Over at Deadspin, here’s Jim Windolf on how Daily News writer Frank Isola became the most hated man at MSG.
Over at Deadspin, here’s Jim Windolf on how Daily News writer Frank Isola became the most hated man at MSG.
[Photo Credit: Anthony Gruppuso / USA TODAY Sports]
I am always asked to write about basketball. People labor under the mistaken impression that, since I attend the Knicks games and have done so regularly for over 25 years, I’ve learned something or that I have insights and observations that are worth listening to, but they are wrong. I have only opinions and feelings based on nothing much but emotions, and I have gripes and theories, often crackpot. Mostly, I sit quietly at the Garden hoping for a close game, hating the blowouts, even if it’s the Knicks on top, enjoying the fans, marveling at the dancers and barely tolerating the endless insipid promotional stunts during timeouts. (If you’ve ever seen out-of-shape men and women shooting endless air balls from the foul line or frantic physical specimens racing across the floor trying to load, carry and push luggage racks as they compete, you get the idea.)
When asked why it is so important that the Knicks win, since at the end of the game or even the season nothing in life is affected one way or the other, I can only answer that basketball or baseball or any sport is as dearly important as life itself. After all, why is it such a big deal to work and love and strive and have children and then die and decompose into eternal nothingness? (By now, the person who asked me why the Knicks winning is important is sorry.)
To me, it’s clear that the playoffs or 61 home runs, a no-hitter, the Preakness, the Jets, or human existence can all be much ado about nothing, or they can all have a totally satisfying, thrilling-to-the-marrow quality. In short, putting the ball into the hoop is of immense significance to me by personal choice and my life is more fun because of it.
Charlie Pierce has a nice piece on the Knicks over at Grantland. A reminder that reading about sports can be, you know, fun:
By this time in the NBA season, every team, good and bad, needs a healthy dose of ridiculous in its game to keep the fans interested and the snark flowing until such time as the playoffs begin and everybody has to get grimly serious about the whole business. (Back in the day, there was never a better time to cover the Larry Bird–era Celtics than during the trackless days of mid-February and early March. Those teams had Bird and McHale — and, earlier, Cedric Maxwell — as snarkmasters supreme and, eventually, they had Bill Walton come aboard as a dartboard. It was open-mic night four times a week.) Right now, and much to his dismay, New York Knick Jason Kidd is the element of ridiculousness that’s adding a certain je ne sais clang to what is, at the moment, the best team not only in your Atlantic Division, but also in your five boroughs.
Kidd is in a slump. No, check that. Kidd is in a morass. No, check that. Kidd is in the Great Grimpen Mire and we may never see him again. Jason Kidd, who already has a plaque gathering dust as it waits for him in Springfield, has missed 34 of 41 3-point attempts, including six Sunday night, in a closer-than-it-should-have-been, sparing–you–from–watching–Seth MacFarlane 99-93 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. He has missed them long and he has missed them short. He has barely missed them and he has missed them by a time zone or two. Anne Hathaway had as good a chance of hitting a 3-point shot Sunday night as Jason Kidd did. But what’s interesting is that this amazing pile of statistical roadkill likely will not even matter in two months. The Knicks didn’t sign Kidd to hit 3-pointers in February. They signed him to hit Carmelo Anthony in the eyeball with a pass at a critical moment of a game in June. And, if he is a step slow at that, too, and he is, he is still being paid a handsome $9 million or so for three or four passes that people will remember long after the sound of The Bells of St. Mary’s fades.
[Photo Credit: Joe Camporeale/USA Today]
Knicks at Heat tonight. This used to be a rivalry. Let’s see if the Knicks play well and finish the first half of the season on the good foot.
[Picture by Craig Redman]
The Jeremy Lin show hits the road tonight. He’ll face another riveting young point guard, Ricky Rubio, along with Kevin Love and the T Wolves.
Should be fun.
[You can order the Shao Lin t-shirt at shop.akufuncture.com]
Tonight at the Varsity Letters speaking series, Harvey Araton will talk about his new book about the great Knicks teams from the 1970s, and Scott Raab will discuss his latest, “The Whore of Akron: One Man’s Search for the Soul of Lebron James.” They will be joined by True Hoop blogger, Henry Abbott.
