As a kid, I was a passionate Knick fan. Unfortunately for me, I started to have a clue about what was going on a little bit after Bernard King injured himself, and a little bit before Patrick Ewing arrived. For those of you who can remember back that far, I’m talking about the era of Pat Cummings, Eddie Lee Wilkins, and Ken “The Animal” Bannister. For those of you who can’t remember back that far, take my word for it… you didn’t miss much.
As bad as they were, though, those were my Knicks. I would watch. And cheer. And hope. And cry. (Hey, I was 8.)
In fact, one of my earliest memories involves me crying about the Knicks. See, my parents used to put me to sleep, and then go downstairs. The only TV upstairs was in their room. So, I used to sneak out of my room and into theirs, to watch the Knicks on mute. One night, the Knicks got pounded, by some mediocre team which had better players than Pat Cummings, Eddie Lee Wilkins, and Ken “The Animal” Bannister. I just couldn’t take it. I had reached my breaking point.
I don’t remember many of the specifics. I remember yelling at the TV, even though I knew I shouldn’t. If I yelled, my parents would hear me, and I would be in trouble for having snuck out of my room to watch. But I couldn’t stop. It was like the Knick-fan part of my brain had taken over the rational part of my brain. The next thing I remember was being in my bed, crying hysterically. My parents rushed upstairs to see what was wrong, and I just said something along the lines of “it’s not fair, that they are soooo bad!!!”
A few months later, the Knicks won the draft lottery and got Patrick Ewing. And everything changed. No, he never brought us a title. But he gave me a great ride as a Knicks fan from the day he arrived until the day that he was chased out of town, and I’m loyal to him because of it.
So loyal, in fact, that I stopped rooting for the Knicks when they chased him out of town. I wasn’t going to cheer for the goons who said they thought they’d be better off without Ewing “slowing them down.” (Is that what he was doing, Sprewell? Slowing you down? You, too, Houston?) And, even after those goons had left, I spent years not rooting for the Knicks. Basically, even though Ewing moved on with his life, I hadn’t.
But, as I blogged last year, the Knicks recently started to tug at my heartstrings again. First, I had the realization that I had done more than enough to show my loyalty to Patrick Ewing — after all, how many 33-year-old lawyers spend their free time singing Patrick Ewing’s praises on a blog?
Second, I noticed that a bunch of my friends who live in New York said they don’t watch the NBA anymore. I have to think this is partly because the hometown team has been terrible for approximately 10 years, and I think the game suffers if a market as important as New York is tuned out. So, for the sake of the game itself, I started to think that it would be good for the Knicks to become relevant again.
Nonetheless, I couldn’t get excited about the Knicks again because I found the whole courtship of LeBron to be so distasteful. (As I mentioned in this blog posting.) I mean, this is New York City, people — New York F’ing City. Are New Yorkers really groveling at the feet of a 25-year-old-who-never-won-anything- but-calls-himself-The-King-anyway? New Yorkers? I wanted no part of it.
Well, The King, of course, took his talents to South Beach. Shortly thereafter, I felt the tugging on the heartstrings begin again. The Knicks got Stoudemire and then Felton. The season started, and they showed some signs of life. There were guys on the team whom I liked: Stoudemire seems introspective and genuine, and is even starting to play some D. Gallo might have a stiff back and might go soft sometimes, but he can shoot the lights out of the arena and has a good feel for the game — basically, he’s what I would be if I grew 10 inches, and was slightly-less-unathletic. Raymond Felton was the starting PG on a national championship team in college — the kind of guy I like to root for. Landry Fields is a perimeter player who played 4 years at Stanford and led the Pac 10 in rebounding during his senior season, another guy I could root for. (Plus, he lives down the street from me — I’ve seen him at Buffalo Wild Wings.) All of a sudden, the Knicks had a bunch of guys whom I liked, and I was starting to pay attention to what they were doing.
And then Friday night came along. The Heat were in town for the first time this season, and I made a point of watching the Knicks for the first time in a very long time. When I saw LeBron get boo’ed during pregame introductions, and again each time he touched the ball, I knew that the people in the Garden crowd were my people. I’ll never see eye-to-eye with the ones who wanted to get rid of Patrick, or the ones who were kissing LeBron’s butt in hopes that he’d join the Knicks, about the way they handled those two situations. But those people boo’ing LeBron were my people, nonetheless.
Before I knew it, I was boo’ing at the tv screen whenever LeBron touched the ball. I’m a Knicks fan, and I wanted him to know that he ain’t welcome here.
And that’s when it hit me… I’m a Knicks fan. A KNICKS FAN!!
It has been a long and rocky relationship with lots of fits and starts, but the net result was that some young hotshot on the other team, with a tattoo on his back that says “Chosen One,” brought his immense talents to MSG, and, when the guys in white stood up to battle him, I was gonna cheer them on. In the 25 years since I found myself uncontrollably sobbing after sneaking into my parents’ room to watch the Knicks even though I knew it would get me in trouble, I had come full circle; I found myself uncontrollably shouting at my own tv even though I knew that I might wake up my 6-month-old daughter, and that my wife would think I was crazy.
What can I say? Lots has changed over those 25 years, but I’m still the same person who was willing to get in trouble just to vent about the Knicks. Yup – I’m a Knicks fan.
Of course, something else hasn’t changed since that evening 25 years ago… the Knicks got pounded on Friday night. Unlike the team of 25 years ago, though, this one has immediate reason to hope. They’re above .500, and they aren’t relying on Ken “The Animal” Bannister to give them significant production. Plus, they might get Carmelo, and then there will be legitimate reason to get excited. More on that shortly.