Before Week 11 of the NFL season kicked off, there was a graphic depicting the league's parity that appeared on nearly every website not showing exclusively pornography. It was first discovered at Reddit, but was such a hit that there were even bunnies posing with it on Cuteoverload.com. At least, I think that was one of the many animal-related emails that my girlfriend sent me that week in late November.
The chart formed a circle by placing each team to the left of a team it had previously beaten during the first 10 weeks of the season. It worked because every team had beaten a team that had beaten another team which had then beaten two friends and so on and so on.
For some reason, I thought of this chart last night when I heard that the Cleveland Cavaliers outlasted the Clippers in overtime to end their historic 26-game losing streak. I thought of it because the only reason that the Clippers' streak didn't stand at 37 games heading into that game was because they edged the Knicks in overtime on Dec. 18 to halt what was already a 10-game losing skid.
"We've been right there," shoot-first-ask-questions-later Cleveland point guard Mo Williams said after the game. "We showed our grit. We wanted to see some wins to start believing."
Coming off a disheartening, nationally-televised loss to the Miami Heat the night before that mid December visit to Cuyahoga County, the Knicks couldn't solidify various first half leads and allowed the home team to net two unanswered buckets in the final 45 seconds to force overtime. As so often seems to be the case, the team that forced the overtime is the team that won the overtime.
The members of the Cavaliers would not smile those winning smiles for nearly two months after that game because other teams, unlike the Knicks, transmuted their various first half leads into eventual margins of victory. Because other NBA teams greedily grab the low-hanging fruit during the arduous 82-game regular season. Not our 2010-2011 Knickerbockers, though. Their tastes in fruit are harder to unpack. They seem to crave the highest-hanging varieties without quite being able to consistently reach the branches from which they grow. Unless, Amar'e Stoudemire lets his teammates stand on his shoulders to reach.
I thought of that NFL chart last night because unpredictable teams like the New York Knicks are the key to the sort of parity that the NFL cultivates. The inconsistent Knicks would later beat those same South Beach SuperFriends that they lost to before losing to Cleveland. They would even rout the San Antonio Spurs, who came into that matchup with the best record in the NBA.
The Knicks can beat any team on any given night. But they can also lose to the Clippers who will in turn drop their next game to the Cavaliers, who, of course, hadn't tasted victory in the several weeks since they had been fortunate enough to tangle with the Knicks. When looking at such a series of results it's tempting to assume a transitive relationship between the teams: If Team A beat Team B and Team B then beat Team C then Team is also better than Team C.
But if the Knicks have been beaten by the Cavaliers and the Clippers and the Cavaliers then beat the Clippers then I think that would make the Knicks the 1962 Mets. Perhaps if the Carmelo trade doesn't go through the Knicks can use Eddy Curry's roster spot to sign Marvelous Marv Throneberry. He's got to have better hands than Mozgov. Or perhaps we can reanimate Casey Stengel to replace Mike D'Antoni on the sideline.