Sometimes you have to look up at every chance you get to have faith that the future will be better, because it just has to be. Sometimes you feel like the only sane person in the room, keeping your cool while everyone else goes insane at the first hint of trouble or, on the other hand, tries to pass everyting off as if it was bad fake news.
Today I went for a walk because I had to go fetch a traffic pass in downtown Bologna and getting there by foot is the quickest way to go. The streets were almost desert. A few cars were passing by, and I encountered just five people on a 35 minutes walk. I fetched the traffic pass and went to eat something. I love sushi, and you know it. I felt a little craving for some sweet uramaki, but as luck would have it every single sushi (to be honest: asian fusion, as in “Japanese-like restaurant owned by all sorts of Asian people”) restaurant was closed. Then again, it was cold, so I didn’t mind eating something warmer, and as I found a Chinese restaurant open I went straight for the door.
I entered the place, and, well… I was the only customer. A joint that probably on its best days feeds a hundred people was completely empty. I sat at the table, I ordered my spring rolls, my spicy chicken and shrimps, and vegetables as side dish, and ate well intent at checking my social media feeds. The food was goodish but honestly nothing remarkable. I wouldn’t recommend to eat there, but I wouldn’t advise anyone to avoid it. It was the Arron Afflalo of the Chinese restaurants: a perfectly serviceable place that just doesn’t move the tiniest needle in your overall life. I still left the poor waiter a generous tip. I felt sorry for him and his wasted day at work.
This, guys, is life in March 2020 in the so-called yellow zone in Italy. Coronavirus has hit hard, much harder than I ever thought it could. It’s not about numbers per se: while a little more than 2,250 cases (79 deaths) are nothing to scoff at, the vast majority of infected people is feeling well, sometimes even being totally asymptomatic. Bologna and its suburbs amount to around one million people, and there are three registered cases as of now. But it’s not the virus that has hit that hard. It’s the sheer fear. Cinemas and theaters are closed by government decree. Citizens are advised to stay at home if they can.
February 21st was the day when the first Italian patient was discovered. By February 23rd the supermarkets were assaulted by people that felt like they needed to stock up food for a month in a nuclear vault. I’m not kidding you when I say that entire shelves were emptied in 20 minutes (but not penne lisce. Don’t ask real Italians to eat pasta that’s not striped. Penne rigate, tortiglioni, conchiglie rigate is the way. Otherwise the sauce won’t stick).
As I was saying at the beginning, I kept my cool through it all. But hope is a flickery thing, isn’it? So while I’m not worried about my own health, I can’t say the same for my parents (who both are 65+, and it looks like this virus goes hard at old people, especially if they suffer from other serious illnesses) but most of all for the whole economy. We’re at day 10, and I think we’re pretty much fucked for the 2020. Foreign tourists won’t come here in Italy as they were used to, and Italy has an estimated GDP of 150 billion dollars in tourism alone, which amounts to 7.5-8% of the whole national shebang. Italian products might be looked with mistrust for the next months. We’re probably due for a small but heavy recession. And our economy wasn’t that good to begin with, so…
In short: I fucking needed this win. I love sports. They are one of the few things that, when all goes well, give you a boost for no discernible reason. And you just take that boost and don’t look back.
The game was very entertaining: our Knicks were busy exchanging blows with the Rockets from the get-go, with RJ Barrett building up on his good performance against Chicago, ending the first quarter with 14 points and a couple gorgeous feeds to his fellow Bockers (in particular a pass to Mitch who was left entirely alone under the rim. It was eerily reminiscent of those night when I used to play in my room with a Nerf hoop and fantasized about being 6’8″ and dunking at will in the NBA. Mitch’s bucket was that easy). All the Knicks were pretty solid, but the reserves were the real protagonists, especially in the second quarter when a scorching hot Wayne Ellington went on to hit 4 threes in a row and a Bobby Portis bucket put the Knicks up by 21 (!) with 5:26 to go. It was clear that it wasn’t destined to last, but it was really fun. RJ ended the half with 19 points. Randle wasn’t that good but rebounded well.
The Rockets are a weird, uncompromising yo-yo team. They can fall back by 15 or be up 30 and they’ll play the same way, so given that threes have a inherent high variance you can never be safe enough playing them. In fact, the lead would be cut to ten at the end of the first half, thanks to strong play from Covington and Danuel House. Westbrook and Harden were fine but a bit dormient. You could feel a rolling boulder comeback from the Rockets, all but certain that the Knicks would end being destroyed by the most brilliantly annoying team in the League.
But that wasn’t the case!
In fact, the Knicks went up by 17 again with 5:38 to go in the third behind good all-around effort and savvy play (it didn’t hurt that sometimes Houston slept off entire defensive possessions). But the two headed backcourt Houston beast awoke, with Harden hitting his first three of the night with 2:08 to go in the third and a second one right at the end of the quarter, ending the stanza at 101-91.
The fourth quarter looked like a playoff game. The crowd was in it, and the Knicks were too (except for Elfrid Payton, who sometimes can’t be brought to give a damn on defense and was rightfully subbed off for Ntilikina, who looked like an NBA player last night, even on offense and for RJ Barrett, who looked gassed until the last possession vindicated his bad second half play). 101-95 gave way to 103-101, which in turn gave way to 111-106 (on a Frank pull-up!), which gave way to 118-109, which ended up seeing the Knicks just up 122-121 with 28 seconds to go. Here, RJ went onto his baptism by fire. He took the ball, chose to iso his way and bullyball-ed his way to a bank layup. From there, a Randle free throw and a great Frank defensive possession on Westbrook ensured the win.
I pumped my fist.
You can’t really argue with the last two wins. Mitch (17.5 PPG, 11.5 RPG, a criminal 24.5 MPG), RJ (23 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4 APG, 18-28 FG, 6-12 3P, 30.5 MPG), Frank (7.5 PPG, 4 APG, 6-12 FG, 22MPG) and Knox (9 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3-5 3P, 19 MPG) were all a big part of them.
This is what hope looks like. This is what I want from now on (but I need more minutes for Mitch! Who cares about Taj’s veteran leadership. We’re 21 games from another trip to the lottery. Stop this madness). This is something I can look at with eager eyes. This is why we follow the team.
Fuck you Covid19.