124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2

We Heart New York

New York's hottest club is Thumbs Down, and promoter Julius Randle is ready to spice things up

January 07, 2022

Al Bello

The thumbs down. One could say its New York resurgence began in 2017 when Mets fan Gary Denaier was seen saluting the Yankees with the iconic gesture, becoming a viral icon overnight. In reality, however, it dates back much farther than that. The thumbs down and its bah humbug spirit courses through the whole of Gotham sports history—through the Wilpon years, through each Yankees’ dynasty drought, through the Knicks’ nearly men of the ’90s, and on down through the collected history of the Giants, Islanders, Jets, and Rangers, who have won plenty but lost even more over the years. In many ways, the thumbs down has embodied New York sports for decades—the reactionary media, the dour fans, dirty sidewalks and expensive cabs—but now its moment has finally arrived.

That was Julius Randle leading the New York Knickerbockers back from a 25-point deficit to beat the Celtics on Thursday night. It should have been cause for celebration; a unifying moment between an underperforming team and its overeager fanbase. Instead Randle offered up a literal f—k you. You really do gotta “heart” New York.

But don’t blame poor Randle for his behavior. He was just jumping on the latest New York trend, like the great cupcake craze of 2012 or that one year everyone discovered The Highline. The man ultimately responsible for putting the power of the thumbs down back in the hands of the players was three-month Met Javy Baez, who started the trend this summer when he flipped the thumb to the Flushing faithful. We all know how that turned out.

But Baez crawled so Randle could walk and Randle walked so another seven-figure salaried adult playing a kids game for a living can one day run. We can’t wait to see where and when the next thumb bomb will be dropped (quite possibly by Joe Judge as soon as Sunday), but one thing is already clear:

New York’s hottest club is Thumbs Down and it’s full of bearded babies, bing bong boys, and an impish medieval court jester named Spike.