Autumn is here, which means it's time to rake the leaves, pick the pumpkins and try to remember the difference between apple juice and apple cider (If it's sweet and yella, you got juice there fella/ if it's tangy and brown, you're in cider town). It's also time for Knick fans to brace themselves for an avalanche of articles profiling the source of all Knick frustration:
James Dolan, Isiah Thomas, Carmelo Anthony.
This gem of a profile by ESPN's Tim Keown is the latest off the assembly line. Keown and his stable of unnamed sources provide us with a helpful timeline of the past few months.
1. Knicks start out last season as Melo's team, totally suck ass.
2. Linsanity begins, restores our faith in humanity.
3. Melo injures groins, seethes in the background, plotting his revenge.
4. Melo pulls a Machiavellian power move from behind the scenes, removing Mike D'Antoni with the help of Worldwide Wes (is there anything that guy isn't involved in?). The Freemasons and Illuminati are also rumored to have been involved. Dan Brown has been contracted the write the book.
5. Mike Woodson takes over. The Knicks are floundering and in danger of missing the playoffs.
7. Knicks lose in the playoffs to the Heat.
8. Jeremy Lin signs with Houston. Melo gets what he wants.
Maybe I'm being a little too harsh on point 6 - Keown does spend a whole one sentence on Melo's performance down the stretch: "He was more engaged and energetic on the defensive end over the final 24 games."
Does that one sentence really do justice to Melo's performance at the end of last season? Unlike Keown, I have a source with MSG who is willing to go on record - the scorekeeper. According to my source, Melo averaged nearly 30 points and 7 boards during the final month of the season, shooting nearly 50% from the floor. He also turned in a vintage Bernard King performance in Game 4 against an overwhelming Heat team.
Unfortunately, those cold, hard, irrefutable facts don't tell the real story. The real story comes from quotes like these:
"He's not an alpha dog. He might think he is, but he's not," says a source close to the Knicks. "He needs to be around someone who is feared, someone who could tell him what to do."
That's some quality psychoanalysis, Random Unnamed Dude. I look at Carmelo Anthony and I see a player who wants the shot at the end of games, and a player who makes that shot more often than not. The numbers bear out that Melo has been a consistent clutch performer. But numbers can't look into a man's soul, like this anonymous Freud has done, and tell us the horrible truth: Carmelo Anthony is a loser - a two-time Olympic gold medalist, NCAA tournament champion and Final Four Most Outstanding Player who has never missed the playoffs in his nine seasons in the NBA. That, my friends is the very worst kind of loser - the kind of loser who occasionally wins to try to hide what a loser he is. And he would have gotten away with it to, if it hadn't been for those pesky sportswriters!
Now, we know the media is already in mid-season Melo-hating form, but what about us, the humble fans? Sure, the fans hate want to hate Melo, but we don't get paid to hate Melo full-time. Many of us have jobs, families and a bunch of fat, ungrateful cats who keep meowing every time I walk into the kitchen even though I JUST FED YOU MEAT AN HOUR AGO! With the season rapidly approaching, how can the common Melo hater find enough ammunition to hate on Carmelo Anthony for a full 82-game season without the help of their own convenient unnamed MSG sources?
Personally, I like Melo, despite his foibles; but as a third-degree hater myself, I respect hate in all its forms. The key to a successful hater campaign is diligent off-season preparation. When your target presents himself, you must have a quiver full of snide comments at the ready, lest you be beaten to the punch by five other haters who had already put in the prep work.
Farmers need to know about the weather, Wiccans or New-Age Druids need to know about sunsets, solstices and other things of that nature, Melo haters need to know what smart-ass thing to say when Carmelo Anthony does...well, just about anything. With that in mind. I've channeled my inner Ben Franklin and created the Melo Hater's Almanac as a handy tool for any Melo-hating situation.
- When Melo says he prefers to play at the 3: "You moron! Don't you realize how well you played at the 4 last season? Now the coaching staff has to bend to the wishes of King Melo. Your selfishness is hurting the team."
