A couple of weeks ago, I was loitering near 2nd Avenue near St. Marks at 9pm on a Saturday night. And whom do I spy hanging outside a frozen yogurt place called “16 Handles,” but the New Jersey Nets; Troy Murphy. Actually, I’m only 98% sure it was Murphy. But how many 6’11” guys who look like the bastard love child of David Schwimmer and Pat Cummings are there in the greater NY/NJ Metro area?.
He’s wearing a blue velour tracksuit and eating frozen yogurt with a gentleman in a white velour tracksuit in his 60’s who I assume was a relative of some sorts (they both hand those chipmunk/Schwimmer jowls). It’s a rare thing that you get to see a pro athlete of any stripe in an un-guarded, un-mediated, non-job related moment so I lit a cigarette and pretended that I was waiting for someone outside a bar, frequently glancing at my watch and/or cell while stealing furtive glances to see what the fairly conspicuous Mr. Murphy was up to. Yes, it was quite the undercover, bravura performance on my part.
I don’t know how many of you routinely find yourselves in the East Village on a Saturday eve, but it’s a pretty lively spot. And the Fro-Yo places always seem to have a gaggle of teenagers doing what teenagers do–squawking loudly, being a general nuisance, and so on. Tonight’s no different, and Mr. Murphy found himself with a small posse surrounding him and his relative. I could see he was getting pissed, but hey, if you’re hanging around a yogurt place at night, whaddaya expect? The kids eventually start to move on and then…
Well… something truly odd happened.
Troy, out of the blue, bellowed, in what I can only assume was his best affectation of an urban dialect, “I’ll fuck you up, Yo!” in the general direction of the teens.
I was kind of floored. One, why the hostility? It was totally uncalled for. Two, you don’t talk like that, Troy Murphy. I so caught scraps of dialogue that you were having with your relative/Mafioso pal, and that’s not how you normally speak. Did you think affecting a stereotypically urban/”street” dialect would be more threatening? I mean, you already are about 1-1.5 feet taller than everyone around you. And the kids were already leaving. Why chucking alpha male bullshit? Anyway, after his outburst he continued to eat and generally mope around but now I really had to see what Troy Murphy would do next.
Five minutes later, a woman walked by with her dog. It was a cute dog and a kind of cute woman. Troy was eyeballing her/pondering a move when he literally starts barking at the dog.
The woman, clearly disturbed/weirded out, hightails it out of there and the Murph smiles as if that was somehow his intended result. Again, pointless and random hostility in a situation that in no way warranted it. And dear god Troy, why? Why are you generally behaving like an asshat? Do you have so little game that you think that barking is going to make ’em swoon? Is 16 Handles’ frozen yogurt THAT good that you’ll trade being royally pissed off for its sweet, creamy rewards? You can certainly afford to go anywhere you like for desert, so what gives?
After that, I left. I’m sure he did something else that was icky, but I’d had my fill. I bring this all up not because I want to spread scurrilous gossip about Troy Murphy, but to point out that these individuals, NBA players, upon whom we invest a great deal of our personal, emotional life, are probably complete aliens to most of us. Maybe I’m wrong, but has anyone reading this blog ever gotten to spend any time just say, hanging out with a Knick? Even so, we certainly ascribe very specific personal characteristics to these guys. We act as though we know what Amar’e or LeBron is like because of how they perform their job. Think about that. If you or are were solely defined by our workaday doings, it’d be at best a pretty incomplete picture.
The Murphy incident was a clear reminder that we really don’t know anything at all about these people at all, not as real, three-dimensional human beings. It’s not that that all NBA players are secretly vile, base creatures. In all likelihood, a bunch the cats who one thinks one might fear/loathe because the way they play suggests they’re a bully/goon/thug, are in “real” life, absolute sweethearts. I think the truth is actually far more mundane. I assume that an NBA team is composed more or less along the same lines as any other group of individuals in a work environment. There are going to be a couple of jerks and creeps you don’t like, a few individuals you’d be friends with even if you’d never worked together, and the rest, well, they’re people you really couldn’t care about one way or another. Granted, this is a particularly close-knit job situation, what with all the travel and the media exposure. But my suspicion is it’s not that dissimilar from our own, far less glamorous office or ditch-digging experiences.
Lest y’all think I’m shunning Knick uber-fandom, I’m still seriously geeking for the new season (3-5 start notwithstanding), the point of this little ditty is to remind myself that as we stand and cheer (or boo) it’s super important to separate the performance from the performer, and that the people in Knicks-emblazoned gear are just that: people.