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Basketball Is Just Better Without The Noise

Sarah Stier/Getty Images

If you have ever watched or listened to a game with the sound on, you take on all the risks that come with that level of danger-seeking. The parade of familiarly stupid and stupidly familiar trite bombs hitting your ears from all corners of the lunatic diaspora serves only to remind us that people who are completely ignorant of sports tend to live happier and more fulfilled lives.

Like this beauty, which makes the rounds every year when one of the famous teams actually fails to fail and is achieving full velocity again: "You know, basketball is just better when the Knicks are good." This came from the radio as we were driving home from a Sunday night wedding (hey, the rates are cheaper after five) and from some cut-rate pundit (who else works radio shifts on a Sunday night?), and elicited a burst of profanity from at least one listener that awoke his life partner momentarily before she realized it was probably just him yelling at another driver for behaving exactly as he would himself.

But no, this time there was provocation, and it was "Basketball is just better, etc." A remark without foundation or validity unless you happen to be a network executive who needs the ratings to keep from becoming the star of the end-of-June layoff announcement, and frankly, who cares what network executives want? They're the ones who are responsible for the oozing dreck leaking onto your family room floor, and should be taken to the sea for a quick walk around the planet.

That's not why we brought you here, though. It's the "basketball is just better" line, adapted for whatever sport you are watching at the time. It's back again because the Knicks are playing the way they are, true, but it is a remark that is reserved only for failed bluebloods who make the occasional foray into springtime relevance after years of mid-April golf. It is part of the larger issue of the New Knicks Experience, which includes Find That Middle-Aged White Actor Who Magically Gets Tickets Down Front Despite Not Seeing A Game Live Since John Starks, and the ever-popular There's Nothing Quite Like A Game At Madison Square Garden.

Well, yes there are. There are loads of them, every year. The Knicks are a good and proper watch and deserve whatever level of attention you wish to bestow upon them, but it is not because of their surroundings, supporters, or history. The Knicks' history, in fact, is a fetid swamp of 37-45, washed, rinsed, and repeated. In that way, it is not that much different than the Indiana Pacers' history, just to name the team the Knicks are playing in the second round beginning tonight, and whose prior heyday coincides with New York's.

Indeed, a case can be made that basketball is better when the Pacers are good because the Pacers are routinely better than the Knicks going back to the 1977 NBA-ABA merger (or its proper name, when the ABA died and half its remaining teams were eaten by the NBA). The Knicks would have a better case for taking the long-suffering fan route if not for the fact that Knicks fans not only talk incessantly about their suffering, but try to convince you it is filled with more profound agonies than, say, Minnesota's. The Timberwolves have been persistently terrible for most of the past quarter century and are just now rising to a level of prominence that if anything is dwarfing New York's, and in the better conference playoffs. We will now pause while you have a debate in your head about whether you would rather have Anthony Edwards or Jalen Brunson.

There is, to be frank here, nothing that special about anything in the Knicks experience aside from the attractiveness of this particular Knicks team. The Knicks do get credit for having an arena that has not yet given itself over to a corporate name, which is the only thing James Dolan hasn't soiled in his time running the joint, but beyond that the Knicks are the Timberwolves, and not nearly the Pacers. The next time you hear about long suffering Wolves fans will be the first.

In short, the Knicks as a current team are delightful, but the Knicks as a concept are not just empty calories, but noisy empty calories. They are the chef coming out of the kitchen and lecturing the customers about how hard it was to make their shrimp risotto, and the reason why when the Knicks eventually fade out of these playoffs, most folks will be thankful—even if it means having to listen to Celtics fans.

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