This is the image that comes up first when you Google Knicks Sadness. It pales in comparison to how I felt after watching them play Wednesday.
In the 1940’s and 1950’s, the Brooklyn Dodgers would always make the playoffs only to fall victim to the New York Yankees in the World Series. Despite this fact, the diehard fans never gave up. “Wait ‘til next year!” became an unofficial slogan for the team, even after actually beating the Bronx Bombers in 1955. At least Brooklyn got a winning team once, right Billy Joel.
As a New York Knicks fan in 2012, I’m still waiting for my next year. The Knicks haven’t won a NBA championship since 1973. Of course, I was born three years later and have been miserable ever since. For 36 years, I have had to live with broken promises, heartbreaking losses, and bitter disappointment. Each year, I keep coming back, waiting to be punished and never learning from my mistake in unjustified excitement – always ending up hanging my head down in defeat.
You’re making fun of me right now. “Basketball is only a game,” you’re thinking. And you’re right, but it’s more than that. Sports involve a commitment that is only rivaled by marriage, friends and family. You want to see your team win, so you make the conscious choice to turn that television on every day, or buy those tickets to Madison Square Garden, and then read about it all over again in the paper the following morning. For months, you cheer and players like Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Charles Oakley, Anthony Mason, Larry Johnson, Latrell Sprewell, Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony become a special part of your lives. You have made an investment of time, money and energy and just want to see significant returns. And then they rip your heart out.
Sports are more than just games. A crappy day is erased when you finally get home, dump yourself on the couch and get lost in the action. Sports bring people together – high-fiving your friends…hell, you high-fived a total stranger when Stoudemire nailed that nasty one handed dunk in Game 4. And before Game 5, you went to work and discussed the keys to success for that night’s game. When your team wins, everything that happened that day is insignificant – you can deal with it tomorrow. When your team loses, you put your head down and reflect about all the bad things that occurred. I bet you might have said, “Why couldn’t one thing good happen today? Fuckin’ Knicks.”
Why such emotion? Quick…what was the most memorable year of your youth? For me, 1986 easily popped in my head. That was the year the Mets defied the odds behind a Mookie Wilson dribbler through Bill Buckner’s legs and won the World Series.
I’ll never forget hanging out in Carvel around a black-and-white TV set in 1996, watching Andy Pettitte hold on to a 1-0 win, as the Yankees moved closer to winning their first World Series. That year was the first time I went to an Opening Day Game with my dad. Those memories sort of sync up, like in 1991, when me and my pops watched a missed field goal in the final second give the New York Giants their second Super Bowl title. And the memorable gathering with my girlfriend’s family as we watched the Giants end the Patriots’ perfect season to win an improbable Super Bowl…or this year, when me and Kristy just stayed home together, ate appetizers, drank beer and watched the Giants do it again.
Even the Rangers, who hadn’t won the big one since 1940, allowed me to witness my first home-team Stanley Cup win in 1994. I may get to see my second this year. Damn Knicks. Starks’ dunk over Michael Jordan and Horace Grant erased by four straight missed layup attempts by Charles Smith that cost us the playoffs in 1993. Great shooting by Starks in the 1994 Playoffs erased by poor shooting from Starks in Game 6 of the NBA Finals that same year. A great season in 1997 erased by images of Jeff Van Gundy clinging to Alonzo Mourning’s legs during a brawl that cost the Knicks the playoffs. A shocking playoff win over the No. 1 seeded Miami Heat in 1991 erased by a lackluster performance against the San Antonio Spurs later in the finals. The exciting signings of Stoudemire, Anthony and Chandler during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons erased by selfish play and a lackluster attitude in two playoff appearances that went nowhere.
Why do the bad memories erase the good ones so often? Memories of my early youth, watching the Knicks on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Channel 9 before my Dad would take me in for my regular dentist checkup. Memories of that brief span of time in the 90’s when we would cramp into my friend’s bedroom to watch every Knicks game, as he was the only one who had cable. Memories of that same timeframe and playing basketball at Loreto Park, working hard until we won every game in honor of our love of everything Knicks. That one time in 1996, when I paid $200 for a courtside seat to watch the Knicks win their only playoff victory against The Bulls. Or that one time in 1997 when I lost a bet with my co-worker as the Heat beat the Knicks and I got to take her out on a date, as a result. Or in 2010 when I bonded with my sister over a Knicks loss at Madison Square Garden thanks to tickets she got us at the last minute. Or this year, watching the Knicks beat the Celtics and Bulls with my in-laws on Christmas and Easter, respectively.
These memories – these are the ones that would come flooding back and feel that much sweeter with a Knicks Championship. Just once in my lifetime. Is that really too much to ask?
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