Photo: Jim Hartney/Flickr
If you’ve encountered ESPN at all today – and between the website, the radio, and the army of TV stations it’s impossible not to – you’ve undoubtedly heard: the Knicks-Celtics rivalry is back.It’s not that Knicks players think so. Nor do Celtics players. The coaches cringe at hearing the “r” word. And sports news outlets without a stake in TV ratings barely give it a mention.
But to the suits at ESPN, it’s practically Patriots-Jets, if not Red Sox-Yankees.
Of course, that’s because they are airing the game tonight, and have a clear interest in making people care about it. The Rachel Nichols sit-down with Amar’e Stoudemire on SportsCenter, having Mike & Mike discussing a renewed rivalry on their morning show, and featuring it on the website’s front page are all techniques tailored to make us sit up and pay attention.
Push all the hype aside and you’re left with an intriguing NBA game between a powerhouse and an up-and-coming contender. But it’s really no different than any other Wednesday night game ESPN airs.
Rivalries aren’t built on geography or meaningless early-season games. They’re slowly developed through repeated meetings in crucial games. Unless two teams play each other with something on the line, there’s no bad blood between players, and the “rivalry” is just a term for the media to throw around.
And to a team like the Celtics, that’s gone deep into the playoffs three years running, a game in December against an opponent it routinely dismantles will do little to boil any blood.
With all that said, we’ll still be watching.
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