This is the second in a (hopefully ongoing) series of entries in which your intrepid journalist watches the Knickerbockers and provides a (mostly) unedited Hunter S. Thompson/Bill Simmons-esque Gonzo running diary of the evening’s events. Here’s the first installment.
Because I have neither the time, financial wherewithal or media clout to schlep to Bahh-stin to attend this titanic tilt in person, I’m instead making a hajji to a friendly cul-de-sac/brownstone on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where my parents have resided since the early 70′s (The UWS back in the day was a rough-and-tumble part of town. For serious). Now, one might assume that an evening of father and son getting together in the United States of America to watch a sporting event might make for a bucolic, almost Norman Rockwell-worthy scene. There’s a hitch though…
Though neither or I nor anyone in my extended family take much stock in any mystical/religious explanations for daily events, we’ve got reams of empirical data showing that my Pops, by his mere presence in front of the TV during a ‘Bockers game, makes bad things happen. He’s like a b-ball specific version of William H. Macy’s character in the Indie flick, “The Cooler.” I’m not kidding. Literally, when he turns on the game, big leads vanish, wide-open shots clang off the rim, and passes mysteriously sail out of bounds. He stops watching and the team returns to playing decent ball. This does seem to be a relatively recent phenomenon, however, as he’s been a die-hard Nix fanatic since the late 60′s (and like any fan who actually watched Frazier et al. spin live, no NY unit will ever live up to the myth/mythos of that squad).
This year, he’s mainly taken to self-imposed exile in his studio between 7 and 10pm and then watching the worst-edited show in Christendom, “Knicks in 60″ thus avoiding unleashing his awful, hoops-negating powers. So while we’re not sure what God or Gods he’s offended to bring this awful curse upon his head, like the Knicks charging into enemy territory and taking on the hated Celts (cough, and the refs, cough), we’re laughing in the face of predestination and superhuman forces and in no uncertain terms, daring them to rain whatever plague of frogs or locusts or Big Babies or Rajon Rondos they might visit on us by watching the entire affair tonight, together, in the comfort and safety of my childhood home.
(But if the Knicks get killed tonight, no need revisit the “Fire D’Antoni!” chant/mantra. Y’all know who’s really to blame.)
6:55 – Arrival. No sooner am I through the door and my Pops informs me that Bennett Effing Salvatore AND Joey Crawford are working tonight’s game. Sweet fancy Moses, I’ve been cursing Salvatore’s name for thirty years! There’s no bigger “homer” in all of Ref-dom and he’s the king of the dubious “make-up call” as well. Somehow the fact that we merely thought about watching the game together has disturbed the powers that be. We’re boned.
7:00 – We’re both avoiding the pre-game show. I’m cooking up some in-game treats. (Mini Pizzas w/tortillas for dough and homemade sauce. Cooked in a frying pan in lieu of a pizza oven. Yum-o!) As an aside, I really like cooking. Mainly because, you know how in life, you can plan something (work, a relationship, an evening out, etc.) to the Nth degree and think you’ve every last detail locked down tight, but then a completely random/unpredictable glitch lands in your lap and the whole magilla falls to pieces? Well, when you’re cooking, if you have good ingredients and a good recipe things generally turn out the way one would expect and everyone’s happy that you did it. It’s a wonderful, almost Zen exercise in the glory of probable cause and resultant effect. Whoops…game’s starting!
7:10 – It’s on. Dad’s got Hi-Def cable, woo! After watching the majority of this year’s games on my laptop via live-streaming (stolen) websites, it’s like being in a gallery and going from a Georges Seurat to an early-period Chuck Close.
7:11 – A foul actually called on a Landry Fields drive to the basket. What a concept! Two misses though. Bad omen, says Pop.
7:12 – There must be a lid on the basket. Dad says, “I think I’m affecting everybody.”
7:15 – Toney Douglas has a little Charles Oakley in him. He tends to fall down unnecessarily. He also picks up an early whistle. If Tone’s going to pull an Amar’e after he gets in foul trouble, we’re in for a long night.
7:21 – Rondo’s got 9 of Boston’s 11 points, pretty much all by beating the Nix down the floor. Celts up 11-9. And just as Dad and I were bemoaning DWTDD’s matador D, trying to avoid a 2nd whistle, he gets flagged. Anthony Carter time. Dad remarks that he likes DWTDD and mentions Dean Meminger as a point (pun intended) of comparison. I concur, even though I’ve never seen the latter play
7:26 – Celts up 16-11. Through grinding teeth, Dad grumbles, “Get back on D! Killing them so far! Call timeout! when are they going to learn? Yep, that’s my team, they never learn. If the Knicks go another minute or two without scoring, I’m leaving to clean brushes.” Walker blows a dunk Rondo gets his 14th point followed by two missed free throws from STAT and there goes Dad. He leaves and Melo gets the board for a Jared Jeffries?! layup. I’m not kidding about this curse stuff.
7:35 - Knicks go on a 10-3 run with Dad gone. I’m screaming updates to him in his studio.
