If the battle for ownership of New York basketball between the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets were a championship prizefight, the Nets would be up on the scorecards after the first round.
The Nets' 96-89 overtime win on Monday over the Knicks at the Barclays Center earned them a 10-9 round. It wasn't a one-sided, 10-8 type round; the Knicks never tasted the canvas, and they certainly were never down for the count. The corner never threw the towel in. Rather, both the Knicks and Nets tasted some leather, had some good exchanges and went back to their corners on their feet. The difference being that the Nets are now sitting on their stool breathing just a bit easier knowing that they're up, ever so slightly.
Rivalries can be created in one game but they can't be decided in one. But when you came to your senses on Tuesday morning, that's exactly what a lot of people want you to believe. Supremacy in New York is now officially up for grabs, or at worst if you're a Knicks fan, owned by the Nets.
Ian O'Connor of ESPN New York wrote in a column on Tuesday morning:
"So the Knicks should be afraid of Brooklyn, very, very afraid. They shouldn't worry so much about getting out of the East, not when there's suddenly a real reason to believe they might not get out of New York."
With all due respect, Mr. O'Connor, that is simply asinine. What do the Knicks have to be afraid of? So since the Nets beat them on Monday, are no fans going to show up at Madison Square Garden for the rest of the season? For the rest of time, perhaps? Should the Knicks contract, fold up shop and go away forever? Even if the Nets sweep the season series for five straight seasons, are the Knicks simply not going to play the other 78 games on their schedule every year, and quit? Maybe they should just move to Kansas City, because this whole New York thing has clearly run its course.
What makes a good rivalry is that it's never really decided. For the better part of a century, those on the positive side of the New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox rivalry could laugh at the Sox' futility and scoff, "Ha! Rivalry? What rivalry?" And maybe they had a case. What good was the rivalry if you always knew the Yankees were going to win, the Red Sox going to fail?
Then 2004 happened. And the Red sox won a World Series again in 2007. Finally, Red Sox fans had their moments, their legitimate leg to stand on in the debate. It was a long time coming, but it was bound to happen and now the dynamic of Yankees-Red Sox is forever changed.
Another good example, given geographic circumstances, is the ongoing battle between the New York Giants and New York Jets. Talk about one sided! What "ongoing battle", you moron!?
There's no dispute that the Giants are the better franchise on every level, by a longshot. But if we allow ourselves to rewind right before Christmas Eve of last year, when the 8-6 Jets were slated to host the 7-7 Giants, how could we have said the Giants owned the Jets completely, and that the Jets were the laughingstock of the city? Had the Jets beaten the Giants that day, that would have marked three straight seasons where the Jets made the playoffs and the Giants didn't, three years straight where the Jets were unquestionably the better team in the city. The Giants would have still owned the title count, and the most recent one of course, but their stronghold over the Jets in terms of "ownership" of the city wouldn't have been nearly as strong as it is now, after Victor Cruz's two-way, franchise-changing scamper. What last year's Giants-Jets game proves to us is that rivalries are fluid.
And so while the Nets drew first blood in this brand new turf battle, this thing isn't over. If Knicks-Nets ends up being a truly remarkable rivalry, we'll be sitting in bars, at work, at school and on blogs and social media arguing about it 30 years from now. And beyond. In that time, both teams will have had their successes and failures, both in the league and against each other.
The bell for Round 2 rings on December 11. We'll watch and then we'll argue some more, make more proclamations. Then we'll do it all over again, and again, and again. And when we think it's finally decided, it won't be. It never is.