The buzz at Madison Square Garden was electric, reminding millions of fans of their dormant passion for Knicks success. It was an awakening about life and desire and how much we really love and care. But for me, I only saw a few seconds of the game because I didn’t want my heart to break again.
Brian Laguardia, a mentor and one of my closest friends, is certifiably a Knicks fanatic. All year, he has explained that this is a team to be proud of. They represent us. They work as a team, humble, hard working, and overachieve. I don’t know if I fit any of those categories, but I certainly aim to.
But I didn’t want to fall in love again. The problem of getting on the bandwagon is that it was awfully hard falling off. It hurt. The team of the 90’s represented New Yorkers. Tough, determined, and would throw anyone off a cliff if it meant they could snare a rebound. Back then, I spent 80% of my life watching, reading, and thinking about the Knicks. They were me.
But like and love and identification, the higher you go, the further you have to fall. I learned that their owner was a horrible person and benefiting from all of our loyalty. I learned the Knicks were not me. Separation was easy because the team fell apart and their were other options and places I could pursue other passions. Some Knicks friends called me disloyal. Other friends called me smart.
Twenty years later, the pandemic hit. Everything stopped. Most people experienced an existential crisis. I had to question what was important, who I was, and what I wanted to do in life. I never realized the depth sports had on what was meaningful. It was painful as I was unprepared for this surprise test. My religion major in college never seemed more worthless than those months after COVID hit.
There was an NBA bubble last summer, a group of the best teams that competed against each other in Disney World, providing fans a glimpse of entertainment and life when the rest of the world was in lock down. The Knicks weren’t invited, They weren’t good enough.
And that’s what made their current resurgence even more alluring. I read their box scores every day. I followed from a distance. It never was fulfilling, but I was hopeful and kept checking in.
But after having my identity already divorced from their success, it was too difficult to pin my joy on their success again. Sometimes, when you question what is meaningful, and separate your self from what you used to find meaningful, it is not so easy to go back to the the ways things used to be, for justifiable reasons.
I felt I was missing out as Knicks fans returned to life, but I couldn’t fake a connection that didn’t exist. Basketball has rescued me at times this past year when I needed a distraction from pain and an entry way to beauty and excitement. But sometimes, basketball has been hollow for me as I dwell on what is really significant, what is real in life.
I watch pick up games on the street and it reminds me of my old passion, what i spent hours every day doing. I can’’t anymore, and worse, I judge those who do. I can’t help it. It is the poison of questioning too much and the after effects of intense separation.
I don’t relish in missing the pain of the Knicks defeat in the playoffs. I celebrate their effort, their determination to come back and represent New York. And without any certainty with what they future will bring, they will be back next season fighting hard to win again.
And so I believe I have answered the question for those who have asked, “How I am doing one year after almost losing my life to COVID.”