This looks like a good time to acknowledge the fact that, for as much fun as we poke at Vivek Ranadive and the Sacramento Kings, they are light years from being the New York Knicks.
After all, while the Kings are pretty much the same story told the same way, the Knicks have taken a small, petty feud with former player Charles Oakley and turned it into a countrywide talking point about how the James Dolan Knicks are actually a rebooted version of the Donald Sterling Clippers.
Sure, it's still an inside-basketball story that requires way more interest in the Knicks' sordid backstory than anyone should ever have, but in three days they have taken a simple story of a disputatious former player and transformed it into a hilarious tale of one small man's pettiest instincts ratcheted into hyperdrive.
Wednesday, Dolan dispatched a phalanx of security to remove Oakley from his seat in Madison Square Garden as part of an ongoing feud between the two over criticisms Oakley has made about the operation of the franchise, then had his public relations people intimate that Oakley had some condition that required "help."
When that deservedly blew up, New York Rangers fans took up the Oakley cause the next night and chanted "Free Charles Oakley," causing security to harass the fan who began the chant before giving up.
And Friday, Dolan fired his secury head Frank Benedetto for doing what Dolan ordered him to do, though Dolan called that "an accumulation of things" from his hiring -- all the way back in August. He then doubled back to ban Oakley from Madison Square Garden for life. He later reduced that ban to allow for reinstatement in a radio interview with ESPN's Michael Kay, but for the most part made the argument about Oakley's alleged abusive language and behavior.
Nobody was biting on that one, though, believing that Dolan once again had made it about himself and the infringement of his right never to be challenged.
In such a way does a minor dispute becomes a nationally brand-damaging story. Ranadive has never done that. Chris Cohan never did that. Jed York never did that. Mark Davis, John Fisher, Peter Magowan . . . you name the local owner, none of them ever managed that. Even Charlie Finley trying to fire Mike Andrews during the 1973 World Series for committing two errors happened on the national stage of a World Series. Oakley was muscled out of the Garden during a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, and because Dolan is Dolan and the Knicks are the Knicks, this became a major deal that has now escalated over two more days than it should have.
Why? Because while we as a society are far too tolerant of our oligarchs, sometimes the oligarchs forget that tolerance has its limits.
Now it may be that the Oakley matter is actually an offshoot of a much bigger story, namely Dolan's disastrous stewardship of the franchise. I mean, the Carmelo Anthony-Phil Jackson feud has become its own self-cancelling mockery, but that's for the far less telegenic reason of "I don't want my highest-paid player but I don't have the ability to banish him."
The point is, you can tell the entire Knicks story in all its abjectness with just footage of one Anthony jumpshot, one look at Jackson sitting imperiously, and some tape of Oakley being forcibly led out of the place he helped ennoble. The Knicks in his 18 years have gone from NBA Finalist to Eastern Conference Finalist to first-round loser and then have missed the playoffs entirely in 11 of the last 15 seasons.
But that's just low-level local muttering. A lot of teams have risible or repellent owners, but it's hard to galvanize anyone into rage any more without either a written record or a video event and a subsequent P.R. disaster that crystallizes all the other dysfunctions.
And the Knicks are there today. They have long been among the most overrated of "name" franchises given their low level of historical achievement, but to escalate a shameful regional story into a ridiculous national one takes a gift that few billionaires have, and one that should make most billionaires remember the phrase "There but for the grace of God go I."
The Dolan-Knicks-Garden-Oakley deconstruction should surely provide a bit of comfort to Ranadive and all other owners with an image problem. They can no longer win the gold medal for detestableness without aggressively to do so. They may bumble through pressers, or repeatedly hire the wrong guys or even try to move their franchise over and over again, but they're fighting for second place on the medal stand now.
Finally, a title for Jimmy Dolan's Knicks.