Knicks vs. Mets: Which Lovable Loser is Harder to Love?


Oct 21, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; New York Mets fans after game four of the NLCS between the New York Mets and the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Admittedly, I haven’t been as engrossed with the New York Knicks’ pre season as much as I usually am at this time of year. How could I be with New York’s other lovable losers in orange and blue blazing their way to the Word Series?

The truth is that before I fell in love with the game of basketball and the Knicks, I was born into a New York Mets family.

My childhood room was full of Mets regalia, but I followed the team in the way a kid today follows the Avengers: sure, I wore Mets clothes and watched an inning or two every so often, but I was too young to understand all the intricacies of the game. I couldn’t even name more than one active player.

Growing up in the Bronx, my access to baseball was limited to Little League since it was impossible to gather up enough people and equipment to play a game. Due to this, basketball would naturally become the sport that fulfilled my time after school.

Since there were basketball courts everywhere and the Knicks were easier to watch on TV, my tacit attachment to the Dallas Green-led Mets was displaced by the Knicks and a fiery young guard named John Starks.

My affection for the Knicks would turn into a full-blown obsession for the rest of the 90’s, especially as the Mets squandered around a pre-wild card league. I would still check in with my dad to see how the Mets were doing.

For me, the Mets wouldn’t become relevant until Mike Piazza joined the team in 1998. The new black Mets cap became a part of my daily school uniform. My visits to Shea Stadium increased and I fell in love with less heralded players like John Olerud, Benny Agbayani, and Rick Reed.

From there the agony of being crushed by the Knicks every year became amplified by the Mets’ unique brand of ineptitude.

Today, the Mets have finally made a dramatic return to the World Series. The Knicks are expected to win more than the 17 games they won in 2014-15.

Zach Lowe’s reflections on how his love of the Mets faded made me think of how close I’ve come to feeling the same way about both of my favorite teams.

For some reason, I’ve still clung on to my fandom. When it comes to thinking of which team has brought me greater pain, however, it became a cathartic experience exorcising past demons.

To judge which team has been harder to cope with, I limited my memories of each team to 1994.

The Good…

Best Memory

Knicks: Allan Houston’s game winning floater to eliminate the Miami Heat will forever be a euphoric memory for me. I still get goose bumps watching it.

Mets: June 1, 2012.

Edge: Knicks

Greatest Achievement

Knicks: Reaching the NBA Finals in 1994 is still the height of achievement in my personal memories.

Mets: Reaching the World Series in 2000 and, of course, again this year in 2015.

Edge: Mets

10 Favorite Players

Knicks: Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, John Starks, Larry Johnson, Allan Houston, Latrell Sprewell, Marcus Camby, David Lee, Carmelo Anthony and Jeremy Lin.

Mets: Mike Piazza, Edgardo Alfonzo, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, David Wright, Cliff Floyd, Pedro Martinez, Johan Santana, Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom,

Edge: The Mets have more Hall of Fame level talent, but I’m calling this even.

The Bad…

Worst Front Office Moves

Knicks: Trading Patrick Ewing; the Allan Houston contract; bringing in Isiah Thomas; painful draft pick blunders.

Mets: Signing over the hill players (Roberto Alomar, Bobby Bonilla, Mo Vaughn, etc.). Gambling on high-risk players (Victor Zambrano, Oliver Perez, Jason Bay). The Louis Castillo contract. Not trading Joses Reyes for something when everyone knew he was a goner.

Worse: Knicks and it’s not even close.

10 Worst Players

Knicks: Charles Smith, Glen Rice, Michael Sweetney, Steve Francis, Frank Williams, Mardy Collins, Eddy Curry, Landry Fields, Chris Smith and Andrea Bargnani,

Mets: Bobby Bonilla, Bernard Gilkey, Mel ‘friggin’ Rojas, Armando Bentiz, Aaron Heilman, Kaz Matsui, Victor Zambrano, Oliver Perez, Louis Castillo and Jason Bay.

