Commentary

We're not worthy, New York

Best sports town? Boston will keep the title until Apple gets an attitude adjustment

Updated: June 21, 2011, 12:11 PM ET
By Stephen A. Smith | ESPNNewYork.com

We could walk around with pride once upon a time. Throughout portions of this city's history, there were reasons one could be proud to be a New Yorker. We didn't care if the moniker as "The Mecca" offended anyone. We've never cared if Gotham City or "The City That Never Sleeps" evoked animosity, because etched inside our souls we believed the Big Apple was qualified as the best sports town in America.

But as one watched the Bruins capture their first Stanley Cup since 1972 -- in a decade that has now recorded seven championships for the city of Boston -- one doesn't need to waste time asking how on earth New York can claim superiority regarding anything in sports.

A better question would be: Should someone be drug-tested for even thinking such nonsense?

"This is the greatest city in the world," Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony uttered on numerous occasions after he arrived in February. "There isn't a better place to play in the world."

[+] EnlargeWalt Frazier and Willis Reed
AP Photo/Kathy WillensWalt Frazier and Willis Reed provided championship memories -- four decades ago. What have the Knicks done for you lately?

Oh really?

As we sliver through 2011, with the NBA and Stanley Cup finals in our rearview mirror and a World Series a few months away, there isn't a speck of evidence that shows why New York City has any reason to be excited.

The Knicks were swept by the Celtics in the playoffs. The Islanders are irrelevant. The Rangers mustered up one playoff win before skipping town for the offseason. And by the way, since capturing the Stanley Cup in 1994 -- for the first time since 1940 -- the Rangers haven't even won their division, let alone a conference crown.

Wait a minute. There's more!

The Giants have missed the playoffs the last two years. The Jets keep falling short of a championship. The Mets can't spell championship. And regardless of how the Yankees continue to compete, their rotation and injury issues keep telling us not to look in their direction in October.

All told, while Boston has one championship apiece from the Celtics (2008) and the Bruins ('11), two from the Red Sox ('04 and '07) and three from the Patriots ('01, '03 and '04) -- clearly qualifying it as the best sports town in America -- New York has a grand total of three in that span: two from the Yankees ('00 and '09) and one from the Giants ('07).

The worst part of it all is that we don't even know who the owners are in Beantown, financing these championships. But we certainly know more than we'd care to about Jim Dolan's ineptitude with the Knicks, Fred Wilpon's stupidity (Bernie Madoff), and that sitcom in the Bronx known as Hank and Hal!

"This is New York, man," the Knicks' Amare Stoudemire told me. "If you want to be somebody, to be big-time, there's no better place to do it than here. People tend to forget that time to time, because it's been a while."

Actually, Stoudemire was dead wrong.

People in this town do remember, which is part of the problem. We hold on to memories for so long, it ultimately invites mediocrity.

[+] EnlargeYankee fan
AP Photo/Kathy WillensThe Yankees were No. 1 again in 2009, but New York is not the nation's No. 1 sports town.

We're now happy when the Knicks "compete" instead of win. We're satisfied when the Jets contend, primarily because of sound bites from coach Rex Ryan. It's not that big a deal if the Giants or Rangers don't win, as evidenced by the tenures of Tom Coughlin or Glen Sather. Looking at the headlines, you'd think Mark Sanchez actually compares to Tom Brady. And nothing has happened to indicate any changes are on the horizon.

Well, change needs to come if, indeed, New York wants to legitimately qualify as a great sports town, relying on something other than our girth of sports teams and the Broadway lights to accentuate our stature.

An attitude adjustment is a good place to start.

Instead of always doing things our way, perhaps we should elevate our interest in doing what works. Instead of creating stars because of good quotes, watching them on reality TV shows or chronicling their time with their significant others, why don't we try questioning their significance for as long as they're devoid of championship hardware?

Let's point out that Alex Rodriguez hasn't been the same since the season he revealed he had used steroids. How about pointing out that as much as we love Anthony back here, we'd prefer to see him on "The View" after he wins and not almost immediately after the Knicks got swept in the first round of the playoffs?

Instead of wondering about what contribution Plaxico Burress can make to the Giants since being released from prison after 20 months, how about pondering what Steve Smith and Mario Manningham are going to be able to do despite not missing any time? Or how about thinking of the Mets, Wilpon's money, and demanding that he spend it wisely for a change by keeping Jose Reyes in Queens?

Before results authenticate one's stature as a great sports town, the first order of business is a great attitude. New York knew this once upon a time. Evidently, we've been too preoccupied in recent memory, living off allure and ambience instead of reality.

Where has that gotten us? Precisely where it's gotten anyone with such an arrogant attitude:

On the outside looking in. Watching others hoist trophies.

These circumstances provoke a sickening feeling for this Hollis, Queens, native. Hopefully, they do for you, too.

Stephen A. Smith | email

ESPNNewYork.com columnist
Stephen A. Smith is a featured columnist for ESPNNewYork.com, a co-host on First Take" and a regular on "SportsCenter."

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