Friday, May 18, 2007

My Night with the Knicks

Our Town downtown

April 2, 2007

Three times in the last month I stood outside the Garden waiting for the guy with the tickets. It was fun standing there (I’m pathologically early to everything, so I’ve spent a lifetime standing waiting in such scenes) looking at the crowd of game-goers within the crowd of commuters. It was fantastic stuff to stare at. It was one of those times since I moved here eight years ago, I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. It was exhilarating being alone right then and there waiting for a friend with the buzz of a game in the air.

The most recent of three games I saw (the first two were college games in the Big East tournament) was a Knicks game. If you’re already laughing or cynical, I understand. The sportswriters and talk show guys here have been merciless in their attacks on the whole Knick situation, mostly going after Isiah Thomas, for awhile going after him every single day. It was way overdone. Isiah Thomas is as accomplished in what his life work has been as anyone in this city. He was a better basketball player and leader than almost anyone in town’s been at what they do. He was one of the top ten of all time probably. In the history of the game. (Sportswriters may deep-down hate jocks and look for every chance they get to pile on. Ever notice how they take every chance they get to say it’s just a game? Even while they’re making a living sucking up to them?)

My ticket was free. Long story. And the price on it said $65. OK, that’s a lot. But so’s the ticket for the Joan Didion play with Vanessa Redgrave which didn’t get a hot review. So is the ticket to hear Betty Buckley at Feinstein’s. You think Sir Bono lets you into his shows for cheap? And where in those shows do you get to see LeBron James fly through the air without a script or a play list and throw down a dunk like you’ve never seen before? (The Knicks played LeBron the night I was there.) Where in those events (wonderful as they are) does the outcome go down to the last few seconds? Where in those performances do you stand up and exult over something unexpected and raise your arms and scream in jubilation? 65 bucks? By this city’s standards with $7 pints of Guinness, and $2000 apartments so small that you have to pay extra to keep most of your stuff in storage in Queens, $65 is not that bad. And don’t forget these guys are risking crutches every minute they’re on the court.

You get two good hours for the ticket price, even if some of it like the Knicks dancers is cheese. But so what? You could easily spend more on an average meal with drinks than that. You could spend that at the Joyce Theater where the dunks are scripted. Jon Stewart was at the game. So were some other young big shots that they showed on the big screen. That’s cheesy to show them, of course, but it’s a TV world we live in.

The game’s out by 10:00 and you go home by foot or cab or train and you get your mail and hang out for awhile before bed and that’s a good night. If you were a kid your mother would tell you to make sure you washed your face and hands after bring in a crowd like that.

The next night West Virginia played Clemson in the NIT finals in the same Garden. That would have been fun to go to. But there are so many things to do in the city that you can lose track. We list some things to do every week. The dailies list stuff every day. Time Out does a great job at keeping up with it all. There is so much stuff. The same night as the NIT game, Bill Bradley was reading at the big Barnes & Noble and Pete Hamill was leading a discussion near NYU about an Irish novelist at the same time, in addition to all the other sports and movies and theater and dance and gallery openings. Makes you wonder if St. Peter won’t ask us why we were inside that night watching TV. And what’s with NetFlix in New York City? he might wonder. There wasn’t enough to do in the big city?

-- Bill Gunlocke

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