The esteemed Mr. Trey Kerby recently asked me to write a piece on Carmelo Anthony. And it makes sense. I’m a very melodramatic Knicks fan and Carmelo is the centerpiece of my favorite team. Clearly, this should have been easy for me.
But I spent about a week wracking my brain trying to figure out what I could say about Melo that hasn’t been said. He’s a fantastic scorer. His commitment to defense is questionable. He seems to mess with both the flow of the offense as well as other peoples’ confidence within the offense. He’s an insanely cool person. Attending the game where Gallo returned to the Garden and outplayed him was a panic-inducing knife twist of an experience that made me question almost everything about my life. I once was an actor in a commercial where I played an obsessive stalker-y fan of his and he accurately gauged that I was indeed an obsessive stalker-y fan of his and had his guard up around me the whole time. And that’s when he was still with the Nuggets. (Side note: I did another commercial as part of this series with Paul Pierce, who was a nice guy but scolded me for making fun of Smush Parker.)
Then the basketball gods intervened and Jeremy Lin happened. He fucking happened.
Trey asked me to divert my attention from Carmelo to Lin and I was more than happy to do so, because I don’t know if you’ve heard this, but at the time of this writing Jeremy Lin has had TWO good games in a row. In New York, that means he is the savior who has descended from Heaven to save the Knicks from anything ranging from D’Antoni’s horrific coaching, Toney Douglas’s downfall, or the existence of Jared Jeffries. He’s had two full games of impressive stat lines and moments where he’s demonstrated an ability to run an offense to a passable degree. And these two games have exposed how the minds of Knicks fans work. In the New York media/blogosphere, Jeremy Lin’s two good games in a row are miraculous game-changer turning points in our season on par with the following:
- The French agreeing to help the Colonials during the American Revolution.
- The Elves showing up last minute to help fight at Helm’s Deep in the movie version of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
- Jay Z inexplicably rapping over Linkin Park songs and making otherwise rational people think for just a nanosecond that Linkin Park was catchy.
I’m able to step back from my Knicks fandom long enough to note our ridiculousness regarding our reaction to Lin, but I’m also a full-on fanboy buying into it. Lin’s two games in a row have made Knicks fans collectively forget that he has never played well at the professional level outside of this week, he’s physically unimpressive to a degree that one has to wonder how many games in a row he can play, and most remarkable of all, that he brings up Christianity within the first 10 seconds of every interview he’s ever done in a way that New Yorkers would usually distrust immediately.
My own devotion to the cult of Lin can best be captured via this transcript of a Facebook conversation I had with my buddy Michael Kayne at roughly 2:30 AM last night. He’s a fellow Knicks lifer. I signed on, saw his name in my chat box, and didn’t say hello. This is the entirety of our conversation, with caps lock retained for accuracy.
NEXT OF LIN
RIN TIN LIN
ADVENTURES OF LINTIN
LIN AND JUICE
THE LIN DOCTORS
YOU CAN HEAR A LIN DROP
SEVEN DEADLY LINS
Then, he signed off. As did I. And I went to bed smiling, knowing that somehow the Knicks won a game this year with both Amar’e and Carmelo out, and Tyson Chandler in foul trouble the whole time. Right now, I can legitimately say that if I saw Jeremy Lin walking down the streets of New York, I would start crying and screaming like he was The Beatles and I was a pre-teen female baby boomer
In writing this, I am taking the time to remind myself of a few things — first off, no wonder players want to play in New York. If you have two good games in your life at Madison Square Garden, you can become a national trending topic on Twitter. I would imagine that superstar level players see a kid like Lin get this kind of attention and know they are one trade away from a world of endless endorsement deals and non-stop sex with models and reality TV personalities.
But also, let’s not forget that just a few short weeks ago, a certain savior named Iman Shumpert arrived. He was able to get to the basket, but he didn’t even know how to finish a shot. Despite multiple shanked dunks, he was just able to get to the rim, which was such a blessing that there was quickly a feature written about him in the New York Times. A few quiet weeks later, and how much have we heard about the Shump lately?
Let’s see what happens when Lin has two bad games in a row. As opposed to all of the love, hype, and adulation right now, I’m sure New Yorkers will be ready to curse the word Lin, or at least largely forget about him as they have other recent newbie saviors such as the aforementioned Shumpert and a certain Landry Fields. Those two went from being right in the thick of the New York hype machine to firmly in its crosshairs. I have to imagine that they get judged, criticized, and booed for mistakes on their home court far worse than any player of their experience and stature would in most other markets. In Lin’s case, a few bad games will mean endless bitching that he scored himself a guaranteed contract, constant articles about how the Knicks employ a glorified D-leaguer, a ton of “Shut the fuck up about God already”s yelled at HD TV screens, and a whole lot of very subtle racism. New York Knicks basketball –- bad enough that you’ll definitely get playing time, scrutinized enough that you will never be allowed to blossom as a player or young man!
The Lin experience also reiterates to me a fact that I’ve long known and long refused to admit: Knicks fans are perhaps the most annoying of all despicable New York sports fans. We’re as cocky as Yankee fans without the winning pedigree to make it as fun to hate us. We’re simultaneously as sad sack-y as Mets fans despite the fact that we now have marquee players and our home court is perhaps the greatest sports venue in America. We’re as obnoxious on the streets of New York as Rangers fans, as meathead-y as Giants fans, and have as much tacky and cultish devotion to our team as Jets fans.
On top of all that, we give our players no foundation to stand on. Win and they’ll hear the cheers out on Seventh Avenue. Lose and we’ll boo you and your mother out of the goddamn Garden. No middle ground. No patience.
So welcome, Jeremy Lin! As a Knicks fan, I’m glad to have you. You have turned things around and I trust there will be no speed bumps in this process of you saving basketball in the city most known for it. As a compassionate human being, I can only say enjoy being New York’s hero as long as you can, and for your sanity’s sake, I hope you keep on Linning.