Brian DiMennaWhen the Knicks had finally won, when I could venture to breathe again, when the fear had finally turned to relief, and maybe even some joy, I couldn’t help think of a funny line from the end of Billy Madison as he commends himself for his decade late high school graduation, “It’s over, I did it. I know most of you are saying, hey, any idiot could do that … well … it was tough for me, so BACK OFF!!!”
So yeah, I get it. For many a franchise a berth to the second round hardly qualifies as cause for celebration. For the vanquished Boston Celtics, a failure to do so will no doubt bring upon wholesale changes. But it’s been tough for us. Very, very tough. So by God let us enjoy it.
It’s sort of funny, one of the reasons fans probably don’t make the best analysts — a thing I can admit even as I try to serve as one — is that it really is hard to remain rational. Being a fan in the first place is a wholly irrational enterprise, it’s really sort of the point. You don’t hug strangers inside of stadiums when you’re thinking in a rational fashion, “Oh hi, guy I just met. Shall we embrace?” But it becomes especially so when you suffer through over a decade of losing. I mean, you can’t just root for nothing. You have to at least try to convince yourself that there is a glimmer of sunlight even through the darkest, rat-infested, sewage-soaked, Isiah Thomas-led tunnels.
Along those lines, I found the Isiah Thomas era almost traumatizing, not just because it was ultimately kind of embarrassing, but because I spent so much time trying to talk myself into it. I had this vision of a victorious Isiah, strutting to the podium following a playoff win, smiling that crooked smile, savoring the look on the shell-shocked faces of a New York press that had pummeled him mercilessly. I desperately wanted this to happen. I still kind of want this to happen.
I worked myself into a sweat coming up with excuses for why it wasn’t Stephon Marbury’s fault that every team he left became instantly improved, the kind of sweat I was sure Eddy Curry was certainly putting in those offseason workouts that would finally allow him to maximize all that talent, “If he got in better shape he’d be dominant!” Yeah, about that.
Sometimes, the team you root for makes you feel a little foolish.
I don’t bring any of this up to hash it all out again, but only to say that it was oddly hard to buy into any Knicks team at all. But this season had convinced me. I didn’t know if these Knicks were championship caliber — I still don’t — but I felt sure it wouldn’t feel embarrassing to root for them. I felt confident that they mattered. That if they went down, it would be at the end of a hard-fought series in which the better team simply won.
But as the Celtics made their fourth-quarter charge, as the Knicks tossed the ball around like drunken elves, with the sound of delirious Bostonians pouring out of the rafters, like the universe just felt more comfortable with Knicks fans permanently in disgrace, I worried maybe I’d been deluding myself again. Maybe this was just a new kind of embarrassing.
And then the thing you were so sure was happening just didn’t happen. It was over. They did it.
And I know there’s a lot of folks out there, telling the Knicks fans to simmer down, “Hey, it’s just the first round, any idiot can do that.”
Well … it was tough for us. Really, really tough. SO BACK OFF!!!!!