As a Knicks fan of over 20 years, I have some solid memories and positive emotion that connect me to the franchise. These memories reflect a rewarding history and provide a bond that justifies my support.
When I first became a fan, Patrick Ewing had been a Knick for but a handful of years, and he gave his unyielding effort for over a decade more, along with home grown finds like John Starks, and Anthony Mason, even Hubert Davis. Add to the mix outside accouterments who bought in like Harper and Rivers, some of whom, like Oakley, became mainstays. There was a 60 win season (!). The team earned its fans.
But there is an entire generation of fans who know nothing of that type of stability or success. Amar’e Stoudemire is the longest tenured Knick. He enjoyed unambiguous popularity for about half a season. Iman Shumpert is the only home grown. Lin, salvaged, could have been like Starks. But since Dolan inserted himself in place of Checketts this franchise has been so atrocious that for a new era of fans, fans who have invested themselves within the last decade plus, Linsanity represented the pinnacle.
Dolan has given these fans nothing. NOTHING. There have been few less rewarding experiences in fandom. These fans have no real link to the ’99 run, much less the Riley days. I imagine they treat that portion of Knicks history much as I meet stories of Bernard King with a detached reverence. The only experiential attachment many fans have is to Howard Eisley and truck sex and Eddy Curry and Jerome James, traded draft picks, Antonio McDyess, salary cap hell and literally the most losses of any team in that period.
And I couldn’t blame them if they went away.
As disgusted as I am, I won’t. And only because I want to maintain the innocence and purity of fandom, even if those in charge treat the team we revere as literally nothing more than a product to peddle to customers they know they can screw over because those customers have already given them what every business strives for: emotional attachment.
If I left now and went somewhere else, no tie would bind me to the next place. The decision to leave becomes a slippery slope, a ride I’d rather not take. I’ve committed for better or worse to this deplorable owner, just as other fans who take the repeated insults blithely and look down contemptuously at both the new and old generations of fans who have nothing to show for their devotion and who choose to express their frustration. I liken these fans to what Orwell called “Party Members”. They remind me of those unquestioning lieges who subscribe to what he called “crimestop”:
the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction.
Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity. But stupidity is not enough. On the contrary, orthodoxy in the full sense demands a control over one’s own mental processes as complete as that of a contortionist over his body. Oceanic society rests ultimately on the belief that Big Brother is omnipotent and that the Party is infallible. But since in reality Big Brother is not omnipotent and the party is not infallible, there is need for an unwearying, moment-to-moment flexibility in the treatment of facts.
These are the fans who tell you that Brooklyn is just across the river. I suspect these fans contort in order to make sense of a continued investment that hasn’t rewarded them any more than it has those who are critical.
It’s fine. I accept that this is how it has to be. As a fan you associate yourself not only with a team but, as an unintended consequence, with all other fans of that team. People of all different stripes. One day, perhaps, James Dolan will not run the team anymore. Or one day, his attitude will change. Or he’ll get lucky. Maybe.
One day maybe we call ALL be proud.
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