Last week, The New York Times ran a story about a group of Knicks bloggers and the shared pain of their commitment to their team. The thing they all had in common -- the thing we all have in common, really -- is that they have so many better things they could be doing than watching the Knicks. One of the Knicks bloggers is a lawyer in North Carolina. One is an overworked college student. One is a playwright working on an adaptation of David Foster Wallace's The Pale King. The message was clear: These people are far too smart to be wasting their time on something that causes them so much misery.
I thought about those guys -- some of whom I know personally; I wrote the foreword to their collective book We'll Always Have Linsanity -- last night, when the Knicks did the Knicksiest thing that anyone has ever Knicked. Up one on the Wizards with less than a minute to go, the Knicks and coach Mike Woodson didn't switch out defensively-challenged point guard Beno Udrih, allowing Bradley Beal to zoom past him for a layup to give Washington a one-point lead. That was a mistake, but hey, it happens: NBA games move real fast sometimes. Fortunately, the Knicks had the ball with 6.9 seconds left, three timeouts and Carmelo Anthony, a man who has made millions of dollars being the person who gets the ball with 6.9 seconds left, down one.
Now, one of the grand fallacies of NBA basketball -- one of the greatest examples of why the sports is so entertaining in large part because it's willing to bend rules in the name of increased excitement -- is that you can call timeout under your own basket and magically move the ball forward halfway down the court. Chuck Klosterman called this "the only statute that suggests time and space don't matter. A team calls a timeout 94 feet from the basket, and it suddenly gets the ball 47 feet from the goal." It is an unfair rule that exists only because it makes games more fun. And last night, Woodson forgot it existed. For reasons beyond comprehension, Woodson didn't call a timeout after Beal's basket. Instead, Carmelo, dribbling as if he were either expecting a timeout or just thought the clock said 6,999 seconds rather than 6.9 seconds, casually dribbled up court and launched a crazy 3-pointer as time expired. He missed it by 699 feet, and the Knicks had another inexplicable loss. They're now 7-17. This is a nightmare.
(A side note on that last sequence: Iman Shumpert, a promising young player whom the Knicks are sentencing to a lifetime of therapy this season, explained that the team didn't really discuss calling such a timeout before their lapse on defense because, "We were banking on getting our stop." Anthony said he was expecting a timeout, and Woodson said he probably should have called one. This is how it all went down. Three people, working together, with wildly disparate views of what they were supposed to be doing during a critical moment. This is exactly what a 7-17 team looks like.)
Last night was the worst Knicks loss in a season with a ton of candidates. It was the sort of game that makes you want to throw a chair through a window. It makes you want to not like sports anymore. That's to say: I couldn't wait to see what all the Knicks bloggers said. I found myself staying awake, refreshing their sites. They didn't disappoint.
Posting and Toasting: "I am in D.C. and had to watch that s--- on Comcast and the whole crew was just straight-up giggling at the Knicks. They blew that game as if on purpose. If the Knicks had a draft pick, we would be applauding them right now for their daft tanking. There is no draft pick. This team just gravitates toward disaster. They cannot resist."
Knickerblogger: "This must be what 'over' looks like: when the simplest of tactical decisions are butchered, when the most straightforward principles of personnel utilization are openly ignored, when the answers in press conferences oscillate between hostility, indifference and admissions of incompetence that sound like the taunts of a man who has run out of reasons to care what you think of him. It's like a bad marriage, all bitterness and exasperation and anticipation of the next failing, the next opportunity to play the cat and mouse game of scapegoating and evasion and confrontation and disgust."
The Knicks Blog: "Woodson stared down into the deep hole that the Knicks have dug for themselves, thought about it for a second or two (or didn't) and then jumped in."
I remind you: This is something these gentlemen do for fun. They take time away from their studies, or their law firms, or their David Foster Wallace adaptations, to not only watch a miserable basketball team, but also to document their pain for others to see … to share. The experience of watching New York Knicks basketball right now is brutal; it is a masochistic endeavor in every way. Any sane person would stop. But to bare that pain -- to be inspired by that pain -- every night can't be good for the soul. The Knicks do this 82 times a year. This is more than a person should have to bear.
And yet out they go, not just them, but everyone. There's a terrific blog called Fish Stripes, devoted to the Miami Marlins, a team that actively dislikes its fans and wants them to be unhappy. Cleveland fans, as I documented in my visit there earlier this year, know none of their teams are going to do anything but hurt them, but there they are, slogging away, still believing. They do it solely because they love it. They do it for nothing. They do it for less than nothing: They do it when it hurts -- because it hurts.
Cheering for a sports team that wins is illogical enough: To follow a team, to obsess about a team, that you know is going to make you unhappy is an action that makes no sense. But we do it. And we do it together. I don't know why we do. But I love it nonetheless. It makes it matter. It makes these games - the ones that disappoint us, that confound us, that waste our time -- important. It's possible those Knicks bloggers cared more about what happened at the Garden last night than the Knicks players did. I'm starting to think that's not a terrible thing.
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