7:41 – End of the Ist quarter, down by two. Dad comes back down, brushes in tow. We return to out ongoing debate about the relative merits of room light/darkness while watching a game. Basically, he likes a pitch black frame surrounding the set thus improving the clarity of the image on the screnn. , which makes sense from a color theory standpoint. While I like to see the faces of people I’m talking to. We debate. His crib. We sit in the darkness
7:43 – Jared Jeffries?! hits another tough shot and the Knicks are down by one. Pops describes JJ as, “The world’s ugliest sex doll.” I say he’s a giraffe on roller skates. Thoughts?
7:45 – Tie game, early 2nd quarter. Jeff Green gets called for a blocking fall on Billy Walker. Dad wonders what the right proper Bostonians are booing about — he was clearly in the lane! Dad says, “Screw Boston. They’ve got awful galleries.” Now that’s the kind of commentary you only get at Knickerblogger.
7:47 - Knotted up at 28, at the timeout, we switch to the Mets to visit our bad Mojo on them. They’re down, 1-0 in the 4th inning. Natch
7:50 – Clyde describes Amar’e as, “Pounding on Big Baby.” Maybe I’m immature, but that sounds like a euphemism for mastubation. Dad concurs.
7:51 – The Moms enters and wonders what’s for dinner. Dad uses this as an excuse to leave so of course, Stat hits his first shot of the night. We should probably sacrifice a goat and/or virgin to shake the evil spirits. Maybe The Moms would enjoy that for supper.
7:55 – Celts 38. Knicks 37 and Garnett’s barking at his fellow charges like R. Lee Ermey. I know the general consensus is that KG’s “intensity” is genuine, but I know bad acting when I see it. I don’t buy it. Not one jot.
7:58 – “Toney!” I bellow as he picks up his 3rd foul with 3:21 to go in the half. Of greater import, though, is STAT’s injury. On cue, Tina Cervasio announces he’s doubtful for the rest of the game. “That’s it,” Says Pop, “Too much to overcome.” He’s not really an optimist, if you haven’t gleaned that particular factoid already.
8:06 – Ladies and Gentlemen, your 4th string point guard, Roger Mason. Not sure why Anthony Carter’s in the doghouse, other than the fact that you really can’t have AC and Turiaf/Jeffries on the floor at the same time for any extended stretches or else you’re playing 3 on 5 on the offensive end (Sorry about the Hubie Brown 2nd-person analysis there). Pouring over STAT’s wikipedia page, it doesn’t look like among his numerous injuries, he’s ever suffered from back spasms before. Is it the Silverman curse? Should I change my name to “Bob Icarus?” It’s Melo or bupkis from here on out.
8:11 – Knicks up one at the half. This is exhausting. I’d forgotten what the Nix-Heat wars were like. It was a truly gut wrenching experience because every shot or rebound or loose ball counted so darned much. Considering they’re without two of their best three players, it’s utterly remarkable how well the boys are playing. I mean, Jared Jeffries?! is 2nd in scoring and they’re winning. That’s enough to make anyone rethink their entire ideological/philosophical weltanschauung. I need a break and twelve cigarettes. Back in a few…
8:21 – Back from smoking. Pop comments on the quality and density of Bernard King’s hair. He’s right. That’s a damned fine head of hair for a 50+ year old. Although I think there’s some “Just for Men” involved. After all, no play for Mister Gray!
8:32 - Speaking of hairdos, I really don’t like the cutaways to Ray Allen’s Mom every time her progeny sinks a shot. There’s no particular reason, but it just peeves me.
8:34 – Carmelo’s our point guard tonight. That’s a smart move. Frazier’s worried about conditioning/fatigue, but it’s back to the, “Give the rock to Bernard and pray” offense of the mid 80′s.
8:37 – I’m getting scared. Melo’s gassed. The whole team’s in a general state of disarray. Melo airballs a three, and just like that, the Knicks are down by five. You can feel these things coming. It’s a vibe in the air. I’ve said before and I’ll say again, basketball games are all more or less the same and when a teams about to go on a run, you can just sense it. The problem is they’re trying to redesign their offense on the fly in the middle of a playoff game. An uptempo team that normally suffers from a serious case of haliaphobia is dominating the glass but has ZERO fastbreak points in the game (and I think the series) so far. I can’t believe I’m writing this, but get Jared Jeffries?! in there, tout suite.
8:44 – Starting to get really chippy out there. Love it. Just love it. I love the fight and the hustle of this team – especially for a group that was accused of ‘not caring’ post all-star break
8:46 – Melo reloads or consumes Amar’e's life-force or something because he’s just taking this game over. He hits a three to tie it at 59 but alas, Bill Walker gets called for a tech after the shot. Dad shakes his head. “This game is going to come down to FT’s. You give a team like Boston on the road a free point and you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Mark my words…” Words duly marked.
8:47 – Jesus Shuttlesworth is 4-4 on 3′s. I got a nutty idea. Don’t overplay/go for the steal when possibly the best jump shooter of the modern era is wide open on the left elbow. After all, that was the play that cost y’all game one, right Bill Walker? Nah, I’m just talkin’ crazy.
