Thinking about this on the way in to work this morning. How many great NY athletes have we had that have been universally liked as soon as they arrived & celebrated by the fans that have embraced the spotlight & not shyed away from it? Babe, the Mick, Clyde, Jeter & Messier's names instantly pop into my head. After that it's not so easy to name players that fit the mold.
Reggie Jackson certainly embraced the spotlight, but he was highly resented by a big faction of Yankee fans & news media alike until he helped to deliver the championship that fans expected.
Alex Rodriguez was hated by many of his own fans for years because he failed to deliver in the postseason, & still has his resentful detractors even after he almost single handedly carried the Yankees to their 27th championship in 2009. He's never been good at handling the spotlight. The news media was always waiting to see how he would manage to put his foot in his mouth next.
Mike Piazza was getting booed when he first got to NY by Mets fans & even though he put up the numbers every year you never really got the sense that he was beloved as an icon of NY sports.
Donnie Baseball, Mo Rivera, Willis Reed, Joe D, Lou Gehrig, all legends of their era & beloved by NY sports fans as well, but all very understated as individuals, never ones that really embraced the spotlight.
We now have 2 of the biggest names in basketball playing in our city & fans are split in their esteem of them as players. Most Knick fans love what Amar'e Stoudemire has brought to this town, a return to legitimacy with a brand name star that fans can get behind & feel proud that he's wearing their colors. Being the first bright star that was willing to step up to the plate & embrace the pressure of playing in the toughest market to play in professional sports of his own free will after a long stretch of wretched futility with this franchise has earned him that status & rightfully so. He didn't even necessarily have to win as fans had become content to be mediocre for a change after years of being exposed to bad play.
On the flip side of the coin, you have Carmelo Anthony, someone that's been labelled as a "diva" by some of his detractors because he forced his way to NY & made the team give up a big package of their assets in the process. The expectation levels have now been raised to an entirely new bar, no more are fans willing to accept anything less than an instant championship contender. There's obviously no pity for a player in his shoes, he had to know this would happen when he got here. The hullaballoo & hype that was raised upon his arrival put a bullseye on his back for the media & detractors at the slightest sign of the team faltering, but he was willing to accept that challenge. He knew what it would be like if the Knicks won. He wanted that. He wanted to come back home to the place of his birth & be loved by the fans of New York. It's becoming clear that the only way he can ever achieve that is if he delivers in the playoffs. The postseason will be his only chance to step up & become the NY sports icon that a once highly resented Reggie Jackson eventually became.
Win & the fans of NY will love you. Don't win, & you will be despised for what certain fans deem to be a derailment of some fantasy that the mediocre roster we had in place before he arrived was ever going to lead us to anything more.