By John Schmeelk
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Let me get this out of the way first.
I not only write about the Knicks -- I am also a season-ticket holder. A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from the Knicks inviting me to a special free Tip-Off Event at the Beacon Theater. The headline on the event was an interactive fan forum with the entire Knicks team. Below that, it said there would be a musical appearance by Swizz Beatz and a Knicks City Dancer introduction.
I remember back in 2008 when Donnie Walsh came to the Knicks, there was an interactive fan forum where fans had a chance to ask him questions about the team. It was a great experience and I thought it would be something like that. I was wrong. The following 90 minutes that I will describe is part of my life I will never get back.
7:30: The "show" was supposed to start, and we got what is undoubtedly the most annoying thing about any trip to Madison Square Garden -- the 7th. Ave Squad. They ran around like chickens with their heads cut off chucking T-Shirts. The normal casual fans ate it up. I worried that it was a sign of things to come, and much to my chagrin I couldn't have been more right.
Then we got a set by DJ Clue and Tina Cervasio interviewing Darryl McDaniels from Run-DMC, who introduced a young dance team with a connection to the Garden of Dreams. They put on a performance that took the show to 7:45. There was still no mention of anything even close to basketball -- not even Knicks highlights or pictures of players.
7:45: The Cablevision advertisement continued when Cervasio came back on and introduced Ben Lyons, who is apparently an entertainment reporter of some kind and does some work for Fuse (a Garden property). He mentioned Larry Johnson, which was the closest thing to a Knicks player we had heard about or seen since the thing started. He introduced the Knicks City Dancers.
For the next fifteen minutes we not only got a performance from the Knicks City Dancers, but we got to meet each dancer as individuals when each told the crowd something about themselves. Fascinating stuff. Not one of the dancers actually grew up in the city. The closest we got was New Jersey and Long Island. One was actually an engineer that went to Duke! A half-hour in, there was still nothing remotely basketball-related. Luckily, we did know that 1st year dancer Teal just started college and is majoring in fashion.
8:01: That was when Jill Martin took the stage, clearly not a good sign that anything that had to do with the Knicks was on the horizon. She brought Esteban Serrano out, another Fuse host. I was wondering when the sales reps were going to show up and try to convince everyone in the audience to switch to Cablevision. They welcomed in Swizz Beatz, who performed for a little under 20 minutes. To Swizz's credit he made the first mention of a current Knicks player, Carmelo Anthony, in a post-performance interview at about 8:20. It took 50 minutes, 50, for a current Knicks player to be mentioned at their own tip-off event.
I want to point out that all these performances were fine. They were high quality and well done. Everyone knows the Garden knows how to put on a good show. That was never their problem. Basketball has always been the issue, and that's when the night's festivities went terribly wrong.
The Knicks team was introduced at 8:26, and it started well when Mychel Thompson came out in the wrong order. Once everyone was in their seats, Cervasio reappeared and introduced the person that would help her question the Knicks on stage. I quote: "Once a Knick, always a Knick: Baron Davis!" I laughed so hard that people sitting around me looked at me the way Paul Ryan looked at Joe Biden during the Vice Presidential Debate.
How dare anyone use "Once a Knick, always a Knick" on Davis!?!?!? He played 29 games last year on one leg, and did virtually nothing to help the Knicks win games. This is a franchise that can't give Patrick Ewing an assistant coaching job and is in a feud with Charles Oakley. Yet, somehow, Davis will always be a Knick. It makes me want to throw up.
Finally, an hour into the "show", the Q & A began and I finally thought something worthwhile might happen. There was never any interactive fan forum. There's no doubt that the Knicks didn't want to risk a question being asked about Jeremy Lin, he who will not be named. They not only shield their players from the media, but also from the fans.
Even being questioned by Cervasio and Baron Davis, it's possible that the Knicks players would saying something interesting. Unfortunately, more or less all of their wireless mics weren't working. The fans could barely hear a thing. This is where I point out that the fans were not allowed to hear the Knicks players, something that might be James Dolan's and the Knicks PR Department's dream. There is no truth to the rumor that a roadie that works with JD & the Straight Shot was seen backstage sabotaging the audio board.
Anthony's microphone was working and he was actually smart enough to pass it around. It might be the most he'll pass anything to his teammates all year long. There was another hilarious moment when the Knicks players could actually be heard by the crowd.
Cervasio asked the older players how they are able to play at their age. Rasheed Wallace answered it was because "they took care of their bodies." Nearly all the players on stage started laughing out loud since Wallace is so out of shape that he can't even scrimmage. He was also just a tad overweight in his final year with the Celtics. Truly unintentional comedy.
Davis proceeded to lead the rest of the questioning, asking the Knicks players to describe the fashion style of their teammates. It could have been funny if the players were prepared for it. Instead, one after another, the players looked dumbfounded and said nothing even close to amusing. There were similar lackluster results when they had to guess what teammate's baby picture was being shown on the big screen. The Knicks players also tried to explain "Knicks Tape," something they have been tweeting about. I'm still not sure what it is.
As a finale, the rookies got together to sing, "I Believe I Can Fly." The fans booed poor Pablo Prigioni, a 35-year-old Argentinean legend, until he decided to join in. I felt terrible for him. The event ended at 8:53. It took an hour to get to the basketball stuff, and when they finally did it was one of the most poorly produced, put together and disorganized spectacles I've seen at a place like the Beacon. It lasted all of 23 minutes and was nothing but fluff. It was absolutely nothing an actual Knicks fan would be interested in hearing. They took Knicks fans for fools, the same thing they have been doing the past decade.
It summarizes why the Dolan-led Knicks will never win a championship. It's always about everything except the basketball. It's about the show, glitz and glamour, and not about winning. As great a venue as the Garden is, whenever basketball is played the Knicks end up being a disappointment: just like their dopey Tip-Off Event. If this was any signal of what the season is going to be like, Knicks fans are in for another long one.
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