Promises to be a fun evening.
I was All-Schoolyard, tell her, Max.
“Sports to me is like music…It’s completely, aesthetically satisfying. There were times I would sit at a game with the old Knicks and think to myself in the fourth quarter, This is everything the theatre should be an isn’t. There’s an outcome that’s unpredictable. The audience is not ahead of the dramatist. The drama is ahead of the audience, and you don’t know exatly where it’s going. You’re personally involved with the players–they had herioc demensions, some of those players. It’s a pleasurable experience, though not intellectual–much like music. It enters you through a diferent opening, sort of…
You see, life consists of giving yourself these problems that can be dealt with, so you don’t have to face the problems that can’t be dealt with. It’s very meaningful to me, for instance, to see if the Knicks are going to get over some problem or another. These are matters you can get involved with, safely, and pleasurably, and the outcome doesn’t hurt you.”
Woody Allen to David Remnick, 1994
Well said, though I’m sure some fans would argue about not being hurt. Last night’s loss was a tough one, doesn’t matter that the Celtics should have mopped the floor with them. Carmelo Anthony was brilliant but Jared Jeffries will be the memory that doesn’t go away from this one. And that hurts, man.
When is it okay to abandon your team?
I ask, of course, because of the Knicks.
I’m not really asking for myself, because I’m not a real Knicks fan. Baseball is my sport. In basketball, I’ve always been rather free with my affections. As a kid I watched the Bulls, because they were on TV a lot and because Michael Jordan. Then in the Patrick Ewing era I liked the Knicks, because I loved everything having to do with New York City. After the Yankees started winning so much I started to feel guilty about it and in the winter of 1999 adopted the Nets, who had always previously sucked, but they disappointed me by (briefly) not sucking during the Jason Kidd years. I moved to Brooklyn after college and went back to the Knicks. So I’m no model fan anyway, and I almost never go to games at Madison Square Garden, because I can’t afford it. But I still think in general terms it’s an interesting question.
Probably most of us would agree that you never bail on a team just because they’re lousy. I mean, you can, of course, but it’s unseemly. You stick it out — that’s a central tenant of what it means to be a fan. But players can be replaced or traded, and general managers can be fired. What about when the team’s ownership is inept, malignant, self-destructive, obnoxious and too flush with inherited billions to ever, ever be forced to sell? This weekend came the news, or at least the very strong rumors, that James Dolan is taking over and (probably – safe bet) bungling the Carmelo Anthony negotiations. And that Isiah Thomas is “consulting” or “advising” (when asked, he refused to say) and calling the shots and not ruling out a return to a prominent role with the Knicks.
I’m not a lifelong die-hard Knicks rooter like so many New Yorkers, and right now I’m glad. Because if Isiah Thomas returns to any kind of meaningful role with the team, I’m done with this team. How many times does he have to demonstrate that, although he was a great player, he is an abysmal coach and GM? (To say nothing of his unfortunate tendencies towards sexual harassment). How can James Dolan possibly be both that oblivious and that contemptuous of Knicks fans? And since he clearly is, why would we ever expect him to change at this point?
The Nets are moving fifteen minutes from my apartment in a year and a half. They have returned to their usual suckiness, and I hate the way they bullied and bribed that new stadium through. And yet. You can say what you want about Jay-Z – but, damn it, he would never in a million years put up with this Isiah Thomas crap.
Anyway, I’m curious to hear your thoughts. When is it okay to ditch your team? If you’re a Knicks fan, do you have a breaking point – and if so, have you reached it yet? If not, what would it take?
The halftime score at the Garden tonight: Knicks 72, Spurs 69.
Runnin’ and gunnin’. This is fun.
Final Score: Knicks 128, Spurs 115. Good night at the Garden against the best team in the NBA.
Earlier today, on Twitter, I offered Cliff Lee all the money I have on me ($7.65) if he would hurry up and decide something already, so that I could write about him today. I have not yet heard back from his agent, however, so I went ahead and bought lunch and the offer is no longer on the table.
