"First of all, I'd like to thank God Almighty for giving everybody so much, and me so little."
-Silky Johnson, two-time Playa Hater of the Year
Imagine for a moment that an elite sprinter, upon realizing that he couldn't immediately dominate his competitors, made the decision to compete in the Special Olympics. He doesn't have a disability, per se, but he says that his goal in life is the win six, seven, eight gold medals, and Special Olympics' gold is just as golden as Olympic gold. Now, let us further posit that this same sprinter finds the competition at the Special Olympics tougher than he imagined - those guys don't mess around.
After a humiliating loss, the sprinter finally, inevitably dominates on his way to a first Special Olympic gold. How should we, the fan, respond?
As a Knicks fan, Lebron James and the Heat's NBA title was tough enough to swallow. I had come to accept it as unavoidable - like getting wisdom teeth pulled - but there's no psychic Novocaine to dull the pain of seeing Chris Bosh craning his giraffe neck over the Larry O'Brien trophy, looking for prime foliage to snack on. The real pain was soon to come, with the barrage of "Stop Hating, Embrace the Heat" stories from the press.
Apparently we should all learn to cuddle up with these plucky young ballers and bask in the warmth of their inspirational story of triumph over adversity. They failed once, and they came back and succeed. This is a Hallmark story. Anyone who still hates on the Heat after they won is jealous and petty.
I have two counterarguments to this: one specific to Knicks' fans and one in general, for all basketball fans.
As for Knicks fans, our hatred of the Heat predates Lebron and the Decision by over a decade. It's an odd and unbalanced rivalry, to be sure, given the Heat's recent dominance and the fact that there were simply no Heat fans prior to 2010, but the hatred has deep roots: Pat Riley's move, Alonzo Mourning flipping the bird to the Garden crowd, Jeff van Gundy's koala moment on Mourning's leg. Telling a Knicks fan not to hate the Heat run contrary to the very concept of sports hatred.
As for the rest of the basketball-loving public, the idea that we should embrace the Heat now that they've won is absurd. The NBA playoffs weren't exactly The Miracle on Ice. The Heat basically had no business losing in the Finals last year, they are a couple of poorly-timed 2011 brain farts away from being two-for-two since The Decision. Lebron, Wade and Bosh teamed up to take the path of least resistance to the championship. Now that we've all discovered that the path of least resistance didn't turn out to be the path of no resistance, it doesn't change the queasy feeling we all felt when Lebron made his announcement two years ago.
A few years ago HBO produced a great documentary, The Thrilla in Manila, showing the fight mainly from the perspective of Joe Frazier. We all know his story: Ali taunted him mercilessly leading up to the fight, and Frazier probably would have fought Ali to the death that night in Manila if his trainer hadn't thrown in the towel. Later, as he watched Ali become a worldwide icon, Joe Frazier never lost that hatred. Watching the documentary, many people lamented the fact that Smokin' Joe and Muhammad Ali never buried the hatchet. I do remember, however, reading a reviewer who wrote that old Joe looked proud, unbroken...a man "comfortable in his hate." That's my advice for Knicks fans everywhere. This Heat Situation is flat-out crappy. If the Knicks ever hope to reach the Finals in the near future they'll have to go through the Heat, and barring some miracle, the Knicks will be heavy underdogs. Still, I look forward to a ravenous Garden crowd, thousands of screaming Knicks fans, comfortable in their hate.