Worse: Knicks

Worst off-field/court distraction

Knicks: Isiah Thomas and James Dolan. That is all.

Mets: The Wilpon’s having the Mets’ financial health ruined by Bernie Madoff scandal.

Worse: Knicks

Low Points for fans

Knicks: Last season’s 17-65 record; the Larry Brown fiasco; Isiah Thomas/MSG sexual harassment suit.

Mets: Losing World Series to the New York Yankees; Kenny Rogersbases loaded walk; the Beltran strike out and the following year’s historic collapse.

Worse: Knicks

Both the Knicks and the Mets have made it hard on their fans to instill confidence in their teams. Despite the Mets being the punch line of every Yankees joke since 1962, supporting the Knicks has been much more difficult.

Of course, it’s easy to say that after the Knicks’ last season and the Mets’ incredible run since the Cespedes trade. Even if the Mets didn’t make the playoffs, their young core of pitchers has made games easier to watch.

Unlike the Knicks, the Mets learned the hard way that bringing in stars through free agency wasn’t the most successful way to rebuild a team. Instead they parted ways with players at the height of their popularity—Jose Reyes and R.A. Dickey, for example—and committed themselves to austerity and patience.

The past few years haven’t been easy to watch, but despite the losing seasons, young talent gained from trades and drafts were being developed properly.

Oct 21, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) celebrates after defeating the Chicago Cubs in game four of the NLCS at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Today, the Mets’ rotation of Harvey, deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz is considered one of the most prolific in the majors.

The Knicks have never been able to develop players in the way the Mets have. Instead, they’ve clung on to the strategy of simply cutting cap space to buy better players. This was supposed to be the plan to bring in LeBron James, but it just didn’t happen.

It was supposed to the plan in 2015, which again didn’t bring in any stars. Carmelo Anthony is still one of the most talented players I’ve ever seen in a Knicks uniform, but the window for the team to win a championship while he is here isn’t that great.

Phil Jackson still has 4 years left on Anthony’s Knicks contract, and finally some young talent in Jerian Grant and Kristaps Porzingis, but they won’t have a draft pick again until 2017.

Jul 14, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (46) wins the opening tip off of an NBA Summer League game over Philadelphia 76ers center

Jahlil Okafor

(8) at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps Jackson’s Knicks finally have figured out that, if they’re going to compete for a title, they’re going to have to do it by developing young talent and staying away from albatross contracts. Unfortunately, the threat of Dolan interfering always casts an ominous shadow over the franchise.

Dolan alone makes it hard for Knicks fans to ever feel confident in the future of the Knicks. The fact that he’s so unpopular amongst fans is something that also makes being a Knicks fan harder.

For instance, during the Thomas era Knicks, I was so disgusted with Dolan and the team that I felt like rooting against them for allowing the franchise I love to be desecrated. For all of Fred Wilpon’s faults, the level of outrage he sparks in fans is nowhere near what Knicks fans feel about their guitar-strumming owner.

Unlike Lowe, I still managed to keep my fandom of the Mets alive all these years despite the losing. I wonder if that is because my expectations of them were much lower than the Knicks.

Can Carmelo Anthony lead the New York Knicks to the promise land? Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

After all, with 16 teams making the playoffs in the NBA, it’s much easier to win a title than it is in baseball.

Perhaps like a proud father, my expectations are greater for the Knicks since I’ve had a closer relationship with them. What Lowe mentioned in his piece about the Mets is to not let your passion die and that’s what I worry about most with the Knicks.

The years of futility haven’t just lowered my expectations of them, but have often times made me feel indifferent.

If the Mets have taught me anything about the Knicks, its not just the importance of developing young players; it’s to never give up on your team. When you do, whenever that team has success, you won’t really feel it as much if you checked out on the team earlier in the year.

I don’t know if the Knicks will become a title contender in the near future, but I do know that rooting for orange and blue is just something that’s always going to be in my blood. It’s something I’ll pass onto my children in the way my father passed it onto me.

Follow Richard Bertin on Twitter @RichardBertin or email him at

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