In the absence of any baseball news more significant than Brian Bruney signing with the White Sox, and some media-on-media violence from the usually mild-mannered Buster Olney and Joe Posnanski, I am thus forced to turn my attention to basketball. Which, in recent years in New York City, has been almost unspeakably bleak. But after years of excruciating play, and then years of being unable to bring myself to care how excruciating their play was, I am casting a hopeful but wary eye on the Knicks.
Going by his own statement, Isiah Thomas, who has by now made it clear that he is clinically delusional, targeted Lebron James for the 2010 season from the very first unfortunate moment that he was hired to run the Knicks. (He even tries to make that his explanation for the Eddy Curry deal, but like all other explanations for the Eddy Curry deal, it makes no sense whatsoever). As you may have noticed, however, Lebron did not come to New York City this season, and I’m just as glad, because people hate New York sports teams enough as it is, and because the whole “Decision” thing was so insufferable. But I did not think, at first, that Amar’e Stoudemire would be any kind of suitable consolation prize.
Stoudemire is no LeBron, but he’s also a lot better than I gave him credit for prior to this season, and he’s a fairly interesting, likeable guy to boot. This is the first year since the millenium, more or less, that the Knicks have been any fun to watch, and that’s not all Stoudemire, but he’s played a big role. I did not expect that I would gain much pleasure from watching point guard Raymond Felton, either, but I was wrong – and really after the agony of the Stephon Marbury years, it’s just lovely to have a PG who isn’t noticeably mentally unstable, miserable, and constantly jeered by his hometown crowd. Wilson Chandler, Landry Fields: I expected nothing and, for once, the Knicks have overdelivered… so far. They do not seem to hate each other, their fans, or their coach… yet.
The season is still young and, when it comes to the Knicks (or any team owned by James Dolan), I will not count my dysfunctional chickens. No imaginable severity of collapse could surprise me any more. But the Knickerbockers are working on their best record since the Clinton years, and finally, best of all, the Garden is no longer hostile and angry and hurt. I don’t need the Knicks to be great right now, I just need them to be better. Mediocrity is a soothing relief.
Needless to say, it’s been many many years since that was true of the Yankees. Which is why they are willing to go a walloping seven years on a 32-year-old pitcher, and why that pitcher can take his sweet Arkansas time in making up his mind. Hurry up, Lee, or I’m going to have to write about the god damn Jets, and nobody wants that.
The Cliff Lee Drama promises to unfold shortly–tomorrow they say–and I for one am fed-up with all this waiting. I hope he signs with Texas, stay the bad guy (and I think he’s lock to go back). Look, if he comes to the Yanks, I’ll bellyache about the contract, because it’s insane, but I’ll be pleased that he improves the team in the short term. If he passes, I’ll be relieved and eager to see what the Yanks do next.
That said, this waiting game isn’t endearing Lee to anyone. Not that he does–or should–care.
It’s raining in New York this morning. The Jets play the Dolphins in the late afternoon game out in Jersey. I wonder if football players wake up bummed when they hear raindrops or if it just doesn’t matter at all to them as they gnaw on a slab of raw meat.
Araton gets props over here.
In the meantime, the Knicks are on early this afternoon. Yes, the Knicks. Amare has been so much better than I ever expected. What a nice surprise. It’s been awhile…
UPDATE: The first half of the Knicks-Nuggest game today at the Garden is enough to turn fair-weather Knicks fans like me back on. 66-65 Knicks at the half, a shoot-out. Lots of fun. Nene vs. Amare has been spirited, Amare came close to getting his second tech and tossed in the second quarter. Refs gave the Knicks a hometown call. Nene’s thrown down three dunks, the last one, emphatically! over Amare.
Can’t remember the last time I was actually excited about watching the second half of a Knicks game…
UPDATE: Knicks win a good one…that’s their 8th win in a row, something they haven’t done in 16 years.
Celts and then the Heat come to the Garden this week. Nice.
[Photo Credit: N.Y. Daily News and Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images]