Monday, December 27, 2010

Kamikaze Pilots

This year, I finally got what I wanted for Christmas.


The New York Knicks were cruising past the Bulls, save a few Derrick Rose highlights, and I was getting more feeeback about this unforeseen dominance than "Merry Christmas!!1!!!11!1!" mass texts. I'll like to pretend I was gracious in accepting this praise, knowing that we're bound to kiss this goodbye with a quick first-round exit, but I was more giddy than a fat chick in her prom dress. Finally, the world was taking notice.

I have noticed, however, the desire from fans, from Weehawken to Wyoming, to join forces with the orange-and-blue, to become bandwagon Knicks fans. You didn't have to tell me. I've seen the discreditable tweets, the overjoyed Facebook status (Knicks for the C-SHIP!), and jerseys. UGH.

As I told my friend "Bay Rignall" (name has been changed to protect the innocent), these Knicks (as currently constructed) is the lady friend you KNOW is bad news. She's got a history of heartbreaks (see: 2001-2009), but...she's inventive. And attractive. Always has been. When she's ON, she makes your best friends jealous. But, as the long-term boyfriend (Knicks fans), you KNOW she's got too much baggage to overcome. This season, you're just banking that the sex is good and the hope that this time she'll be able to exorcise her demons.

It's OK to jump on our bandwagon, really. I could use the company. But I've been around the block, too much that I care to admit. I've been with the Knicks during her rehab years and I know how things can trend negative. I'm being overly protective because I know, first-hand, the damage she can do.

But when life is is GOOD.
Real talk, once you hop on the Knicks bandwagon, it's hard to hop off. So, consider my Guide to Sports Bandwagoning as an olive branch, a courtesy warning you of the perils of fandom before the full commitment. (GASP!)

Wish I hadn't used the "C" word there.

OPTION #1. Don't get emotionally invested.
It's easy to get swooned by the fanfare and celebrity of our team. I mean, Drake AND The Hot Judge from Top Chef are staples at our home games now. Remain calm. Try to appreciate the team's success like one appreciates the Met. Mitigate your highs and lows. This way, when we can hedge your feelings as the simple connisseur.

In other words, make us your booty call.
OPTION #2: Be continuously negative and condescending.
For those of you already good at tearing people down and spreading negativity, you know what to do. If you don't, no worries. Say things like, "You KNOW we'll struggle against teams that can rebound!", "Did you Lebron/Wade/Bosh have won 10+ games STRAIGHT?", and "Why does Mike D. play Raymond Felton SO MANY MINUTES?!?!" This way, when we can yell the phrase "I TOLD YOU SO!" in the unquiet darkness with utter disregard for your reputation.

In other words, be a New York Yankee fan.

OPTION #3: Invest your love. But be warned.
This rule goes out to all the people who don't know how to live a single life, who jump from relationship to relationship without considering the erosion that takes place. These are the people that wake up one day spouting untruths like "College basketball is WAY better than the NBA!" and forget how they got there. You just attach and re-attach your love to different bodies, to beat back that looming season of loneliness.

If this sounds like you, I'd reconsider becoming a Knicks fan. We will rope you in for the long haul. Too many layers, too much love to share.

In other words, just be a Miami Heat fan.
OPTION #4: Commit. Marry the New York Knicks already.
Listen, if you're looking for the perfect team, guess what? YOU'LL NEVER FIND IT. You'll always find some chink in the armor, some ill-gotten gain, some irregularity (Knicks DON'T play good defense) that'll drive you CRAZY.

Then, there are those seemingly insignificant things that'll tickle your fancy. Like the fact that Landry Fields leads NBA guards in rebounding. Or, that Amar'e declared himself Jewish (probably to curry favor with Madison Avenue). Or, Wil Chandler's improved pull-up game. They may have not been the attributes that attracted you to the Knicks this Christmas (DID YOU SEE THAT AMAR'E JAM!), but they exist.

And they'll keep you a diehard Knicks fan, for richer or poorer.
(M.B., II)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

All Dogs Go To Heaven

My Mom told me never to talk to strangers. But I had to break the rule this one time. New York City was buzzing, all of the heels of his decision to rip apart our unusually flaccid defense.

Plus, I wasn't talking to one person in particular. My sordid cheers were being transmitted to the entire world.


