There’s more in New York. It’s the undeniable lure that draws so many to the city, even with its implicit trade-offs. One positive that’s a negative is the choice of sports teams we have to root for. So many, that teams residing in New Jersey compete for New York love, and get it.
Football has the Jets and Giants. In baseball, it’s the Mets and Yankees. Hoops has the Knicks and Nets, and pick from the Rangers, Islanders and Devils in hockey.
After all possible permutations are considered the sports fan must embrace the repercussions of his chosen loyalties. For many, the decision over which team to bleed for is often more a product of atavism than individualism.
A familial, some might say tribal ancestry is why a perfectly rational young man roots for the Jets year after year, even though they continually crush his heart in the turf with spiky cleats. His first jersey had Joe Namath’s #12 on the back, and the size of the smile on his father’s face watching him unwrap it at Christmas meant the decision was smart and final. You will be a Jets fan, son. Painful as it will be for you for the rest of your adult life, like your father and his father before him. May God rest your soul.
Okay, so that’s set. But what of this young mans’ other allegiances?
As a Jet’s fan, he is already in the New York minority, according to Giants fans, and the intolerable Mike Francesa. If he also chooses to root for the Mets, Nets and Islanders, one can safely assume he’s from Suffolk County, probably somewhere around Babylon. For him, the Islanders have always been “mint”, just like his older brother’s first Camaro.
A simple alteration in this line up, say Jets, Mets, Knicks, Islanders and you can bet dollars to donut holes he lives a few LIRR stops closer to the city, say, Oyster Bay, or Valley Stream.
If you hail from Saddle River, Piscataway, or Bayonne, odds are good you’re a Giants, Yanks, Nets, Devs fan, you blow dry your hair, and talk too loudly on your Blackberry while riding New Jersey Transit. You’re go-to jukebox pick is “Pour Some Sugar On Me” which you also blast in gridlock in the Holland Tunnel. You’re a dipshit, it’s okay.
Rarely will you find anyone from Hunts Point or Throgs Neck in the Bronx not drinking beer from an “80” (two forties simultaneously) before a Giants, Yanks, Knicks, Rangers game. Ditto for Staten Island, and what’re you gonna do ‘bout it? Nuttin’. So shut your freggin’ pizza hole, ya jerkoff.
Stereotypes hold water for a reason. The steadiest losers are almost always Jets, Mets, Nets, Islanders fans, but the DNA of this often blue-collar creature is one of a kind. They know their teams aren’t going to win and still support them faithfully, whereas the sometimes more affluent Giants, Yanks, Kicks, Rangers fans from Westchester, or say, Montclair, which wishes it was Westchester, will be the first to jump from their team’s sinking ship and onto the bandwagon of whichever New York team is hot. This is especially true for former New Yorkers living in Greenwich, Connecticut. When you move there, you rise above allegiances all together. You just tune in for a “good game.” Go fuck yourselves.
In a city with so many contests unfolding, it is always a temptation to support the winning club. When a New York team is ripping it up in the playoffs, saying you don’t root for them makes you look like a dick, sort of.
It’s a conundrum other cities can’t quite understand. Save a brief period in Los Angeles when they had the Rams and Raiders, Dodgers and Angels, Lakers and Clippers, Kings and Ducks, no other city’s sports choices were ever as polarizing.
There was a devastating, infectious movement in the 1970’s, where many Giants fans started rooting for the Dallas Cowboys, and never came back. We know who these bastards are, and hold a special place for them when they turned up in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium (gone now, but boy were those the days). Staubach and Dorsett were fun to watch, but you got more than enough to chose from right here, scumbags. Larry Csonka not good enough for you? We’ll see how good you look sporting a silver Dallas star on your jersey when you’re picking up your teeth with broken fingers. Fucko.
There’s a fragile balance maintaining a friendship with someone who doesn’t match-up all the way with you in this town. When two diehard Giants fans become pals only to discover one loves the Rangers and the other the Devils, several months of the year become laden with tension, or as the case may be, violent disrespect.
But true friends can find common ground in the singular teams. Who hasn’t had the time of their lives whooping it up at a New York Liberty WMBA game, or the rip-roaring, edge of your seat excitement of the mediocre skilled New York Redbulls soccer squad?
Fuck if I know. But it’s certainly nice to have choices.