Not Quite What I Was Hoping For
Reviewed in the United States on February 14, 2022
As a die-hard, bleed blue and orange Knick fan in the 1990s, I learned three things: that it really is the journey and not the destination, that prayer is powerful, and that if you refer to then-NBA Commissioner David Stern as an anal wart in the comments section of the New York Times, it will be removed.
One of the greatest nights of my life was being in the Garden on May 12, 1997, when the Knicks stripped the bark off the Heat. I rarely feel at home in any crowd, but did in that one. In fact, real Knick fans (I use this distinction because New York in general attracts bandwagon wingnuts in all areas, and the Knicks were an absolute magnet, with a concomitant rude and nasty corporate staff) would spot one another during the course of daily business, and then just dissolve into conversation about our team. A tollbooth collector spotted my jacket in the middle of the '99 playoffs, and we got into a conversation that ended up with what I estimated to be a thirty-car line up behind me -- oops! While parking in an outdoor lot before the theater, the guy in front of us had a Rolls, and gave the attendant a key wrapped in bills (in those lots, you would have to wait a long time to get your car if it wasn’t parked in the front.) When we gave him the key, I shrugged and said, Knick tip-off is at 6:10; whatever you can do. When we came out, our car was facing the street and the Rolls was behind us. It’s an important part of everything that happened in that decade, and it’s missing in this book. Herring wasn’t alive for a lot of this, and you don’t have to be alive during any time period to write about it, but you should talk to the fans who were a big part of this. He should have talked to a lot of people to get a fuller picture of this era, more Knicks, more broadcasters, more opponents. At least mention Kurt Thomas, his absence is a mind-blower.
But I’m not sure that was Herring’s aim. I am troubled by the title of this book – then and now, I have held a certain opinion of David Stern, Mary Mother Discipline Thorn and Granik the Panic, the unholy trinity of NBA suits, which to my mind explained the success of some players and some teams, and the lack of success of others. The Knicks were a really, really black team, from a city that intimidates people no end. No John Paxson on our team, no John Stockton, no Steve Kerr. We played hard, as you’re supposed to, it wasn’t a bunch of no-talent thugs. Stern was trying to sanitize the entire league to make it palatable to the lowest common denominator, because spoiled white kids from the suburbs generated a lot more revenue than die-hard fans. I think they were using the Yankees as a blueprint. That’s why our momentum was blindsided by the league in ’97 with all those idiotic suspensions for people who were clearly breaking up the fight. The Knicks were major market, money coming out the proverbial, you know, and we could take the financial hit. A safe target for suits. I’m not saying we would have definitely won in ’97, but we got too close for some people’s comfort. Herring was a sports writer for the Wall Street Journal, which to my mind was like being the Financial Editor of High Times, so this probably wasn't an alley he wanted to stroll down.
This is a good overview, a swim down memory sewer for me, which I don’t generally do, and brought back pleasure and pain. But I am convinced that Herring really wanted to write a biography of Anthony Mason, and some publishing ginks said, nah, that won’t sell, how about…
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