly” cheer for teams with unlimited money, enormous fan bases, and enviable venues can pick on the Nets. For years, the Nets admirably made themselves relevant with tight money, a lousy fan base, and one of the worst arenas in all sports. They did so in a conference featuring the Knicks, Celtics and Bulls; Teams with rich histories and loose fiscal policies.
As the second half of the NBA season begins, and summer’s free agency draws closer, all eyes will focus on Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, top tier free agents, and the New York Knicks copious amount of cap space. In all likelihood the New York Knicks will land one, if not two, top free agents because they can offer more money than anyone else. Additionally athletes can earn more money from endorsement deals in New York City than elsewhere. There is plenty of financial incentive to join a team like the Knicks. Where does this leave the Nets? Where they are right now -struggling. It would KILL ME to see Lebron James join the New York Knicks. Surely he would not join to play for a dysfunctional owner, or the large yet flip floppy fan base, or to play in his hometown. Money is driving the Knicks appeal.
So to my ultimate point; The realizations I face being a Nets fan have drastically affected how I am a Yankee fan. The Knicks are attractive to free agents (likely becoming a quality team next) solely because of financial incentives. Methods also endorsed by my beloved New York Yankees. They can offer more financially than anyone else. While I love the Yankees, I wish my team had a more organic, more genuine feel to them. Should the Yankees repeat as champions, I will surely be excited, but it will feel watered down. It is a shame that athletes place so much value on max contracts and financial incentives, not their sport.