The Present is the Past, and Other Assorted Basketball Love Songs

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February 21, 2013 by NowhereButPop

By Steve Secular

*I wrote this a month before the basketball season started, as you can glean from the opening paragraph. So some of my predictions about the Knicks and Nets ended up being entirely wrong, namely that the Knicks would be terrible as usual and that the Nets would actually be an exciting team to watch. Wrong and wronger. Nonetheless here it is, in all its unedited glory:

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With the basketball season 30-something days away, as the giant tip-off clock tells me at NBA.com, it felt necessary to weigh in on the Knicks-Nets fandom debate. Don’t worry, this isn’t another article talking about whether or not fans are allowed to switch teams, and I’m not giving anybody a deadline that they have to complete their flip-floppities by.

I’m simply here to contextualize the decision in terms of convoluted analogies (!) Which is exactly what I’ve been doing for myself over the last few months as I try to make the same decision.

2a. Imagine you’re at a party. A standard college party.  The kind at a club’s house, like the Band House, or the Drama House. Off in the corner is the most attractive girl you’ve ever seen. You met her freshman year, and she flirted with you a few times. Maybe she complimented your shirt or your shoes, asked you for the page numbers and laughed when you clearly had no idea what was going on. She’s the one you really want. If you managed to go home with her, it would be the sweetest kind of success. But then you look and see another girl dancing by herself. She’s attractive, but certainly not like the first girl. And she’s clearly out of it. Having a great time, but obviously drunk.[1] You overhear a conversation of hers where she says that if someone gave her LSD, she’d be able to clean the entire house in an hour. You don’t know what prompted this nor do you really care. So, the question is this: who do you make the play for? The first girl or the second?

1. Arguably the most important thing I’ve learned so far from the world of love and relationships is that dating a friend is a terrible idea. It seems perfect, fated even. She’s the Sally to your Harry (or vice versa). But there’s a problem with taking that relationship to the next level. Because what begins as a friendship inherently remains a friendship. One founded upon a shared history, and that’s the central issue.

As friends, you were there for each other, built up stories, memories, etc. They know you. They were there for your first big break-up, and they were there the first time you got too drunk. Which is wonderful. They’ve seen the “real you”, and they still love you for it. Cue “Good Feeling” by the Violent Femmes and slow dance the night away, you two. But the problem is that who you are now isn’t necessarily who you’ll be a year down the road. It’s a guarantee you’ll have changed. Maybe for the better, or maybe for the worse. Okay, fine, for the worse. You’re kind of a shitty person.

That other person, though, will always become tied to the past, and as hard as they try, it’s impossible to shake it. They’re just unavoidably a reminder of it. Let’s say they knew you in college, and were there freshman year when you momentarily thought your dorm room door was a toilet. You’ll never have the ability to move beyond that. And when you do inevitably move past it, you’ll be the one who’s “not that same person I fell in love with.”[2]

It happens all the time. It happens to new lovers, and it even happens years and years down the road, once the present of a relationship eventually creates it’s own past: the first apartment together, first car, babies, etc.

2b. The Knicks are Girl #1, and the Nets take the stage as Girl #2, for those playing at home. The Knicks have the history, the greatness of the late 60s, early 70s teams, with the physical poetry of Frazier, Reed, DeBusschere, and Monroe. Since then, it hasn’t been pretty. Though like the hottest girl at the party, the Knicks have certainly taken the time to flirt, make you think you’ve got a chance. In the early 90s, Patrick Ewing complimented our clothes, told us maybe one day we’d get lucky. And we’ve been watching them off in the corner ever since. But then the Nets moved to Brooklyn, and we found ourselves a dancing drunkard. The Nets are quite the attractive team. “Brooklyn’s Backcourt” with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, plus Gerald Wallace, Brook Lopez, and “Humpty Hump” himself, Kris Humphries. But it’s still not the Knicks name. They sure look like they’re having a great time, off dancing by themselves and speaking of strange drug-addled anecdotes. We know we’ll have a good time with the Nets, and we know they’d be up for it. But will it ever mean something more? Can we ever see ourselves in a relationship with the Nets?

3. Fandom shouldn’t feel like such a big deal, and it isn’t, on paper at least. Yet that doesn’t stop me from feeling down when the Yankees lose to the Tigers in the ALDS because all of their big bats go cold, and it doesn’t take into account how elated I feel when I watch Eli Manning hoisting up a Super Bowl trophy.

Being a fan gives us an identity. As an individual, a person is a Ravens fan, wherever they are. Let’s say they meet a Giants fan. They’ll probably talk about the 2000 Super Bowl. Someone will smile, the other will hang their head. Each knows immediately where the other is coming from. Perhaps not the nuances, but they’ll have a pretty good idea of where they can place them. Their respective fandoms keep them in separate yet identifiable worlds.

Simultaneously, and on a larger scale, it brings people together. When that Ravens fan meets another Ravens fan, they’ve found a community. They relate, in their shared identities. Then they go watch highlights of Ray Lewis’ on-field brutality and smile.

2c. When I look at the choices: Knicks vs. Nets, Girl 1 vs. Girl 2, it makes me question why I even care about sports and fans at all. It seems so arbitrary. And then I think about going home with the hottest girl at the party, the one in the Tyson Chandler jersey, and the prospect of another ring for the Knicks, and I look at the Nets, and Deron Williams dancing alone as he happily passes the ball around the party, with the five million “HelloBrooklyn” hashtags hanging from the Barclays Center rafters. And then I smile, because I know my choice. I’ll be happy, at least for now. Until one of us changes, and we’re not the same people that met at that college party all those years ago.


[1] You’re drunk too in this scenario, so let’s avoid the whole drunk ethics debate.

[2] Granted, you probably won’t end up hearing this if your only changes consist of no longer urinating on doors. That one’s most likely for the best.

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