“Why do you put lipstick on a pig?” asked James, while going out of the barn to bring some more water to the cows. His hands were dirty and sweaty, but not in a natural way. If was as if he deliberately sprayed sweat and dirt on him, like a make up artist versed in hillbilly flicks, thinking that dirt and sweat were the poster boys of a well done job in a farm in North Carolina.
Michael raised his eyes, while wiping out the sweat from his brow. The heat was starting to become insufferable, but he was used to it, having endured many a summer of hard work. He knew that it didn’t matter how much you worked in the fields, it was always more likely than not that the results wouldn’t be up to the amount of effort put in. A few summers ago he worked like crazy and anyway the harvest was one of the poorest in his more than decennal tenure at Stenton farm.
“Well”, Michael said. His voice was raspy from the bourbon, the only real vice he indulged in. “Have you ever cared for anything in your life, James?”
“Of course”, James answered back.
“Are you really sure?”
James wasn’t that sure. He was at least 20, maybe 25 years younger than Michael. Did he ever care about anything? He grew in a world where pretty much everyone was jaded. The climate change was a sad reality since he was a kid. Things always looked bleak, even for a spoiled child like he was. Growing up, he could never shed that cynical attitude. He just learned to fake something else. He faked the enthusiasm at being great at solving math problems. He faked the love for his first girlfriend. He faked his satisfaction in owning his first car. Actually, when the fact that his life was a big fake started to set in, that was when he took a sabbatical and decided to go work for the Stentons. He thought working close to nature would bring up some spirit in him, maybe a little spark of joy for life. He ended up faking the sweat and the dirt, go figure.
“I… I don’t know, Michael.”
“Well, I did. I mean, I still do. But you have to know that when I was young sports used to be a big deal.”
“Sports? As in, Nascar racing?”
“No, you dumbheaded kiddo. Have you ever heard of the Knicks? The New York basketball team?”
“Yeah. The name rings a bell”
Actually, James was faking even this. He never cared about sports, but whatever. What’s a white lie in the thick of July, if not a fresh breeze on your rugged conscience.
“You know, James, I used to root for them.”
James listened a little more carefully. It was one of the first times Michael actually started to open up with him. Michael wasn’t really secluded, but, well, he didn’t give the impression of a guy who likes to talk a lot about himself.
“Sometimes, in life, destiny chooses you, James. Like a toxic relationship with the crazy redhead you knew in La Jolla when you were 18, even fandom can sometimes be doomed. And destiny, as in “being a Knicks fan”, chose me.”
James was a little set aback by the gravity of those words. Michael never used such a solemn tone, not even the time when they had to tell the Stentons two cows were dead because of a wicked intestinal parasite.
“You know, I got lucky though. Destiny handed me a terrible hand at sports, but gave me company. I wasn’t alone in rooting for them. There were a lot of guys like me”
James kept listening, but couldn’t bring himself to stop looking at the pig with the literal lipstick on it.
“And we had a community. A sports blog. You know what that is, James?”
“Yeah. My dad used to have a music blog. My granddad once talked about something called MySpace. I think I know what it is. But what does that have to do with you smearing red paste on a swine?”
“You see, James”, said Michael (was that his real name? who knew) with his Italian accent that never went away, “I used to write for that blog. In the 2018/2019 season. And many times I felt like trying to squeeze something good from the game was like putting lipstick on a pig. But I cherished that duty. So, when I feel particularly sentimental, I put lipstick on a pig, and daydream of when I was younger and life was beautiful, and my Knicks were being beaten on a regular basis. I put lipstick on a pig because that’s what I got used to do, and I somehow liked doing it.”
A few notes from the game:
– Every single Knick has become (or has stayed) an horror show to watch. I keep some faith in Vonleh, but I feel like he’s slipping a bit. Every other guy is a dagger through the cornea of any knowledgeable fan. I found zero reasons to be even slightly happy during the last 48 minutes of play.
– The game was close until the last moments of the second quarter. Then the Warriors stopped fooling around and we kept on sucking. Numbers alone can’t tell you how much we sucked, and I wish I could embed here a gif of Timmy almost losing the ball by himself near the offensive baseline, just to recover it and then trying to pass it only for the ball to hit the side of the backboard. The kids who competed during a timeout to go the All-Star game to represent the Warriors were, like, 8 years old and showed a lot more comfort in handling the ball.
– Mario with a vengeance! He scored 19 points on 12 shots, grabbed 6 boards, and still I feel like I contributed more to the game by watching it on my sofa.
– Some of your Knicks in January and their PPG/RPG/APG splits (I dare you to say that this isn’t the worst team in the league):
Emmanuel Mudiay: 13.5/3.5/6.5 on 34.4 FG%. third worst in plus/minus for the month. Add 2 turnover per game to the package. Sounds like a guy we should want to extend for at least 8 million dollars per year.
Tim Hardaway Jr: 14/3.3/1 on 40.8 FG% (not a typo. I don’t know how it’s possible that Chuck junior is shooting better than 40%). Second worst in plus/minus for the month. Just what the doctor ordered for 17 million dollars.
Kevin Knox: 13/3.5/0.8 on 35.6 FG%. This guys plays 32 minutes per game and can’t squeeze a single assist per night. Amazing.
Noah Vonleh: 8.3/10.5/2.3 on 34.5 FG%. Worst in plus/minus. Tied for second in assists with Kanter. This is your season MVP. Do what you want with those facts.
Luke Kornet: 9.3/3.8/0.5 on 46.2 FG%. With one block per game he’s by far the team leader in blocks for the month.
Enes Kanter: 15.8/14.3/2.3 on 54.3 FG%. I was happy for us at the thought of Enes getting bought out or plain waived. Now I’m happy for him. Best in the team at pretty much everything, plus/minus included.
Mario Hezonja: 14.3/5/0.7 on 57.7 FG%. Things are so bad that now I’m actually rooting for him when he’s on the court out of self-pity. I want to feel bad. I want to feel sick. Second in plus/minus.
– I don’t know how it’s possible, but we play worse without THJ. THJ sucks. What does that say about the other guys?
– Damyean Dotson is shooting 26.1% from the field in January. What happened to him? Long live Fiz, the great player developer.
– Allonzo Trier is borderline unplayable. Get him some rest and try to get his head straight. I can’t shake the feeling that Trier relaxed with his contract signed. I know we’re marred by injuries but you can find a lot of combo guards in the G-League for 10-day contracts. It’s time.
I don’t know what to say about this game other than this few things. There was nothing to salvage here apart from the usual empty-calorie rebounding tally by Kanter and a few useless Mario dunks. The Warriors are good, but we’re really, really bad.
God, let’s really hope we don’t end up with Cam Reddish as the result of this season.