Let’s say you’ve been dumped.
Say it’s been a little while since you were dumped, and you thought you were handling it OK, and one day you bump into your ex, who we’ll refer to as ‘X,’ and X’s new boyfriend/girlfriend, who—since you can’t help but look at and wonder “Why?”—we’ll call ‘Y.’ What do you do?
You can play it a few ways.
The Messianic Response
“Good to see you, X. Nice to meet you, Y. X is a great guy/girl. There’s no reason X and I can’t stay friends/Y and I can’t be friends.”
This response is popular with non-confrontationalists, as well as those who value the moral high ground and hindsight over honoring their own feelings, because:
1) When you tell the story to your friends later, they’re likely to marvel at your classiness while their disgust for your ex’s tactlessness grows.
2) When you’ve been dumped, you’re tempted, in your lowest moments, to feel like the loser. You walk around like there’s a scarlet D on your chest. Lashing out at X & Y risks you coming across as an unhinged emotional train wreck, in which case you may as well tattoo the scarlet D to your forehead. Playing it cool lends you the appearance of moving on, which is the first step in ridding yourself of your imaginary D.
3) Even though you broke up a while ago, and you’ve moved on in an abstract, intellectual sense, you’ve never seen your ex with someone else, and you’re so thrown off you shut down inside and behave like a social mannequin because you’re in a state of shock.
The Grindstone Response
Just walk away.
This tactic is very appealing. As the dumpee, by definition, you feel at times like you must not have had much to offer to the dumper…if you did, why would X have dumped you? But as Whitney Houston taught us in “Greatest Love Of All,” there’s one thing they can’t take away: your dignity.
Defying Keynesian economics, once you’re no longer in demand, the value of your mystique grows exponentially. You’ve already discovered the only way to get over your pain is one day at a time. You’ve been in shark mode since the breakup: keep moving or die. The Grindstone takes shark mode from a figurative concept to a literal one (except you don’t actually become a shark). Walk on by. Don’t stop. Don’t look back. Never stop. You know better than most everything about X that’s fucked up. You know one day, the same complexes and flaws that caused X to think breaking up with you was the answer will resurrect and destroy their relationship with Y, and Z, and etc. So just keep moving.
The Totally Immature But Cinematically Satisfying Response
“Hey. You ever get that herpes taken care of?”
This one is fairly self-explanatory.
So, what does this have to do with the Brooklyn Nets?
I didn't used to hate the Nets. Followed them since their best player was Chris Morris. I remember Tate George. Rumeal Robinson. Yinka Dare. I remember the Sunday afternoon NBC game when a John Starks flagrant foul broke Kenny Anderson’s wrist and effectively ended whatever the Chuck Daly Nets were building toward. I remember where I was and how I felt when my favorite non-Knick, Drazen Petrovic, died in a car crash on the Autobahn (anyone who tells you Ray Allen is the best shooter ever didn’t watch Petro play. He could pull up from halfcourt and you assumed he’d swish it.).
The Jason Kidd/Kenyon Martin Nets remain the only Nets I ever hated. Admittedly, this was due in part to those Nets beating the Knicks as badly over a 4-5 year period as any professional team can beat another. It was also because those Nets had one historically great player (Kidd) and a bunch of halfway decent/one-dimensional players who acted like they were great, too. Coattail riders are the dregs of humanity. The 90s Knicks had one historically great player in Patrick Ewing and a bunch of non-greats. The non-great Knicks didn’t front like they were great. Kenyon Martin was so classless and self-absorbed as a Net that even now, 10 years later, when he plays for the Knicks, I still don’t like him. I never will.
So what rubs me wrong about today’s Nets?
It’s not the team itself. There wasn’t a single player on the Nets last year who I found unlikable. Deron Williams? Other than a burgeoning rep as a coach-killer, he doesn’t project any personality. Brook Lopez is a Comic Con kid with an overactive pituarity gland. Joe Johnson? Quiet Southern boy. Nothing wrong with that.
It's not the ex-Celtics. KG's a psychopath, but he'd be adored if he wore blue & orange. Paul Pierce is the professional version of those dudes in pick-up games who has no hops and no speed but knows every little juke & trick in the book and outplays guys half his age. Jason Terry...well, he can take an elbow.
I’m no fan of Net owner Mikhail Prokhorov, whose business practices and dealings with some of the worst human rights regimes on Earth would make Stalin blush. But the Knicks owner is the greatest argument for mass sterilization in human history. So, that’s a push.
It’s not Jay-Z. Sick as I am of a guy who hasn’t put out a good album in 10+ years never shutting the hell up about how he’s greatest—that’s like Michael Jordan reminding us he's the greatest player, now, in 2013—it’s not about Jay-Z.
It’s not Brooklyn, either. Although the Blob-like gentrification of Brooklyn confuses and worries me—many (though not all) of these people suck—I don’t hate Brooklyn.
When you see X with someone new, one reason it hurts is you know Y is getting the same star treatment you did when the relationship began.
You know X thinks Y hung the moon and the stars; you know they’re in that disgustingly-sappy-unless-it’s-happening-to-you phase where they’re forever “realizing” how much they have in common, and how miraculous for 2 puzzle pieces in a world of 7,000,000,000 to find each other and fit so perfectly together. You know they’re having rampant, exciting, baggage-less/stress-less sex, all the time. You know all X’s friends, the ones who told you how happy they were that X finally found someone like you, and how in love X obviously was with you, are now saying the same things to Y. You know X is telling Y all the reasons why they had to break up with you, reasons that revolve around problems with you, and that Y is assuring X it was all your fault, and that Y will never subject X to your flaws/problems, and then they fall into each other’s arms and…
Well. You know.
The Nets keep making moves that are at best interesting and at worst hamstringing. They chased Carmelo and Lebron and Dwight Howard and got none of ‘em. They have the highest payroll in the league—it isn’t even close—and a bunch of guys making max/near-max money, and yet they have more geriatrics than All-NBA talents. They’re on their 3rd coach in 8 months. Last year they talked endless shit about how they were the top dog in NYC, how they were more worried about measuring up to the Lakers or Heat than the Knicks, how they were on a 5-year plan to win a title (ask Stalin how those 5-year plans work out.). Then they finished 5 games behind the Knicks and lost in the first round to the Crypt Keeper.
If the Knicks had done all that, the tabloids would have exploded in an ink-drenched puddle of orgiastic ectoplasm. And yet, the Nets remain immune to criticism. They’re like your relationship successor: totally Teflon.
I hardly wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to the Knicks. But the Knicks have had a better off-season than the Nets. For all the crap Bargnani gets, he’s being brought in to replace Novak. Is Bargnani a #1 overall pick kind of talent? No. But compared to Steve Novak, Bargnani’s Larry Freaking Bird. I keep hearing how he doesn’t rebound well. What, Novak was Charles Oakley?
Look at who the Knicks have lost since last year: Novak. Marcus Camby. Jason Kidd. Chris Copeland. The only one of those guys you might miss in Copeland—and Bargnani is more than capable of replicating what Cope did. Everyone else they lost is useless.
I guess I don’t hate the Nets, because the Nets aren’t really responsible for their Teflon treatment. That falls on the press. All I can do as a Knick fan is keep my nose to the grindstone, take it one day at a time, wait for November…and then start worrying about Amar’e’s knees.