Chris Gethard is a comedian and writer who lives in New York City.
I am a lifelong Knicks fan. I am also something of a lifelong loser. This is a real chicken/egg pairing in my life. Did I fall in love with the early 90s Knicks because I identified with their habit of coming close but never quite achieving their dreams? Or am I someone who comes close to but never quite achieves my dreams because of the psychic imprint left on me by the early 90s Knicks? I have legitimately discussed this with my shrink. She didn’t really know what I was talking about.
I recently had the chance to attend the Knicks open scrimmage. This event was both awesome/hope-inducing (I got to see the Carmelo practicing the pick-and-roll with Amar’e) and ridiculous/dread-inducing (I had to see Mike Bibby and Devin Green guard each other.)
There were 10,500 people in attendance. All of them were psyched about Tyson Chandler. Chandler is the player, perhaps more than any other in the league, in which Knicks fans see the old style they fell in love with. While there will never be another player as scary as Charles Oakley (who punched not one, but TWO players during pregame warmups in his career) or Anthony Mason (who carried himself like someone who would slash you with a box cutter and steal your 8-Ball jacket), Chandler is clearly the sort of tough, gritty, offensively-challenged-but-defensively-loudmouthed type of player that Knicks fans unconditionally love.
That being said, there was a truly sad moment during the player intros at the scrimmage: Jared Jeffries was resoundingly booed on his way out of the tunnel.
By close to 11,000 people.
At an event designed solely and specifically for Knicks fans to celebrate their team.
No presence of an opponent. Not even a mention of them. Jared Jeffries was effectively booed out of the building during a pro-level high school pep rally.
I get why Knicks fans hate Jared Jeffries. He is, in so many ways, a terrible basketball player. His botched offensive play at the end of last year’s playoff game against the Celtics was about as fun to watch as footage of testicular surgery. (I say that not as a metaphor; my friend Connor has sent me links to clips of testicular surgery and I honestly believe this to be an apt comparison.) Anyone who’s heard the local NYC announcing team call a Knicks game can vouch for how sad it is, that they so often cite that Jared is one of the best in the league at taking charges. His greatest skill is letting people barrel into him. That’s a metaphor pretty much for his entire basketball existence. I once attended a game at MSG and saw Jared Jeffries fall down while running up court. There was no one within 10 feet of him. He just fell because he’s goofy. Then he got up and promptly fell again. Not exactly a guy you want on the court for significant minutes, no matter how much Mike D’Antoni has a soft spot for him.
That being said, I will argue that Jared Jeffries doesn’t deserve your boos, because in so many ways, Jared Jeffries is the most Knickiest Knick that’s ever Knicked.
Before we start booing Jeffries, Knicks fans, let’s remember why we loved John Starks. Not just because he could hit threes and refused to get pushed around by Reggie and Jordan despite being outclassed by both of them. But because before joining the Knicks he bagged groceries, and because when he came out of nowhere that first year, we were all amazed to hear him speak for the first time and realize that you could barely understand a word he said.
We loved Oakley not just for his hard-nosed play and for the hilariously violent punishment he gave those who owed him gambling debts. We loved him because the announcers constantly talked about how many ankle problems he had. Because every time he ran, he made the same face I make when I’m constipated.
It’s why we loved Jeff Van Gundy so much and never took to Pat Riley. Fans of this team don’t like slick dudes with great haircuts and nice suits. Fans of this team like dudes whose cars get blown up when they park them too close to the team jet. They especially like learning that Van Gundy’s car was a 1995 Honda Civic even though he was the head coach of an NBA team and it was the year 2000.
And we loved Patrick Ewing not just because he was an amazing basketball player to watch, a true force. We liked him because he rocked a flat top that seemed kind of shitty even in the era of flat tops. We liked him because of his child molester moustache. We hated losing, and often blamed him when it happened, but at the same time, we loved nothing more than bleeding with him. We called him The Warrior for a reason — we loved him for his battle scars as much as anything else. While we hated Patrick for never helping us win, we enjoyed losing with him. It’s why so many Knicks fans, myself included, feel like the franchise sort of deserved 10 bad years after not letting him retire a Knick.
Before you boo Jared Jeffries again, Knicks fans, remember how much we loved those 90s teams when they shaved their heads and looked like complete lunatic assholes for it. We liked them because they weren’t Jordan, because this isn’t LA. They were flawed. They had scars. This is New York. Everyone interesting here is damaged. It gets real cold. Even the superheroes that live here only become heroes when they cause their own uncles to die.
For such an insanely big market, Knicks fans love knowing that in some sense, the Knicks are the island of misfit toys. It’s why we worship Clyde Frazier as an announcer even though he can only pronounce it “Chyson Tandler.” It’s why we loved having Larry Johnson on the team well after, and maybe because, he was broken down. It’s what made us accept Latrell Sprewell when he was a pariah, Marcus Camby when he was still a relatively unproven gangly weirdo. It’s why we root for Renaldo Balkman, why “Do What Toney Douglas Do” is a catchphrase for diehards, and why we loved Shawne Williams not just for hitting threes from the corner, but for being someone everyone else gave up on when we didn’t. Let’s face it, we love Amar’e not just for coming here when no other superstar would. We also love him because he claims he’s Jewish. We love him because he wears rec specs, and practices with insane-looking rolled-up sweatpants.
I understand that Carmelo is as smooth, charming, and charismatic as a human can be, but there is nothing odd or loser-ish about Carmelo Anthony. And that’s why we cheer harder for Amar’e than we do for Carmelo.
So let’s ease up on Jared Jeffries, Knicks Nation. I get it. Jared Jeffries sucks. We now have Tyson Chandler, who is like Jared Jeffries with an ability to control his body, a normal-shaped head, and charisma. If the Knicks were the movie “Twins,” Tyson Chandler would be Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jared Jeffries would be Danny DeVito.
But even though it’s probably the least popular opinion in New York basketball, I’m gonna go on record and say that Knicks fans should love Jared Jeffries more than anyone. In so many ways, he is as Knick-y as it gets. We should love him because he fights hard. And because he keeps coming back to New York even though we keep trading him and booing him. We should love him because he hustles. We should love him because he’s weird, and seems sort of sad. We should love him because his head is naturally shaped like most peoples’ heads could only be after being beaten as part of a gang initiation. Most of all, we should love him because he knows he can’t score, he knows he shouldn’t be getting these minutes and so he does what Starks or Oakley would have done — he takes charges. He finds a way.
P.S. Jeffries went 5-for-5 at the scrimmage. Pretty sweet way to tell 10,500 people to F off at the same time.
P.P.S. Does anyone know if they even make Jared Jeffries jerseys?
Chris Gethard is a comedian and writer who lives in New York City. His book, “A Bad Idea I’m About to Do,” is out January 7th. He’s also the host of the very weird public access television program, “The Chris Gethard Show.”