Brian DiMennaIf you’ve noticed that I hadn’t written anything over the past few days, which is something you very well may not have, it’s because I’d taken my wife and daughter down to Florida for a little R & R, which I’m told means rest and relaxation, despite that being something that’s nearly impossible while travelling with a 1-year old.
Oddly enough, I didn’t have access to a computer down there, not that it was the swamps of the Serengeti or anything, though one can get a bit disoriented while wading through the brush trying to determine if they were meant to turn into the Bermuda Bay, Bay Club or Bay View communities. It’s all quite confusing, as you’re never quite sure which section of old people are your section of old people.
Anyhoo, amid a lovely dinner at my folks’ quaint country club, my mother was gushing to a friend about her little granddaughter, how adorable she was, how well behaved, all things that happen to be true — a fact I routinely thank the almighty universe for — at which point my sweet little angel pooped on the floor right there in the dining room, which I suddenly learned is a thing that can happen. Great parents are by nature great improvisers, part firefighter, part MC, so the matter was quickly handled with the grace and poise I’m known for, but it was a jarring display to say the least.
For my daughter’s part, not to worry, she was entirely unfazed by the whole experience, something I couldn’t help but notice was the sweet blissfull ignorance of youth. Had it happened to me, I might have felt embarrassment or even shame, she just looked up as if to say, “I feel much better now, thank you.”
The point, if there is a point, is that you have to take the good with the bad. My daughter is the most enthusiastic, joyful, wonderful person in my life, she also sometimes, well, you know.
Which brings me to Carmelo Anthony. Really? Yes, really.
Allow me to admit, I’m one of those folks that didn’t instantly like the Carmelo Anthony trade, a fact for which I now regularly hang my head in shame. Which isn’t to say, I didn’t recognize he was a great player, I mostly did, even if I loved to needle my more Anthony-ready friends with notes to the contrary. But I liked the young, fun team we had and were building, and though I wasn’t really sure what exactly they’d ever amount to, I was hoping to find out. Then that team was gone in a flash in the name of acquiring Carmelo Anthony, a singularly great player for sure, but one I had no connection to, was strangely upsetting.
It’s an old cliche now that we root for the laundry, but it’s also not really true. There’s always human beings inside those jerseys, human beings we take degrees of liking to for reasons that are entirely are own. I don’t know why I’d grown quite so attached to Danilo Gallinari or anyone else, but I had, and seeing him and friends depart was weirdly painful, like watching a close friend forced to change schools.
It’s one of the myriad of good reasons that NBA franchises aren’t entrusted to fans, as “But I like that guy,” isn’t the type of analysis great organizations are run by, it’s just one that motivated me.
It didn’t help that it took such a long while for the deal to actually bear fruit, stunting a promising team’s momentum in year one — albeit a momentum that was well on its way to slowing pre-trade — then collapsing into whatever the hell exactly last year was. Sure, the 2011-12 Knicks were interesting, but they were also kind of miserable, a few sprinkles in February and April notwithstanding. Was this really all there was?
But there’s been something wholly admirable about Melo’s approach this season. Entering the year with his reputation fully at stake, he has risen to every challenge. In what has again been something of a rollercoaster season, he’s been the constant. It’s all culminated over this 13-game winning streak, when Anthony has not just been great, he’s been transcendent. Right now, the Knicks are appointment viewing, not just because they can’t lose, but because of the seemingly limitless possibilities to what Anthony might do. To those still clinging to this notion that he’s irreparably flawed, what more would he really have to do to earn your applause?
So it’s no longer begrudging respect or admiration, I am finally fully invested in the fortunes of Anthony, a player the likes of which hasn’t laced it up for the Knicks in a long while. Which isn’t to say there aren’t nits to be picked, but there’s a nitpicking of Melo that borders on the absurd. 40-point games are picked apart like great novels in an obnoxious college seminar, as though every great game has to come with some caveat. And perhaps that just comes with the territory of being a great player in a city like New York, or it may now have become something of a straw man, with his skyrocketing jersey sales suggesting there aren’t really that many in New York still off the Melo bandwagon, but it still feels real enough to me, with some remaining percentage of holdouts that just can’t be reached.
There’s this tendency on the part of some to cling to every instance of sub-standard defense, every forced shot and insist that these are not just minor flaws in an otherwise wonderful game, but unforgivable sins of a player destined to fall short. It’s excessive and, at this point, a stance that is exceptionally difficult to maintain. Which strikes me as a shame really. What you are seeing is a great player at the top of his game, for God’s sake man, make sure to enjoy it.
Because at the end of the day, we all have our flaws, and even the very best among us sometimes poop on the floor, or something. Kind of makes a missed 20-footer seem not so bad after all.