Last Thursday was a long day. It started with a 5 a.m. wake-up call and a walk to the airport here in downtown Toronto for a morning flight to New York. At Newark Airport, the customs officer laughed at my Double Scribble Linsanity tee, asking me why I was still wearing that. I got all defensive and told him I was going to Game 5 that night and would throw my Charles Oakley jersey over the tee.
After an entire day of walking around the city, and making the first of four trips in four days to Uniqlo, I met up with my friend Albert and we were off to the 400 level at the Garden.
Now, my previous live NBA game experiences were limited to here in Toronto, and regular season games in Los Angeles, one with the Lakers and the Clippers respectively.
The crowd, whether it was because of the section I sat in, or because of the stakes, was incredible. From the opening tip all the way through, they were engaged, they were angry, they were satisfied and angry again. But the best way to describe the Garden crowd would be: informed.
Of course, when a fan in our section spends an entire half begging for Chris Copeland, and he promptly puts up 13 points in 19 minutes, we’re all geniuses.
After the game, fans were already telling each other where they’d be for Game 7 on Monday, whether it was getting better seats than they had on this night, or inviting strangers to their place to watch together, plans were already being arranged.
Of course, the Knicks season ended on Saturday in Indiana. We managed to catch the end of the game at Clyde Frazier’s restaurant, in the building where I was staying. Since the place was a bit outside of the city core, we assumed that it would not be a difficult place to get a seat.
Well, never underestimate these New York fans. The bar area was impossible to even squeeze in. Knicks fans chanted, cheered, jeered at J.R. Starks every time didn’t go in, but they believed, until Roy Hibbert’s block of Carmelo Anthony’s dunk attempt seemed to take the collective air out of them.
Even though the Knicks fell short in their goal to meet the Heat in the Conference Finals, the main takeaway from the weekend was the attitude of the fan base. The confidence that permeated among them even though they understood the flaws of their team, it’s entirely different compared to what we have in Toronto, especially after the recent collapse by the Leafs. One city is resilient and expects things to work out because there’s no other way to root for your team. The other: insecure, nervous, and always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
It’s easy to just generalize this into an attitude for the whole city, but in some ways, it’s true. Sports attitudes often times reflect the general personality of the city, especially so in this case.
Footnotes (or, other sports-related thoughts from New York):
2. I went to Yankees Stadium on Friday to watch the Jays. We sat in the outfield bleachers and generally had a good time talking to a couple of New York sports fans. They just assumed we were huge hockey fans because of our Canadian background, and as a result, we got Pittsburgh-Ottawa game updates all night without request. The girl sitting next to us made more inappropriate assumptions: one, she thought we knew nothing about baseball, and kept reminding us that you’re suppose to have a hot dog when you’re at a game; she also explained to us how the seventh inning stretch worked. And when Gangnam Style was blasted through the stadium, the entire section wanted to see us dance. Ok, that last one isn’t even New York related, it’s something Asians can never escape at a sporting event from now until forever.
3. After the Jays-Yankees game, and suicide squeezing into the subway, we caught the late show at Comedy Cellar. And because this is New York, Chris Rock made a special guest appearance and did a one hour set, riffing on everything from Oscar Pistorius to Tom Brady. After Rock finished his set, the host announced that another special guest was making his return to comedy tonight: Eddie Murphy. We all believed, just because anything is possible in New York. No, he didn’t come out.
5. Last time in New York, my friends and I were actually going to a Cellar show and found out via Twitter that adult film star Lisa Ann was at a restaurant down the street. We went to the restaurant but was turned away at the door because it was a private event. This time around, I tried tweeting at Lisa Ann before the trip to no avail, because, well, I don’t know, I’m delusional sometimes and think she will reply to me like we have a long history. Of course, as I was leaving today, my friend Albert found out that she was actually at Clyde Frazier’s for Game 5 while we were at the Garden. Frazier’s, as in the bar in the building we were staying. Which begs the question: would I have skipped going to The Mecca for a chance to shake hands (and then washed my hands) with a legend? That’s a tough one, but I probably would’ve gone to Frazier’s instead if I knew and shared some doughnuts with Lisa Ann.