We had taken a break from our series “Shitting on Everything Mike Loves,” but our latest installment was a long time coming.
We could’ve taken necessary shots during the Giants party boat saga, but that was low-hanging fruit. Instead, I want to explore the media’s obsession with the New York Knicks.
No other team gets more coverage with less success.
The easy answer is that they play in New York, the largest media market in the world. True, but the Giants and Yankees, who have had infinitely more success than the Knicks, also occupy that same media market and do not receive the same type of attention unless they are successful on the field.
ESPN’s obsession with the Knicks raises the question: does ESPN dictate what the sports fan cares about or does the sports fan dictate ESPN’s content? I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. It used to be that ESPN’s content was a reflection of what the sports fans wanted to see, but not so much anymore.
SportsCenter and other shows on the network have become so powerful and all-encompassing on the sports media landscape, and they are so built-in to the sports fans routine, that they can put anything on (i.e. breaking down trade rumors about an 11th place team) and the average sports fan will consume it.
The Knicks coverage supports this theory because outside of the metropolitan New York, there is zero appetite for Knicks coverage, yet ESPN covers them like a first place team. If I have to be told why the Knicks are relevant, then they aren’t relevant.
ESPN is not alone in the blame, TNT props the Knicks on their TV schedule too much as well. Instead of featuring teams like the Bucks and Wizards with up-and-coming stars, they put the Knicks on their national platform numerous times (22 during the 2016-17 season) only to see them lose by 20 to an elite team. This demonstrates laziness and a lack of ingenuity from league officials and network executives alike.
The latest drama surrounding the Knicks was that Phil Jackson, one of the most-respected figures in NBA history, wanted to trade Carmelo Anthony, one of the most overrated players in NBA history.
The outcome was inconsequential on the court – they trade Anthony, they stink, they keep Anthony, they stink. The trade could only be relevant to the Knicks’ cap flexibility and to the team that acquired the ball hog and subsequently eliminated any chance of winning a title.
The headlines put forth by ESPN during their coverage amounted to high school gossip about hurt feelings. The amount of time spent dissecting this “feud” was grossly disproportionate to its relevance on the court.
The Knicks aren’t the only franchise that gets over-covered on the national stage. One could make the same argument against the Dallas Cowboys. There is a similar all-style-no-substance aura around the franchises, but their histories are incomparable.
The Cowboys have five Super Bowls and the label of “America’s Team, while the Knicks have two championships and zero in the last 44 years. Also, the television numbers don’t lie when it comes to the significance of the Dallas Cowboys.
Nine of the top ten highest rated games this NFL season included the Cowboys. Granted they were good, but even during last year’s disastrous 4-12 campaign, the Cowboys played in five of the top ten highest rated games, including their game against Seattle which finished as the highest rated regular season game of 2015. While the Knicks local viewership has dropped 37% over the last two seasons.
The Knicks are only as relevant as ESPN wants them to be. They haven’t even been good enough in the last 20 years to generate interest by way of a heated rivalry, so the predominate feeling as a fan is indifference.
This is not so much a shot at the Knicks, but at the coverage of them. The Knicks are who they are: a below average NBA franchise for most of the last two decades. However, January through April in the NBA is as drama-less as sports gets – it’s like watching an interminable hourglass.
Because of this and the end of football season, ESPN needs to create headlines and manufacture drama, no matter how irrelevant or gossipy, so they turn to the Knicks who annually deliver on both fronts.