One of the great things about being a sports fan is the unknown, not knowing what will happen. There are surprises around every corner. At times expectations are exceeded, while at others, they don't come close to being met. A Victor Cruz or R.A. Dickey pops out of nowhere. Teams that look powerful on paper can be ineffective on the field of play. Clubs pegged for last place can win a championship. You never know.
In 1935, Austrian physicist Erwin Schrodinger devised a thought experiment, labeled Schrodinger's Cat, wherein a cat is trapped in a box with a radioactive substance. If one atom of the substance decays (and there is equal probability it will or won't), a relay mechanism will trip a hammer, break a vial of hydrocyanic acid and kill the cat. But one will not know whether the cat is dead or alive until the box is open. So at that point the cat can be thought of as both dead and alive. Either one or the other. I wish I could say I learned of this through years of thoughtful study in school, but I discovered this bit of philosophy and science through Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory. At any rate, there are a few recent, relative New York sports headlines that fit in with this thought experiment. Specifically, the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and possible future New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey. Will any of the three be good? Great? Disasters? Right now, they can all be thought of as one or the other. Both dead or alive. Success or failure. And we won't know until we open the box.
Things have not gone as planned for the Knicks this July. It seemed a foregone conclusion that Jeremy Lin would be back, that Landry Fields would return and a veteran point guard would be added for depth. They would pretty much have the same team as last year, with a couple of minor additions. But the restrictive free agent market didn't go as planned, and now the Knicks have three new point guards, in Jason Kidd, Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni, and a new backup center in Marcus Camby, not to mention Kurt Thomas. And just like that, the Knicks are kind of old. A win-now team. Who knows how Lin will perform in the future, but from a marketing and fan standpoint, New York was the place for him. He certainly has promise and a high upside, but the jury's still out on him, and he's gone nonetheless. So the team now has a trio of new guards to mesh with the Big Three. The Knicks will finally have a full training camp with Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler together, though. And they will have a full season of Mike Woodson -- will the they pick up where they left off after going 18-6 under him to finish the regular season last year? Will they be better overall than last year's edition? We can speculate, predict, have high hopes, cringe at a possible disaster -- but no one will know until the box is open.
The Nets have made themselves relative for the first time since Jason Kidd was employed by the franchise. It's now fully Deron Williams' team, and he has Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez to support him, along with a batch of other new guys. There's a new feeling and attitude around the organization with their move to Brooklyn. There's hope and promise, but will they all figure out how to play together quicker than the Knicks have? Will they be a flop? A success? They have expectations for the first time since . . . Jason Kidd was on the team. Will they meet those expectations? Or not? Well, we'll find out if the hydrocyanic acid has been released or not by next spring.
The Mets were contemplating calling up Harvey to start Saturday's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, but they've now put his impending promotion on hold. In 19 starts in Triple A, Harvey is 7-4, with a 3.34 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. He has 106 strikeouts and 46 walks in 105 innings pitched. The question surrounding Harvey does not involve just opening the box but when to open it. Is he ready? Does he need more time in the minors? Sure, he would most likely be better than Miguel Batista, but there's more involved than that. Will an early call-up negatively affect his future and the team's future? Is this month the right time? Should he learn to take his lumps in the majors now? Is his secondary stuff and command major league ready? He appears to have the mental makeup and toughness to be a success, yet he hasn't dominated minor league hitters the way his fellow phenom, Zack Wheeler, has. The Mets have to decide one way or another on Harvey. Now or later. July, August or September.
So we won't know how any of these things will play out until the box is open. And that's part of the fun, as we all try to predict and make educated guesses if the cat is alive or dead. Hopefully for us, the Knicks, the Nets, the Mets -- and the cat -- he's alive.