Nine years ago I was a contestant at the Italian version of “Who wants to be a millionaire?”. I’ll tell you how it all went down.
I applied for consideration as kind of a joke between me and my girlfriend from that time. I got a call three days after applying: fifteen rapid fire questions about a vast array of subjects, ranging from extra easy to quite hard. I think I nailed 13 of them. “We’ll keep in touch, don’t worry”. And they did. After a week, they booked me a train to Milan to go and take their written test. It was something resembling a mid-term exam: 70 minutes to get 20 multiple answer questions and 12 open-ended ones about everything between “Who wrote *semi-obscure Italian song* and why?” to “Who won Serie A in 1985?”. I passed the test and the very same day there was a meeting with the show authors. Another batch of questions, a bit of small talk, and after 30 more minutes another step was taken towards tv stardom and unimaginable riches. But it wasn’t over! The last challenge before becoming a contestant was to endure a two hour and a half (not kidding) telephone conversation where they asked everything about anything until I was almost physically exerted to the point of dehydration – mind you, it wasn’t stressful; it was physically straining. You weren’t even allowed a bathroom break during the phone call.
Anyway, all went well and I got selected. For a month, nothing happened. Then there came a day when they called me and said “hey, are you free next Wednesday?”. Of course I wasn’t – I already had a vexing job, but whatever, chances like that aren’t a dime a dozen, so I made myself free. I went to Milan again to take part in the actual show, but nothing. The first day I didn’t get called to the main stage. This went on for another three days during the subsequent two weeks (once they even paid for accomodation since they needed for me to sleep in Milan as to already be there in the early morning – but again, nothing). Then, finally, on a fateful June 13th in 2011 I got my chance. I knew I would have: the most they can keep you waiting is five days, and I reached the limit right there. So I just had to “play” that day. And I did.
I won’t bore you with the actual questions, just let it be known that along the way there was this one: “Mordillo the dog eats only on odd days. How many times does he eat in March? (14, 15, 16, 17)”. Authors recommend you left and right to take your time in answering because seeing a contestant thinking out loud makes half the show. I’m good at talking sweet nothings, but I honestly didn’t see the point in treading water on such a stupid question, so I literally answered “Ok it’s 16, it’s good, let’s move on to the next question” before the host even had a chance to say anything. It has to be one of the top-10 most smug moments on national tv to this day.
Anyway, I got to the 10k question with the “phone a friend” lifeline still in hand. At the time, it was the 9th out of 15 questions to get to the top.
The question was this one: “During his adventures, which one of the following characters gets to step onto the island of the Busy Bees? (Pippi Longstocking; Alice; Pinocchio; Winnie the Pooh)”. Now, I didn’t know the answer for sure. Keep in mind that (at least in Italy) 30% of what you win in TV shows immediately gets paid in taxes, so I would have won “just” 7k if I answered correctly using the last lifeline (when you’re out of lifelines you’re already cooked – so that would have been my last step for sure). So I thought: will 7k change my life? No. Did I came here after all that (the selection process, the wait, the weariness) just to win 7k? Also, don’t bees make honey? And aren’t bears totally in love with honey? And isn’t Winnie the Pooh a bear?
I basically went for broke because at that time it looked like the only right thing to do: there was too much “work” done before that, I had no business going back home with a small sum. I had to keep my last lifeline at least for the 20k question. So I went in.
Needless to say, I lost. The correct answer (and using the last lifeline would have been extremely useful: it’s literally the first result when you Google “Busy bees”) was Pinocchio. So I went home with nothing apart from the aforementioned smug moment which will probably outlive me. Oh, I also snuck in a kinda dirty joke that pretty much nobody got. Yeah, I’m a riot.
But you know what? I never regretted it. Part of that is geography and family luck: my socioeconomic milieu is such that 7k really don’t change your life, so I could afford to lose them without blinking. But part of that is the nature of the game. You’re on national TV. If you’re lucky (and good) you probably get to participate three times in your life to such games. You can’t squander the chance just to take home small prizes. I feel like I had to shoot for the moon. I still do. I never regretted the choice.
After watching the last few games, and all in all the last few Knicks seasons, I’m pretty confident that Perry (and to a minor extent Miller) would have gone the last lifeline route. There’s value in self-restraint, and I appreciate it. But this doesn’t look like it. It looks like barely respectable mediocrity. Is this what we should get after 17 losing seasons in the last 20?
Case in point, another game in this terrible season.
Our Knicks fought decently in the first half, going into halftime up by four (while both teams were bricking everything in sight). The effort was uneven, and the minutes were even more than that. To compound the below-average minutes allocation, puzzlingly Miller chose to go with DSJ as the backup PG without getting Frank in as a secondary PG as well. DSJ went on to turn over the ball 4 times in 4 minutes. It was one the most pathetic outings at PG I can remember. Anyway, DSJ wasn’t able to do much damage because he played just six minutes total. I mean, he sucked so much that he actually forced Miller’s hand not to play him anymore during the second half. Even more discomforting, in the second half the wheels totally came off and the Knicks went at first down six, then down 15, and then down 20. They didn’t even try to retaliate: they were content sucking, as if it was their natural state of being. And maybe it just is.
When you lose by 20 at home to a bad team, you’d hope that your guys at least showed something in terms of promise and development, right?
RJ Barrett: 29 minutes, 16 points, 5 rebounds, 0 (!) assists, 5/16 from the field. At least he hit all six of his free throws, but it was a total stinker by the shooting impaired rookie. Here at least I have no gripes, he played a lot.
Frank Ntilikina: 12 minutes, 0 (!) points, 1 (!) rebound, 3 assists, 1 steal. When Frank posts line like this one, I can’t help but feel like he’s basically a styrofoam placeholder out there who just happens to move laterally well and in sync with his man. Badly discouraging.
Kevin Knox: 10 minutes, 2 points, literally nothing else. If Frank’s a styrofoam placeholder, Kevin’s a cardboard one.
Mitchell Robinson: 18 minutes (foul trouble but honestly who the hell cares, leave him in and go from there, I’m sick of this foul management bullshit in a lost season), 11 points, 8 boards, 1 block. Also, -9 +/-. Mitch is very good in a vacuum, but a truly good coach has to find a way to make his impact felt on the game, night in and night out. Right now it looks like Miller is trying to get to the grocery store with a Lamborghini. Sometimes you’ll have three free miles on main street and everything will look awesome, but as soon as you have to swerve right you’re tempted to ditch the Lambo for a steady Prius. No, Mike! You have to play Mitch! Don’t be such a (respectable) wuss! Show us you have balls!
Sorry. I know. I always say the same things. But that’s the only thing that should matter now. I like winning. I like competing. But there’s no point in that. So there’s no point in watching these games with an open mind or some sort of hope.
As JK47 said, this season is salvageable to a fan only if you watch the team as farcical. Everything else will end up pulling a Cthulhu on your mind.
So stay strong, enjoy the All-Star rest, and be ready to sport a sad smile everytime this team steps on the court from now to April. And hope for the draft.