by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

I see auto workers against cab drivers. I see Coleman against Koch. I see a Coney dog with onions against a corned beef sandwich with lots of fat.

I see Detroit versus New York.


“We beat them three times so far this season,” Patrick Ewing said after the Knicks’ 100-93 win over the Pistons Wednesday night at the Palace. “We got one more. And we plan to win that one.”

I see the results. I see a defense that choked the Pistons’ shooting. I see a freak play that broke a bone in Joe Dumars left hand and put him out for a month. I see Chuck Daly calling a post-game powwow with Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer to regroup this team.

And I say this: OK, Big Apple. That’s enough.

Now you’re getting us mad.

I see a rivalry here. It is just beginning. I see rap music against soul music. I see the Winter Garden theater against the Fox. The Celtics are down. The Lakers have a sudden fear of flying. Pistons-Knicks. This could be bloody.

Already the Knicks — in first place in the Atlantic Division — have assured themselves the better of the Detroit- New York season series. The post-season anger has been planted.

Or weren’t you watching Wednesday night? There were skirmishes. Dennis Rodman went right in the face of Sidney Green. Bill Laimbeer got ugly on Patrick Ewing. Why not? When these two teams play, it is like the protons against the electrons. Bing, bang, bing. They bounce off each other in furious motion. The Knicks press. The Pistons pressure. The Knicks hand it to their big guy in the middle. The Pistons send their little guys right down the middle. Fast on fast. Stick on stick. And I’m not sure they like each other.

“When Dennis Rodman started his celebrating, it fired us up,” said Knicks coach Rick Pitino.

Added Ewing: “Bill Laimbeer needs to work more on his basketball and quit acting.”

Uh-oh. I smell trouble. Don’t you?

I mean, what’s the fun of sports if you can’t hate a team from New York? Knicks on top? Of course

Cleveland? I am not big on this Cleveland thing. I don’t know who told Cleveland it was OK to suddenly become the Godzilla of the NBA, but I know I didn’t get a vote.

New York is another story. New York I don’t mind. The fact is, New York is owed something by basketball, the way Chuck Berry is owed something by rock
‘n’ roll. Neither invented the craft; but both helped define it. Basketball is a city game; New York is the city to end all cities. But in recent years, the Knicks have been a forgettable organization, and the NBA was like homeroom class with a perpetually empty chair.

Not anymore. With Ewing and Charles Oakley and some hot- shooting guards, the Knicks have jelled. They make you dizzy with defense. They say “Bombs away!” from three-point range. When they dump it into Ewing, you triple-team him, he dishes it back out. They play the Pistons well. Really well.

“I remember the last time we played them in the Garden,” said Vinnie Johnson. “They beat us, and some fans were yelling ‘That’s two! That’s two!’ They didn’t care about records or standings. They cared only about the Detroit-New York series, that they’d beaten us twice already. ‘That’s two! That’s two!’ I can still hear him screamin.’ “

That’s three now. But you can understand the sentiment. There are matchups here. There is Mark Jackson, the suddenly hot guard, vs. Isiah Thomas, the forever-hot guard. There is Patrick Ewing, the monster in the middle, vs. Bill Laimbeer, the middle of the monster. There is Chuck Daly, who waited years for his turn at a head coaching shot, vs. Rick Pitino, who waited until he was old enough to shave. Is he old enough to shave?

No matter. Red, white and blue against blue, white and orange. I can see it. They claim an aging world championship. We claim a brand-new conference championship. They claim Dave DeBusschere. We claim Dave DeBusschere. They claim Sidney Green. We say you can have him. It’s us against them — again

“It’s intense against them,” said Adrian Dantley, who saw his best buddy, Dumars, injured in battle.

“Any time a team beats you three times you can say they have your number,” said Daly.

Two defeats in the Palace. One in Madison Square Garden (where the Knicks are 14-1). Their records are almost identical now. What if New York and Detroit wind up playing for the Eastern crown? Trouble, that’s what.

I see a bunch of GM autoworkers sitting around a lunch table, saying
“Those Knicks. They can’t stop us.” I see a bunch of garment workers on 33d street in Manhattan, standing around a hot dog cart, saying, “Dose Pistons. Dey ain’t nuthin.’ “

I see Brooklyn’s Mike Tyson against someone from Kronk. OK. Maybe everyone from Kronk. And some of their friends. I see Billy Joel singing the national anthem for them and Stevie Wonder singing it for us.

Our way against Broadway. Motors against apples. We owe them for Dumars. Their time will come. Let’s face it. What’s a major sport without a New York team to radiate good, healthy hatred?

“They beat us three times, so far, yeah,” said Dantley in a low voice. “But the playoffs are a different season. If we meet, we’ll be ready.” We have seen the enemy.

They shop at Bloomingdale’s.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

New book, The Little Liar, arrives November 14. Get the details »

Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

Subscribe for bonus content and giveaways!