Last night, Seth Pollack (editor-in-chief of all NBA team blogs) was in town from DC and organized an informal meet and greet for all the NBA writers living in New York City.
I'd previously met Seth a few weeks ago while on my way down to Virginia for a wedding, so it was great to not only see him again, but also get to meet Seth Rosenthal and Mike Prada and a bunch of the other national writers who live and work in New York.
The Posting and Toasting fellas were there. I follow the Knickerbockers as closely as one might—living and breathing in this city, listening to sports talk radio in the car—and yet I had never spent a full two hours listening to people delve into the horrific terror-scape that has been this Knicks' season. I asked them straight up if they thought Steve Kerr could have improved the team's season, and they figured he may have been good for an additional five or six wins, tops. In other news, they are ALL IN on Karl Anthony Towns. Anything less is the end-times, as far as they are concerned.
We sat in the Vox offices, shooting the shit and talking basketball for hours. The Cavs-Heat game came on. Someone turned it on in the background with the sound off. Timofey Mozgov was mentioned.
I asked, "Hey remember when Mozgov was the potential holdup in the Carmelo trade?"
"Yeah, but look! He finally turned into a serviceable player! All he needed was the right situation."
"Yeah, but he has that strange scowl," said another Poaster and Toaster, laughing. "That resignation to the futility of everything. Much like Alexey Shved. Do you think that's a Russian thing? Something in the culture?"
"I think it's a New York thing," another guy offered. "That first year they're here, everything is bright and wonderful. The city is magic, the crowd loves them. Nothing can go wrong. That's why you see the same thing over and over again, guys having banner years their first year here. Jeremy Lin. Shit, Landry Fields. Remember when we thought that dude was a sure-fire multiple-time all star??!"
"That was just you man, leave me out of this."
"But seriously. After a certain amount of time, they just die inside. Like, the city, or the commute or something, it just kills them. Murders that fire. That spark of life."
"Yeah man, New York'll do that to you. My dad, bless his heart, is the easiest going guy in the world. But he spent shit, fifteen plus years driving everyday in traffic. An hour and half both ways. Stuck in traffic. Everyday, just frickin hating everything and everyone. It's the hustle and the commute of the place that gets to ya. Even now—and mind you, he eventually had to get another job, cut down on the commuting otherwise he was gonna frickin kill someone—but even now, if we get stuck in traffic, even for like, a minute, he starts going postal on people. Screaming at the world. Cars. Everything. It's crazy..."
Eventually, the cleaning crew came onto the floor. It was late, time to go. We packed up our things—grabbing leftover sandwiches for the road, for dinner—and walked to the elevator and then out into the New York night.
The weather has finally turned. Like a switch, that moment when you finally walk outside and for the first time in months you're not slapped in the face with a wall of cold ice and despair. Springtime in New York is unlike any other. Warm fragrances dancing upon the air currents. Strange smells from a million barely remembered pasts. The scent of street-meat being grilled on late-night food carts. A woman's perfume as she haughtily strides past, en route to some unknown function. Long black dress and high heels. Head bent slightly, taking great leaping long-legged strides.
I took my leave of the guys and wandered alone into the night. I very rarely end up in midtown Manhattan these days. When I do, it feels nostalgic in a funny way—seeing these places emblazoned in my memory from when I first moved to the city at the age of sixteen. The library next to Bryant Park—lions standing watch. Silent and austere in the spring air. The smoke of cigarettes and steam of underground vents billowing up out of grates in the sidewalk.
I hadn't gotten more than a block when I ran into Seth Pollack again. We ended up walking down Fifth Avenue, reminiscing about how the city was some fifteen years ago. Having run Bright Side of the Sun for many years, he checked the Suns-Warriors score on his phone.
"What is it?" I asked.
"Um, let me see. It's 60-55 in the third. So, the Warriors are juuust about to throw down the hammer, have another monstrous third quarter, and put this one away for good."
"Alright," I said, "I'll take your word for it."
We got to his hotel and said goodnight. It was getting late. Sometime past midnight. The streets were deserted, and let me tell you there is nothing in the world so lonely as an empty midnight Manhattan street—shops closed, windows half lit, no one to hear the drumming of your shoes against the pavement.
I decided to walk the ten blocks down to Union Square so as to catch the L train and go home finally. But, shit, I forgot that L train wasn't running after 11:30pm. Dammit. Okay, well, I can take the M as well. The M is shut down too??! What in the hell is going on here?!
I took the M14A bus down fourteenth street down to Houston. Walking from the bus stop to the J train, I looked in an open bar's windows and saw the end of the Warriors game profiled on Sports Center. Back and forth, back and forth each bucket answered. Three lead changes in the final minute? Culminating, of course, with Harrison Barnes' man-drive to the hole, finishing through contact. The team mobbing him on court. Game winner with .4 seconds left on the clock. A righteous feeling.
"Well, at least that went right," I muttered to myself as I stomped down the stairs towards the Brooklyn-bound J train.
We crossed the Williamsburg bridge. No one spoke. The only sounds were the grinding of the metal wheels upon the rails.
At Hewes street, I had to get out to catch a free shuttle bus that would shuttle me up to Lorimer street, where I finally caught an L train and finally, weary and bone tired, stumbled into my apartment sometime around two in the morning. All in all, it took me over two hours to get home. A trip that normally would take twenty minutes.
It was completely worth it.
I might even end up playing some pick up basketball with the SBNation fellas in town.
Hi! Do you play pickup basketball with any regularity? Please fill out my survey and share it with your friends: https://t.co/cJq57HNxYE
— Seth Rosenthal (@seth_rosenthal) April 3, 2015
@seth_rosenthal just filled it out. Also, great to meet you last night! Pick up game sometime in Brooklyn?
— Bram Kincheloe (@BramKincheloe) April 3, 2015
My feelings currently are perfectly summed by this little girl:
Welcome Harrison Barnes game winners.
Bring it on.