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Michael Rubin Only Made Sure More Sixers Fans Could Watch Their Team Lose

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 2: Jalen Brunson #11 of the New York Knicks walks off the court after the game against the Philadelphia 76ers during Round 1 Game 6 of the 2024 NBA Playoffs on May 2, 2024 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2024 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

It would seem that the attempt by noted blowhard Michael Rubin to make Wells Fargo Arena an impenetrable fortress Thursday night fell short, as it should have. For one, you could still hear New York Knickerbockers fans in the rafters, and for two, the Knicks still won Game 6 and eliminated the 76ers.

But here's a thought: The fans had nothing to do with it. This was a fabulous series to watch from start to finish, and the better team won by a single Josh Hart death ray. Not that a Sixers victory wouldn't have been just as delightful, plus it would have given us a seventh game, and seventh games are good in all cases but extremely so in this one.

As a consolation prize, Rubin—Fanatics' chief insect who gave you the papier-mache jersey and jacked up the price for it—ends up looking like the comprehensive doofus that he is. In trying the fill the house with anyone who wouldn't make noises for the Knicks, he forgot that fans operate by their own motivations, and in any event do not actually affect an outcome; if they could, home teams would win a hell of a lot more than they do, and in the last 10 years that percentage has dropped by 8–10 percent in both in the NBA and NHL.

Or maybe the Sixers should have brought back this guy:

Still, the myth of the tribal fan as game force is an amusingly brazen one, given that in almost all situations it is about other things—selling as-yet-unpurchased seats at extortionate prices, creating a scarcity where it does not normally exist, arena and living room atmospherics, and in a few cases passive-aggressive crowd control, the theory being that if everyone is rooting for the same thing the chances of two like-minded civilians pounding on each other is diminished.

But Rubin played the audience by getting attention for a problem that only existed on the ethereal plane. The Sixers had already sold all the tickets, so it wasn't cash flow, and if Knicks fans were so powerful, why has there been a half-century of this? Rubin, a former part-owner of the Sixers, was jumping in front of a parade that had already passed the part of the route upon which he was standing, and while he got what he wanted (attention), he didn't actually help the Sixers in any material way, which was ancillary to Goal No. 1. The Sixers were heroic in defeat, and all the fans in the building got a game worth remembering, which is more than can be said for, say, the Phoenix Suns or Miami Heat.

That's it, though, and if this fans-as-loud-observers-only seems too unromantic a concept for you, well, Rubin started it by feeding the fraud that fans are in fact more powerful than that, and did it for his own cheap amusement. While we fervently wanted a seventh game because all decent citizens want that, this was a decent consolation.

Not that we'll be changing anyone else's mind on this—fans want to think they matter as something more than uncredited contributors to the owner's portfolio because it makes all that spent money seem less frivolous—but the Carolina Hurricanes are doing the same thing in a less self-flattering way. They are limiting ticket sales to their upcoming series with the New York Rangers to people with specific credit card billing zip codes under the unsupported theory that opponents' fans have been able to routinely pack PNC Arena (the Canes have sold out the building to their own since February of last year). Even allowing for the vagaries of StubHub and the occasional profit-taker which both creates the issue of and moots any such ticket-selling prohibitions, no amount of Ranger fans will change the outcome. If the Canes wanted a real home-ice advantage, they’d be better off having Igor Shesterkin detained at the airport.

Or, and this is worth considering, maybe it's just a thing people have about New York fans. I mean, any fan who needs you to hear his or her bellowed view on anything is someone cruising for an eighty-sixing, and New York fans have a reputation for being exceptional at that. Then again, so do Philly fans and we can see how that image took a beating this last week. If only they'd kept their tickets out of the hands of the slack-jawed Visigoths from up I-95 and cheered louder and more menacingly for their battered heroes, maybe Joel Embiid's body wouldn't be a trash bag of worn-out parts. Do they not care about their own?

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