In New York, anything short of title is not enough
New York's skyline is filled with seemingly never-ending monuments to man's greatness. Things get competitive as skyscrapers, like the more than eight million people occupying them, contend for splendor and height.
Just ask the Empire State Building.
New York's tallest building since 9/11, it now sits in the shadow of the 104-story-to-be Freedom Tower, which eclipsed it Monday as the city's tallest building.
But that's New York. It's a "what have you done for me lately" town.
This rings especially true when it comes to its sports teams.
Successes of the past are inconsequential and teams are viewed with bridge and tunnel vision.
For Knicks fans, one loss equals a dismal season ... while a six-game winning streak led by an unknown guard from Harvard University was to be a ticket to the NBA Finals.
The Knicks' slide in the first round of the playoffs led to Amare Stoudemire turning into an MMA fighter attacking a fire extinguisher. He cut his hand and will miss Game 3 of the Knicks' series against the Miami Heat. With the Knicks trailing 2-0, New Yorkers are back to crying about their team being a bunch of bums.
I know because I'm one of them.
Fans have gone from Linsanity to asking if it's over yet.
As Knicks fans saw Stoudemire walk out of AmericanAirlines Arena wearing a sling, carrying their playoff hopes with him, some were probably thinking about crossing the bridge to root for the Brooklyn Nets. But they need to remember the Knicks were 14-5 without Stoudemire; hope is not lost.
The Knicks' play is as big a problem as the city's expectations. Hopes for the Knicks are so unrealistically high that even one loss can cause panic among the masses.
If panic-stricken New Yorkers looked closely, they would see the shatterproof glass is actually half full and things aren't as bad as the back page of the New York Daily News makes them seem.
In 11 years, the Knicks have gone from being a blemish on the NBA to a team the league can be proud of. They finished better than .500 and made the playoffs. Before Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony arrived, the Knicks hadn't had a winning season since 2000-01.
The union of Stoudemire and Anthony also led to the end of a six-year playoff drought. With one of the deepest benches in the league, the Knicks have a great chance to win a playoff game for the first time in more than a decade.
The Knicks have gone from the majority of news about their franchise involving a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a female employee against Isiah Thomas, to the media actually reporting about on-court play.
During the 2007-08 season, the biggest story coming out of Madison Square Garden was what color suit rogue guard Stephon Marbury was wearing as he sat on the bench collecting checks. The loudest chants were not "Let's Go Knicks" but instead "Fire Isiah."
During the 2009-10 season, Donnie Walsh, then president of basketball operations, depleted the team in an effort to win the LeBron James free agency sweepstakes. How'd that go?
Two seasons later, the news coming out of New York involved the team competing in the first round of the playoffs.
That's something to applaud.
Another improvement that deserves more than a Bronx cheer is interim coach Mike Woodson's performance. The Knicks are 18-6 with him at the helm and have lost consecutive games only once. Woodson is the best thing to happen to the franchise since Lin.
When New Yorkers look at the Knicks, they see dozens of nationally televised games and millions of dollars spent on Stoudemire and Anthony. Because of this, they think the product should be equal to that of the Los Angeles Lakers.
However, money and an air of entitlement don't buy Larry O'Brien championship trophies. If that were true the Knicks, who have the sixth-highest payroll in the NBA and are the league's second-most valuable team according to Forbes, would have enough banners to cover Broadway.
After all this talk about managing expectations and seeing the good in the team, there is likely a New Yorker on the subway, wearing headphones and expertly avoiding eye contact while thinking, "The Knicks are doomed. We were supposed to take the East. Now we're in the crapper."
That's just how New York is.
Expectations, like the skyscrapers dotting its famous skyline, soar above the clouds.