At this point, it feels like a punchline, not a real question. I know when it's about to drop, and it takes all of my willpower not to just get up and flee the room. I've gotten it at parties, in line to get lunch, at a dentist appointment, and most frequently, from elder family friends and relatives. Last night was no different. My parents had people over, and once the Celtics-Magic game had ended, I joined everybody downstairs. The conversation jogged from home ownership to babysitters to private schools while I kept mostly to myself, ate crackers, and tried not to fart aloud. Had I been more vigilant, I would have known not to be quiet, because it's the first mistake. If you in any way convey that the present conversation is not of interest, then you're immediately in the red zone. There comes a point, as was the case last night, when somebody in the room decides your witty remarks per cracker ingested (WPCI) have fallen below the acceptable ratio, and that you must be included in the conversation immediately. Last night was a textbook case, in which an individual I'd only met once or twice before happened to know one killer fact about me, though it certainly wasn't something I'd shared personally. The room fell silent, and the guy's gazed turned to me. He tilted his head a little, already feeling clever. At this point, there's always a shred of hope that you'll be asked something else. The first word sealed my fate, though.
"...is LeBron coming to the Knicks?
And there it is. I usually answer succinctly and dismissively, saying I really don't know and will be happy either way because he's far from the only guy out there. This is all true, but last night, I felt lively enough to dive headfirst into it. I took one deep breath, swallowed by diatribe about bandwagon fans and fanbase dignity, and laid out my view of the 2010 free agency market in earnest. I related the numerous twists and turns of the rumor train, the necessary coyness with which He Who Shall Not Be Named (and I didn't!) addresses these questions, and the added variable of Cleveland's monumental meltdown last week. I name-dropped Joe Johnson, Rudy Gay, and friends, mentioned David Lee and the possibility of sign-and-trades, gave a nod to the summer of 2011, and concluded that I really had no idea and neither did anybody else. The guy smiled, remarked that he grew up a Celtics fan but had only seen one game this year, and shared that he found today's pro game to be wholly inferior and devoid of teamwork, at which point I attacked him and bit off his ears.
Now, many of you aren't my same age, and I'm sure most of you are more socially adept at gatherings than I am, but I know we all share something in common. In any given room, and especially one stocked with relative strangers, each one of you is, like me, the Knicks fan. Do you also get asked this question all the time, or is this mostly an exchange between suburban professionals and their peers' children? Do you dread it like I do? If you get asked, how do you answer? Are there some of you out there that actually treat this yes/no question with a definitive "yes" or a "no"? Can we all come up with a universal answer or maybe eradicate the question entirely? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
To anywhere out there who has asked a Knicks fan the question or just wants to know how to address us: ask about anything else. Anything. Ask about the draft. Ask about Danilo Gallinari's progress. (That's a surefire winner. You don't even have to know who that is. Just say "How about that Danilo Gallinari?" and you're in good shape). Ask about Knicks history. Shit, ask about the New York Liberty. Anything. Anything but that one thing. It's only May, and we're already totally jaded by free agency. You're only making it worse.
Oh, and to anybody with a customized #23 (or #6 if you are re both obnoxious and well-informed) jersey, or really anybody who's making a lot of noise about the prospect of The L Word as a Knick, be it bravado or pleading...stop. You're making all of us look bad. Just stop. Thank you.