A simple tweet, no? I had it resting in my queue, but declined to share it with the masses. It was too straightforward, too easy, too matter-of-fact. What's the point of adding more junk food to an online society craving fiber? Of course he's playing well. My eyes can tell me that.

Plus, that would be an admission of his departure. And I'm not so sure that's the case.
Thanks to a 24-7 sports news cycle, stories once buried now have more shelf life. There's more inches to squeeze, more storylines to cover, and more empty web pages to fill. Vick, being the polarizing figure that he is, begs for more coverage and more footage. Even though he was gone for almost two years, it felt like he never left.

Is Vick training in jail? Does he need protection? Why did he go to jail for 23 months when some killers of humans go free in less time? Who's going to sign him once he's free? Will he ever play professional football AGAIN? Should I wear my Vick #7 jersey outside?

All the while, Vick served his penance. Amazingly, he stayed in game shape. His desire for greatness never receded, and is only now complimented by a hope for acceptance. Vick doesn't play through those ancient shadows, but as a new man, his challenge is creating a new legacy.
Through fifteen weeks, Vick's been stellar. He's en route to crush his career-high marks in passing (20) and rushing TD's (8). He's already make light work of the outdated passer rating stat (103.5). And he's got his team sitting in the driver's seat of their division (NFC East).
Sure, I get it. He oversaw dogs getting skulls smashed into concrete. The jury's still out on his resurgence. PETA probably still sends letter to the Eagles brass declaring his guilt. But Vick did the crime, and Vick did the time. Everybody deserves a second-chance. Even a dog killer.

Michael Vick is the undisputed MVP. And I dare you to challenge me on it.
M.B., II

Friday, December 3, 2010

Black Ice

"Why are we booing, Daddy?"

Lebron. Cleveland, Ohio. December 2010.

Where do you begin? How do you substantiate and codify an act that drains the life force from your being on a sheer mention? How can a father extract teachable meaning for his son without breaking character and cursing the very thing he once loved?

Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks! (Ginsberg, "Howl")

"Son, we're booing him because he made his own decision, acted responsibly and looked out for his best interests." That's the answer you'd have to give, right?

But can we kill him for that? The business world has significant canon of moving parts with folks jumping Bear Stearns for JP Morgan, ABC for NBC, tragedy for triumph. Granted, most wouldn't designate an entire hour on a global network to announce our intentions (unless one actually reveled in the hate), but we'd switch teams without blinking.

I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool. (Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby)

"He's such a teddy bear," one young lady said to another as our train sped through bland Connecticut cul-de-sacs. That's what they said about Wilt, Kermit and Shaq. This world has a dangerously fleeting memory, one that can make today's heroes tomorrow's villains.

I saw—with shut eyes, but acute mental vision—I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion. Frightful must it be, for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world. (Shelley, Frankenstein).

Unlike any transcendent player before him, Lebron was created for us, by us. Oscar was a Negro, Magic a convenient chaos schism, and Jordan his own creation myth. Our ears heard of his triumphal entry, our eyes spawned ESPN Rise and, our mouths declared him King before he even proved himself worthy, and our hearts melted as he vaulted our expectations as a testament and mockery of the Creator.

We took the choice out of his hands and on that Decision night...he was taking it back.

I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation (Shelley, Frankenstein).

When Lebron stepped on the Cleveland parquet that night, re-branded and remodeled, he was hell-bent on redefinition. With 38 points and a total disregard for human life, he became the kind of guy who roots for the bad guys in movies. He even refused to acknowledge his Ohio doxology.

The tender teddy is now an arctic assassin.
Be men, or be more than men. Be steady to your purposes and firm as a rock. This ice is not made of such stuff as your hearts may be; it is mutable and cannot withstand you if you say that it shall not (Shelley, Frankenstein).

For James, the Cleveland game only sheds more light on his obvious path to ascendancy.

Black ink must become black ice.

M. A. Benjamin, II

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bohemian Rhapsody

Yup, I've begun the precipitous transition to radio. My dude Yung Knox has a kickin' podcast, and asked me to dish on some NBA and NFL stuff. I know...I don't have a NY accent.

You can check it out HERE.

(Don't worry...I'm coming strong with a Roy/Drexler piece in short order.)