8:53 – Nix down by 4 and Stoudemire is officially declared out for the rest of the game. Honestly, that’s the smart move. This’d be a tough game to win even with a fully healthy STAT. Better to save your bullets for Friday night/The Friday Night Knicks Robert Randolph Family Band Curse (As opposed to tonight’s, “Robert Silverman Family Band Curse”).
8:55 – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player like Rajon Rondo before. They’re literally ignoring him unless he’s a foot from the basket and the lil’ spud still finds a way to be devastating.
8:56 – Mason airballs a 3 and they’re down 7. I emit a gutteral yawp. Dad laughs. he’s seen too many of these. His chuckle hangs in the air as Pierce nails 2 more mid-range jumpers. “That’s it for me,” says Dad, exiting. He permanently banishes himself to the other room to watch the other semi-pointless familial obsession — the trails and travails of the so-called Left in this country via the Rachel Maddow Show. We’re both cursing our ill fortune, but for wholly dissimilar reasons.
8:59. Like clockwork, no Dad and the Knicks cut it to a manageable 7 at the end of the 3rd.Can they actually win this game? I mean, it’s doable, but HIGHLY unlikely that they pull this out. I hate moral victories, but staying with these guys sans two huge pieces would certainly qualify. I’d give a kidney for an immoral victory at this point.
(NOTE: As the tension mounted in this game, my writing became less and less coherent. I’m going to leave it in its original form because I think it gives a far better impression of my overall emotional/physical state than any polishing could. For those who think I gave the computer over to a drug-addled, babbling fiend/overstimulated chimpanzee, you’re not far off. )
9:05 – Ok – my first official ref gripe – how was that not a foul on Davis shoving JJ out of bounds? Gives PP another shot. Just a killer, But boy, has Melo channeled his inner King tonight.
9:09 – Give Carmelo a 2 minute breather NOW.
9:10 – Turnovers. Guys falling on the floor for loose balls. Seriously ugly basketball but I LOVE IT. Melo could play for Riley’s guys any day, right down to the silly/stupid “kung fu fighting” as Clyde’d say.
9:16 – I’m just screaming. Nothing coherent to say. This is not how objective journalists react. This is how FANS react. Like I said, I want to win because there’s no reason they should win. GIMME IMMORAL VICTORIES!
9:21 – a common B. Salvatore trait – in the 4th calls get weird/makeup-ish..and on cue, Melo gets fouled, loses it out of bounds. No call but gave the Knicks the ball anyway.
9:25 – Melo w/the LJ-like 3! Up 3! 2:30 to go. CLENCHED FIST OF TENSION. MUST SMOKE. MELO RULES. I take back everything I said about the Gallo trade! Melo = Bernard w/three point range!!!
9:32. Oh god…not again. Celts back up 1. Haven’t scored in two minutes. Boston WILL NOT LET MELO shoot. Someone else has to hit one. I’d put on Extra E for Jared here, just to open the floor. Go offense/defense.
9:35 – I’m stunned. I’m literally speechless. JJ hits a tough layup. unreal…Nix by one.
9:37 – Garnett hook puts celts up one. I disagree with Clyde. Don’t double – Garnett hasn’t done sh*t all game…here we go…
9:39 – You can’t go to Jared twice. Ow. It hurts.
9:55 – Well, I’m certainly not nearly as angry as I was after Sunday. They lost, but at least it was on the up and up. Considering the refs, I’m semi-shocked. Dad comes back. By the various tones and timbre of my grunts, he’s aware that the Knicks lost. “It’s ok,” he says, “I was watching the demise of American Democracy on Maddow.” So there’s that.
I won’t delve into the intricacies of this loss — Should Jeffries have been on the floor, what the heck happened to Melo’s/everyone’s brain on the inbound to West with 4 seconds left, the fact that they went toe to toe with the defending Eastern Conference champs with a non-Melo 4th quarter lineup of Jared Jeffries?!, Toney Douglas, Roger Mason and Billy Walker (possibly the worst quartet to take the floor for any playoff team in a long, long time), what’s happened to the artist formerly known as Landry Fields — that’s for wiser, less enervated folks than I to handle.
“Did the Walker tech end up being the difference like I said?” Dad asks.
“Yeah. Sort of. They’d have been tied at the end instead of relying on Jared Jeffries?! to give them the lead. Boston would have had to hit a shot with 4 seconds left instead of merely stalling. Could have been overtime. Who knows.”
“Tough loss,” he says putting a hand on my shoulder. “We’ll get ‘em next game.”
Maybe so. Maybe so. I’m impressed how well he’s taking this one. Then again, he’s 83 and (on certain subjects) has mellowed with age. Don’t get him started on the effing Democratic party, though. One part of this story I failed to recount is my father is an artist (the best damn draughtsman alive, if you ask me. But I’m not exactly what you’d call impartial). He’s commemorated our evening together with a drawing. So as a closer, here’s a picture that’s certainly worth 3000 or so of my words.
Take that, Norman Rockwell! See you for game three, lads.