Thursday, June 22, 2006

Double Whammy

June 22, 1994

On that day I attended my junior high school graduation. It was a fantastic occasion in that it celebrated the hard work my classmates and I did over the prior three years. I was grateful for the opportunity to speak as valedictorian and discuss how our class was looking forward to high school. We were happy and relieved to finally get another school year done and to receive recognition for our work.

When the ceremony was done, I hung out with my best friends and talked about how the Knicks were going to capture the title that night. They had to. It was destiny. Riley would guide us, Harper, Mason and Starks were going to be clutch, and Patrick Ewing would finally get his championship. In the midst of our dreaming I tried to convince them to watch that evening’s World Cup match between the U.S. and Colombia before the Knick game. “Colombia is going to win big”, said I, fan of the South American squad. I mean, Pelé himself said we were going to win the championship. Maybe the U.S. will be graceful in defeat. My words fell on deaf ears to them while we all were giddy at the prospect of attending the Knicks’ victory parade.

By midnight I was red-faced in tears. How could Escobar knock it into his own net? How come our defense gave Stewart that much space to score? Why did Starks choose the worst game to shoot bricks? Why couldn’t Patrick stop Hakeem? How could we blow it? It was all too cruel to bear.

Fast forward twelve years later: June 22, 2006.

At around 10am I nervously sat in front of the living room television rocking back and forth like Rain Man. We needed a miracle to make it to the next round and I was confident that it would be done. Yes, Ghana was impressive on Saturday, but we got a point against all odds when we played the Italians. We were going to prove all the soccer haters wrong. 2002 was not a fluke nor was this team. Four years of qualifiers, friendlies, endless speculation, and hype were not going to be in vain. I will not be disappointed.

Two hours later I was. Why did coach Arena insist on a 4-5-1 when we HAD to win? Why the hell was Eddie Johnson riding the bench? How could the ref make such a ghastly call on the “penalty”? Where was Landon Donovan? How could it take us 2-and-3/4 games for the offense to finally wake up? Who’s to blame?

As I was watching post-game analysis on ESPN, the news broke out that Larry Brown was fired only to be replaced by Isiah Thomas. What was James Dolan thinking? How could the Knicks hire the man who moved heaven and earth to make the Knicks such a huge laughingstock? How much worse can it get?

So here I sit. Shattered. Surly. Sad. Seeking answers on a silver platter. Tomorrow will be another day. But today was déjà vu all over again.

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