Tuesday, July 22, 2008

HustleJunkie: N.Y. State of Mind

Graydon Gordian is the author of the excellent blog 48 Minutes of Hell. His "HustleJunkie" column appears every Tuesday here at Hardwood Paroxysm. He's a Spurs fan, and rest assured we feel just as sick about it as you do. But honestly, he's too talented to pass up. This week's column is his introduction and some thoughts on the late 90's Knicks.

Robin: What is so fascinating about a group of pituitary cases trying to stuff a ball through a hoop?
Alvy: What is fascinating is that it's physical. You know, it's one thing about intellectuals. They prove that you can be absolutely brilliant and have no idea what's going on.
-Annie Hall

My love for the NBA began with the New York Knicks. It’s odd to say that now. I am no longer a Knicks fan, and given the fact that this past year’s squad resembled something out of an Ionesco play (I actually have a surprisingly clear image in my head of Zach Randolph transforming into a rhinoceros), I’m much more likely to openly mock what has become the laughing stock of the entire Association than quietly pine for the heady days of Charlie Ward and John Starks. But alas, it is where my little love affair began.

As a kid my sports allegiances were unique, or as my classmates would so thoughtfully put it, “stupid.” I grew up in Austin, Texas, but my father was from New York and my mother from Pittsburgh, so my fanhood was an uncommon mess of yellow, black, blue and orange. But of all the teams whom I inherited a love of from my parents (Steelers, Mets) my passion for the Knicks burned the brightest.

Need I remind you that the 90’s were a difficult time to be a Knicks fan in the Lone Star State? Texans and New Yorkers, both endowed with an endless reservoir of provincial pride, are not known for their mutual respect for one another. Add to the fact that I watched the Knicks lose to the Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs (yes, I was rooting for the Knicks in ’99) in the NBA Finals during my formative years, and you can imagine how much shit my friends gave me. I still remember, in a moment of heroism and tragedy, standing up in the cafeteria at summer camp on the morning of the day Houston would secure the title, and along with a counselor originally from up-state New York, chanting “Knicks! Knicks! Knicks…” to a furious chorus of boos.

Not to say that being a Knicks fan was all Sturm und Drang. There were moments of pure bliss. The one that comes most immediately to mind was a playoff game against the Miami Heat in those vitriolic Johnson/Mourning days. The Knicks won by 30 or so, but to be honest I don’t remember much about the game specifically. I just remember sitting with my father at The Tavern in Austin eating a burger, drinking a root beer, and feeling as if I had never seen such a blowout before in my life. I genuinely believed that the Knicks were the most badass group of players to ever set foot on the hardwood. Give me a break guys. I was 12.

In fact, the particularities of that Heat-Knicks rivalry continue to strongly shape my sensibilities as they pertain to basketball. Those series were nothing if not physical. Obviously the most potent memories from those games were the myriad fights that broke out on the court and the laundry list of suspensions handed down by the league. But it wasn’t just the brief eruptions of ire that gave those games a gruff feel. Practically every trip down the floor by either team could be characterized as a mugging. No two ways about it, they were playing a man’s game.

Somewhere along the way I stopped watching the Knicks, and eventually the NBA in its entirety. When I returned to the fold I traded in the blue and orange for the silver and black for reasons that I can’t articulate. My friends might hypothesize that I was living in New York at the time and I’m a natural born contrarian so magically developing a love for the Spurs is a great way to piss people off. They have a point but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

I felt that openly discussing my long lost love for the first time in many years would be the best way to introduce myself to this community. Hi. I’m Graydon. I live in Chicago. I love Wu-Tang and Charles Mingus. I’m currently reading Jean Genet’s Funeral Rites and Chuck Klosterman’s Fargo Rock City. I shoot hoops in Oz Park on the weekends if you wanna come join. This is HustleJunkie.

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