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The esteemed Mr. Trey Kerby recently asked me to write a piece on Carmelo Anthony. And it makes sense. Iím 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 hasnít been said. Heís a fantastic scorer. His commitment to defense is questionable. He seems to mess with both the flow of the offense as well as other peoplesí confidence within the offense. Heís 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 thatís 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 ****ing happened.
Trey asked me to divert my attention from Carmelo to Lin and I was more than happy to do so, because I donít know if youíve 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 DíAntoniís horrific coaching, Toney Douglasís downfall, or the existence of Jared Jeffries. Heís had two full games of impressive stat lines and moments where heís 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 Linís 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 Helmís 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.
Iím able to step back from my Knicks fandom long enough to note our ridiculousness regarding our reaction to Lin, but Iím also a full-on fanboy buying into it. Linís 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, heís 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 heís 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. Heís a fellow Knicks lifer. I signed on, saw his name in my chat box, and didnít say hello. This is the entirety of our conversation, with caps lock retained for accuracy.
ME:
LIN
LION
LINSANITY
#LINNING
MICHAEL:
SHAOLIN
LIN DIESEL
ME:
LINAMENT
MICHAEL:
JUNIOR LINTS
ME:
NEXT OF LIN
SAUSAGE LIN-K
MICHAEL:
LINONA RYDER
ME:
RIN TIN LIN
MICHAEL:
ADVENTURES OF LINTIN
ME:
LINDERELLA
MICHAEL:
LIN AND JUICE
ME:
THE LIN DOCTORS
MICHAEL:
LORETTA LIN
ME:
YOU CAN HEAR A LIN DROP
MICHAEL:
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 Amaríe 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 ó 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, letís 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 didnít 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?
Letís see what happens when Lin has two bad games in a row. As opposed to all of the love, hype, and adulation right now, Iím 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 Linís 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 ďShut the **** up about God alreadyĒs yelled at HD TV screens, and a whole lot of very subtle racism. New York Knicks basketball Ė- bad enough that youíll 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 Iíve long known and long refused to admit: Knicks fans are perhaps the most annoying of all despicable New York sports fans. Weíre as ****y as Yankee fans without the winning pedigree to make it as fun to hate us. Weíre 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. Weíre 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 theyíll hear the cheers out on Seventh Avenue. Lose and weíll boo you and your mother out of the goddamn Garden. No middle ground. No patience.
So welcome, Jeremy Lin! As a Knicks fan, Iím 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 Yorkís hero as long as you can, and for your sanityís sake, I hope you keep on Linning.