The number that matters in the US$10-million lawsuit filed by the New York Knicks against the Toronto Raptors is zero. Zero is how many times the Knicks have won a title since the Nixon administration.
If you’re going to steal trade secrets, wouldn’t you steal them from someone who understands their trade? The Raptors spying on the Knicks is like some tech start-up spying on WeWork. It doesn’t require insider knowledge to drive something into the ground. Most sports teams can figure it out on their own.
Some will say, ‘Stupid cheating is still cheating.’ To which I would say, if you’re not cheating in pro sports, you’re not trying. The people you think aren’t cheating are just the ones who are really good at it.
How far does this ‘no cheating’ thing go for you? For instance, a guy blows by you on the wing and is now breaking away on goal. What should you do? I guess you’d say to let him go. To do otherwise is cheating.
No, of course not. You put your stick between his legs and hope a sprained ankle is the worst that comes of it. But if not, oh well, that’s why everyone makes so much money.
What’s the difference between a player taking liberties and an organization doing so? A hundred or so lawyers.
This isn’t to suggest the Raptors have done something wrong by hiring a former low-level New York employee, who arrived along with a bunch of info on Knicks’ best practices ba dum tss. That’s for a very bored judge to decide.
This is to suggest that more people in sports ought to file lawsuits. It’s fun.
Everyone knows what this is about, and it isn’t Knicks LLC versus Raptors LLC. It’s New York owner James Dolan versus the NBA. It’s one guy settling scores in his statement of claim, and maybe getting one over on the team that humiliated him with the Andrea Bargnani trade.
Dolan was so upset by the way the Bargnani move turned out that he kiboshed a subsequent trade with Toronto for Kyle Lowry. At that point, Raptors GM Masai Ujiri had got so deep inside Dolan’s head that his fedoras no longer fit.
Lowry helped steer the Raptors to a title. The Knicks remain lost at sea somewhere in the Hudson River. I’d be angry at myself, too.
The real story here isn’t that this is happening. It’s that it doesn’t happen more often.
It’s a small miracle the collegium of billionaires who control pro sports don’t publicly turn on each other from time to time. That they don’t is a reminder of how well things are working out for them. Or maybe it’s because once you start with the lawsuits, they might never stop.
For instance, the NHL. Every owner ought to be suing the league for saddling them with that non-profit basket case, the Arizona Coyotes.
The Coyotes ought to sue the league for allowing them to exist. It must be some sort of defamation, even if it is self-inflicted.
Wannabe owner Jim Balsillie ought to be suing everyone for not letting him move a team – any team, because he tried to buy them all – to Hamilton.
Leafs fans ought to be suing MLSE for whatever role it might have played in the Balsillie saga, even if that was just arching its eyebrows and going, “Oh geez, that guy,” whenever his name came up.
If Balsillie had got his first wish and moved the Pittsburgh Penguins 70 klicks down the road from Scotiabank Arena, I guarantee you the Leafs would have won a Stanley Cup by now. Because they’d have to.
The Leafs should sue every GM they’ve had since Pat Quinn because they’ve all made the team just a little bit worse. The only way the Leafs ever get substantially better is via the draft. And in order to do so, they have to get worse first. You see the issue.
The board should sue Leafs management to prevent them from ever again picking their own goalie. They are so bad at it that it’s beginning to seem like sabotage.
Toronto fans should sue Scotiabank game operations for doing that stupid trick with the gigantic Leafs flag they pull across a half-dozen sections of seats at every home game. Up in the press box, we call that thing the Covid Tent.
On many nights, it’s still being dragged across a few hundred people long after the puck has dropped. You know how much those seats cost? Enough that people shouldn’t be expected to collect laundry in order to sit in them.
Leafs players ought to sue the board for trapping them in this gilded cage. The city ought to sue ownership for all the hours it has wasted on preparing for playoff traffic control.
The rest of Canada ought to sue Toronto to impose a gag order on talking about the Leafs. No more Leafs talk without some Leafs walk. The Supreme Court can handle the case in an open-air venue. Ticketing is free. An actual Winter Classic.
You could play the suing game in every market and in every sport, forever. Everyone who’s ever watched, played, worked for or owned a sports team has a reason to feel cheated.
If so, mission accomplished. James Dolan and all the rest of us should feel good about feeling bad. It means we’re alive.
As long as you’re still capable of feeling like you’ve been conned by sports, then you’re still in the game.