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There a particular moments in a person’s life they never forget. These can be moments of accomplishment, such as graduating college. Or, these could be moments of euphoria like the first time you get drunk. Personally, one of these moments that registered in a particularly potent way was the first time I saw Varsity Blues. This probably stems from Ali Larter’s whip cream bikini proposition (Dear God!), the detail that the viewing took place with my parents (DEAR GOD), and most importantly, I was 13 and the movie featured a kick-ass soundtrack and football. The movie was, and still is, incessantly entertaining. The two huge legacies left behind from Blues (besides Larter’s, um, breakout scene) was James Van Der Beek effusively declaring to his father, “I D-O-N-T Waaant Yawrre Life” and every football scene featuring the song “Hero” by the Foo Fighters.
In the aftermath of Monday night’s playoff game between the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics, my thoughts somehow reverted to Varsity Blues. Why? Well, like the film, all media points stars to deliver in the clutch. Winners are supposed to want the ball in the moments which matter most. When the star fails that same media lambastes the player, and when they deliver the player is treated with warmth and adulation. That’s the deal. That’s what they sign up for.
There goes my hero. Watch him as he goes.
The great ones though? They know when to defer. Michael knew to dish to Steve Kerr. The funny aspect is, even though we trust the Celtics, we know the term “hero basketball” can commandeer a player’s mindset instantaneously. Last night moments before the Celtics final possession, Boston.com’s Chad Finn (who I personally love reading), tweeted “Pierce is going to try and be the hero here no matter what, isn’t he?” Luckily for Celtics fans, Paul Pierce read the defense and found Ray Allen for the game winning three pointer.
Now, the Knicks can point to the atrocious offensive foul called on Carmelo Anthony while New York was trying to inbound the ball the prior possession. Additionally, the New York side is justified when they claim point guard Toney Douglas was tripped to spring Ray Allen free by Kevin Garnett for the game clinching shot. Knicks’ fans can criticize moves made and call for coach Mike D ‘Antoni’s head after he didn’t adequately prepare his team for a lob pass on the inbound pass from Rajon Rondo to Garnett. Also fans can gripe about D’Antoni’s squad and their lack of composure after the Allen buried the game winner. This is just like Patriots’ fans cursing Asante Samuel for dropping an easy interception during Super Bowl 42 or stomping their feet about all the non-holding calls on the Giants offensive line during the David Tyree helmet catch play. None of this matters in the here and now, though.
Overall, the contest reminded me of the opening game in last year’s playoff run for the C’s against the Miami Heat. The Heat had control of that game, just like the Knicks had grasp of this one, before failing to close. I can say, with certitude, there’s dissension within the Knickerbocker locker room. Like their fans, the team is pissed off. Their pissed because Amar’e Stoudemire played out of his mind, and didn’t touch the ball in neither of their final two possessions. Their pissed off about the non-calls, and the bad-calls. Mostly their pissed off, because they know. They know the dirty little secret. The Knicks are screwed. Melo can talk about how now the Knicks know they can play with the Celtics; however, the truth is all that matters is the Knicks blew a game they HAD to have in order to win this series. They didn’t close.
And now Anthony is being skewered. All because he wanted to be the guy that played Dawson Leary.
The overall theme here is hero syndrome being prevalent in sports today more than ever. Paul Pierce used to have it. Kobe Bryant still has it. One could argue, Brett Farve’s personal life is now in shambles because of it. The disease effects one in every 12 athletes. Ok – I made that last statistic up. But you get the point: it’s an epidemic. The term is not like other cliches in sports like, “the puck moving defense-man” or the “game managing quarterback.” Those are simply qualities, this is an ideology. I, and presumably many other Celtics fans, showed consternation that the illness would infect “The Truth” as the Knicks doubled-teamed him late Sunday night.
And as Marv Alber yelled, “Ray Allen for three?!….Yeshhhh,” in a way only Marv can do justice, I watched as that same worry I felt quickly shifted gears into the souls of Knicks’ fans everywhere. As Melo called for the ball – I knew and New York fans knew - the ball stops in Seven’s hands. He was infected.
He was infected because he didn’t drive to the basket on his smaller defender (Allen) to draw a foul or a triple team. He was infected because as Rondo went to double him, Toney Douglas (who moments earlier nailed a clutch three pointer) was wide open pleading for the ball, and instead of passing Anthony glared while carrying the basketball carelessly almost as to say, “I’m King Kong. I run this,” like Denzel Washington in Training Day. He was infected, and now the Knicks and their fans can only do what they do best – point to the other minutia details.