May 25, 2013; New York, NY, USA; General view of Times Square and the Manhattan skyline. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

What is the dilly with the Battle for New York?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

College basketball is no different from folks who make movies, create other sports’ headlines or even professional wrestling gimmicks. They too need fancy, eye-catching phrases to make sure certain events get your attention and — more importantly — will result in you spending your hard earned money. That’s why movies have catchy titles, college football has “Rivalry Week” and wrestling has No Holds Barred Matches (which are the same as a No DQ match and eerily similar to a TLC match, etc.).

For fans of the St. John’s Red Storm, well, they have something pretty fancy to look forward to as well. Not because it’s as significant as it sounds, but there might be a very small truth to “The Battle for New York” and its implied title. But trust me, it is a very, very small truth.

St. John’s has been floundering around the world of the ho-humish for some time now. Really, it hasn’t been since Mike Jarvis and his diabolical facial hair graced the bench that the Johnnies were a legitimate player in the New York area (not in recruiting, but as in being New York’s best team) — let alone nationally.

Oddly enough, however, the Syracuse Orange have a National Title under their belts, a Hall of Fame Coach who has been with the program since the extinction of dinosaurs and have sent more players to the NBA than a streetwalker sends to a health clinic.

So — with the Red Storm apparently about to bubble up and make the program relevant again — someone with a marketing degree decided that the game between these two teams on December 15th should be labeled The Battle for New York. Because, you know, tradition of excellence and it’s ability to carry over to the modern age is definitely in a battle against a program who has struggled to even make the NCAA Tournament over the last decade. Heck, even a period of time that has seen one program stick with the same coach while the other has changed more coaches than Lou Carnesecca does sweaters.

Here is the thing, about the thing, which shouldn’t be a thing; The Battle for New York is JUST a great, eye-catching phrase to make the game feel more important than it actually is. Sure, it’s being played at Madison Square Garden, but it doesn’t mean the victor takes control over the city or determines if Anthony Weiner can run for office or if he is relegated to being on the next season of the Celebrity Apprentice.

What I will not do, though, is put the game itself down because the relative importance of it is being overblown.

For this season, with whatever recruits each program is eyeing and for a year’s worth of bragging rights, yeah, sure, this game is pretty neat. Worst case scenario, it will be a lot of fun to watch and it will be all kinds of swell to see the back and forth between fans of each side.

I know this post will result in some folks who visit the site to stop coming back. But everyone needs to be realistic. St. John’s is striving to be what Syracuse has been — a consistent winner. The Red Storm have done nothing, outside of winning a few perceived recruiting victories, to even imply that Syracuse has something to lose if they were to fall if the Johnnies were to beat them. Honestly, it’s a disservice to the great work that Jim Boeheim has done with his program if anyone thinks he has something to lose when only St. John’s and Steve Lavin have anything to gain.

Seriously, trust me, because this game is much more important to one program than it is to the other. That’s not a slight to the Orange (because they are kinda a big deal) and I am not trying to troll the program that I cover. It’s just the reality in this Battle for New York.

Again, because fandom can make some blind. This game is important. It’s important for the Red Storm’s NCAA Tournament hopes for this season, recruiting and the perception of which way this program is trending, but please, it’s not a legitimate Battle for New York.

Well, at least not yet. Let St. John’s make a few tourneys in a row and/or (root for the and) make a slew of deep runs in the big dance and maybe we can revisit the selling point of The Battle for New York.

Until then, root for your team and have lots of fun with this (because that is the point of watching sports) but respect history — or something else wise said by someone cooler than me…..

Probably the something else but whatevs.


Tags: Battle For New York St. John's Red Storm Steve Lavin The Battle For New York

  • Jim Reilly

    Joe, correct, but it wasn’t always that way and a victory by Syracuse over St. John;s was a big thing.
    Boeheim needed it for recruiting back when. Unfortunately things went down hill fast when Looie retired and even the short term success of Jarvis with Fran’s recruits did not resurrect the program. St. John’s seemed to forget how important basketball was to the University. This is something Syracuse has never failed at hence the move to the ACC etc.

    • Joseph Nardone

      I agree, for the most part. The tables have certainly turned. This game is far more important to St. John’s (and us as fans) than it is to Syracuse. But you are right in pointing out that there was a time when it was different for both programs. Also, I hope you had a good Turkey Day!

      • Jim Reilly

        Thanks Joe, I did. I really enjoy your columns and I am glad that some one of your ability is
        communicating on the Johnnie’s. Keep up the great work and let’s hope for a very good season. Watching these other Big East teams compete lately surely bodes for a tough league.

  • OhWow

    As a Johnnies fan, it feels like this team is destined for mediocrity. The team this year is awful…if 4-1 isn’t fools gold, I don’t know what is. We can barely escape the 300th ranked teams in division 1. No way we will beat the 8th or 9th.

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