- When Melo says he prefers to play at the 4: "Hey jerk-ass, you ever heard of a guy by the name of Amar'e Stoudemire? First you took his team, now you're taking his spot on the floor! Amar'e is a true Knick - he's been here for two years. Melo is just a carpet-bagger - he's only been here for 1.3 years."
- When Melo says he prefers to play the point: "Why you gotta step on Pablo Prigioni's toes like that? The man is an Olympic bronze medalist; what the hell have you ever done in the Olympics, Melo?"
- When Melo ignores a wide-open Steve Novak: Assume Glenn Beck voice: "Carmelo Anthony is a racist with a deep-seeded hatred of white people."
- When Melo ignores a wide-open Bench Geezer: "Carmelo Anthony doesn't appreciate the Greatest Generation. Hey Melo, ever heard of Dubya-Dubya-Two? I bet you didn't even tear up once during Saving Private Ryan!"
- When Melo passes to a wide-open (insert Knick X) who misses the shot: "Melo didn't put (insert Knick X) into a position to succeed!"
- When Melo takes an off-balance twenty-footer: Fake a seizure. "$$^&*&^%$#((&&&^^%%$"
- When said off-balance twenty-footer goes in: "I steadfastly refuse to celebrate those points for the Knicks because Melo has terrible shot selection and I hate him."
- When Melo checks out of a game: "Look at Fatty McGee checking out. Probably going to the bench to eat some pie. You don't have the right to check out of the game with your fat-ass contract. Willis Reed never checked out of a game in his life...look it up!"
- When Melo checks into a game: "Look at this diva bastard trying to come in and hog all the glory."
- When it becomes impossible to ignore that Melo has gotten himself into better shape this off-season: "Finally! Amar'e is still waaaay more cut, though." Post requisite Amar'e topless jogging photo.
- When checking out Melo's shooting sleeves: Assume sarcastic Comic Book Guy voice: "Could they be any more orange?!?"
- When Melo doesn't try on defense: "The Knicks will never win a championship with his matador act."
- When Melo gets a steal or a block: "Big whoop! All he did was flail his arms around willy-nilly and the ball just happened to find them. Hey Melo, you look like this!"
- When Melo is politically active: "Just entertain us, clown!"
- When Melo isn't politically active: "Whatever happened to athletes like Muhammad Ali and Bill Russell - guys who tried to make a difference in this world?"
- When Melo donates (insert dollar amount X) to charity: "I bet Jeremy Lin donated (insert dollar amount X + 25%) from his ridiculous contract."
- When Melo hits a game-winning buzzer-beater: Sorry guys, can't help you there. I kinda enjoy those.
In all seriousness, Melo has done many things worthy of fan contempt, both on the court with his ball-hogging and off the court with his petty backstage maneuvering. In an earlier era, fans wouldn't have known about the off-court drama, and we could have watched Melo's 2011-2012 season in the vacuum of his actual performance - the early-season struggles, the injuries and the late-season redemption. Unfortunately, those days are long-gone; through the voraciously drama-hungry sports media we know he helped get D'Antoni fired (though that was probably going to happen anyway) and we know he didn't get along with Lin (though Lin would still be a Knick if not for Dolan's notoriously thin skin). Will the new season bring new Melo drama, inciting fans to new heights of Melo hate?
I find it somewhat ironic that Melo will be starting this season among a flurry of rumors that the Yankees are looking to trade Alex Rodriguez. With A-Rod gone, Melo would be poised to assume his throne as the most hated superstar athlete in New York. Of course, the Melo-A-Rod analogy doesn't quite fit: unlike Melo, A-Rod is clearly past his prime, and, more importantly, has already carried his team to a title. A-Rod had the misfortune to come to New York playing the wrong sport - Yankee fans, unlike Knick fans, aren't usually satisfied with a mere one title. As far this Knick fan is concerned, if Melo can manage a similar career with the Knicks - especially that one title - I will personally build a statue of him outside the Garden, no matter what the haters say.