Monday, May 7, 2012

Hey Everyone, Let's Have Some Fun With the New York Knicks

Of all the sports teams I follow -- and there are many -- there have been none in my lifetime that have been as inexorably difficult, frustrating and unrewarding to follow as the New York Knickerbockers. Some of you might think this is a bit of a stretch, but for those who would seem to argue that notion I can provide a handy-dandy list of each team I like and just what they've achieved since, oh, I don't know, let's just throw a date out there.... April 29, 2001. I acknowledge that this date which have seemingly cherry-picked without reason (there is a reason) will be unfair to the 'Bockers, cutting off their mid-90's dominance and miracle 1999 Finals run that got me caught up in the team in the first place. But it also cuts off two Devils Stanley Cups and a National League pennant by the Mets so, really, everyone is missing a few achievements. Let's see what's happened in the time since that date.

New York Giants -- Six playoff appearances, three division titles, two goddamn Super Bowl championships
New York Mets -- A division title and within one whiff of reaching the 2006 World Series
New Jersey Devils -- Five division titles, two conference championships, one Stanley Cup championship
Chicago Blackhawks -- The 2010 Stanley Cup Championship
Northwestern Football -- Six bowl game appearances, even if the BCS is a joke
Northwestern Basketball -- Four straight NIT appearances, flirtation with a first-ever NCAA berth
Southampton FC -- Back-to-back promotions and a return to the Premier League for 2012-13
Geelong FC -- Four Grand Final appearances and three championships in the last five years alone
New York Knicks -- The embarrassment that was Isiah Thomas, zero playoff wins

That's right. Zero playoffs wins. Zero. None. And I don't mean a series. I mean a single game. Hell, even Northwestern basketball has won multiple postseason games since then. That the team could have fallen that far for that long is pretty remarkable to me given the history, financial footing and demanding fan base the Knicks have pushing them along, and frankly, at the time that the Knicks won their last playoff game it was pretty inconceivable to me that any of my times could endure such a disturbing drought. After all, on that fateful date of April 29, 2001, I was in the midst of a both exhilarating and maddening eight-month stretch in which each of my teams in the four major North American sports -- except for the Knicks -- would reach their respective championship round and lose. I remember that postseason series very well as the Knicks would lose to those irritatingly headband-bedecked Toronto Raptors in five games, ostensibly because Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas fought over the same rebound.

Of course, it's a brave new world now after the 'Bockers pulled off a dramatic 89-87 win over the Heat yesterday afternoon. Dramatic may be a loose term considering that, yes it did go down to the wire and Carmelo Anthony scored 41 points, but perhaps more pertinently, the Knicks were already down 3-0 in the series and stand little chance at coming back. Still, I suppose a win is worth celebrating, which the Knicks did a little too aggressively considering they released streamers from the ceiling as if they'd just won an NBA championship, but it occurred to me yesterday just how long it has been since the Knicks won a playoff game when I realized that their last win came on my father's 50th birthday.

Last week we took him out to dinner to celebrate his 61st.

My friend Blake pointed out to me that in fact the last time the Knicks won a playoff game he was trying to find a date for his junior prom and now he's a doctor. I realized that my life has changed pretty dramatically over the past 11 years as has my appearance as that picture up top would attest. A week before that last win I was visiting my sister at the University of Wisconsin, as well as checking out some place called Northwestern, and I would see a White Sox and  Brewers game during the trip -- just the second and third baseball games I had seen outside of New York City. That all seems like a pretty striking change from what life was like then as opposed to now, and so as a result, I thought I would go through the amusing -- and depressing -- process of listing for my own angst just what is different.

Essentially, I've broken it all down into three categories to highlight just how absurd it is that it took the Knicks this long, so here are a list of things that existed in on April 29, 2001 that no longer do, people or concepts that I had never heard of that I have now or dramatic changes in my life in general. Get excited. Or frightened. Either one works.

Things that still existed on April 29, 2001
The Twin Towers
Timothy McVeigh
George Harrison
Boston's championship drought (Each Boston team has since won at least one championship)
-- Celtics (15 years in 2001, ended in 2008)
-- Patriots (41 years in 2001, ended in 2002)
-- Bruins (29 years in 2001, ended in 2011)
-- Red Sox (83 years in 2001, ended in 2004)
Shea Stadium
The original Yankee Stadium
Douglas Adams
Jack Lemmon
Ken Kesey
Osama bin Laden
Saddam Hussein
A federal government budget surplus
Michael Jordan's basketball career
Mitt Romney as a moderate (zing!)
John McCain as a maverick (double zing!)
The Space Shuttle Program
Lehman Brothers
Circuit City
Borders Books
KB Toys
Play Station 2
Sega Dreamcast
Nintendo 3DS
The Seattle Supersonics
Late Night with Conan O'Brien
Subway tokens
VHS tapes
Michael Jackson

Things that didn't yet exist or that I had not heard of on April 29, 2001
David Wright
The Tea Party
Barack Obama
Play Station 3
The second Iraq War
The war in Afghanistan
Hurricane Katrina
Apple Stores
Cartoon Network's Adult Swim
Kanye West
The Euro
Removing shoes at the airport
The Department of Homeland Security
Zach Parise
MetLife Stadium
The Prudential Center
Citi Field
The Tuck Rule
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
David Tyree's helmet catch
Three different countries (East Timor, South Sudan, Montenegro)
3G Wireless
iTunes Music Store
Sarah Palin
Justin Bieber
The Charlotte Bobcats
LeBron James
Star Wars Episode II
Star Wars Episode III
Allen Iverson's practice rant

Changes in my life since April 29, 2001
My brother and sister graduated college
I graduated high school
I graduated college
My father got re-married
My brother got married
He also won two Emmys
My sister got engaged
She also got a law degree
I am no longer morbidly obese
My cousin, who I visited in the hospital the day he was born, has accepted his first post-college job
The other cousin I visited in the hospital the day she was born is halfway through college
I've been to six new countries
I've been in the same post-college job for four and a half years
I drank alcohol for the first time
I kissed a girl
I moved into my first apartment
I had only seen 11 different sports teams play home games in eight different venues (That's now 48 and 44)
I went to both my junior and senior proms
I stopped spending summers at Fairview Lake YMCA Camps
I have grown and shaved several beards
I started a blog

It really is remarkable, or pathetic, just how much has changed between the second to last playoff game the Knicks have won and the last one. Who knows what kind of amazing changes, political figures or life events will occur between now and the next one.

Then again, there may not be a whole lot that changes between today and Wednesday. At least I hope not. At this point I'm just hoping their next playoff win doesn't coincide with me driving my second child to their last day of kindergarten. But at this pace that may well be the case. The only thing I may be able to rely on is that when it happens, Mike Breen will be the man behind the mic. In a strange coincidence he was the play-by-play man for both that Game 3 win against the Raptors in 2001 and the victory over the Heat the broke the spell Sunday.

Evidently, with the Knicks, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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