On William Rhoden’s “Fire Isiah” Piece in the New York Times
If you haven’t seen this prize of an article by NY Times sports writer William Rhoden from December 24th/ Christmas Eve, let me resurrect it for you from the tombs of the internet:
Our writer in the rich seats reflects on the Fire Isiah shouts that have become commonplace at Knicks games in the Garden, quickly noting the lack of on court success but also noting that those failures haven’t hurt the bottom line at all. The Knickerbocker franchise is still #1 in value according to Forbes, the same magazine that listed Kevin McHale as the best GM, (based on “winning improvement” from previous GM and ability to keep the payroll from ballooning as indexed to the rest of the league; obviously, they work on some different metrics than the viewing public). And the fans are still buying the seats, even if they don’t necessarily show up.
The fan in the story is even satisfied with the losing effort—the Knicks made it close at the end. Our illustrious Times writer happens upon Chris Rock and Spike Lee (who’s been out of the country) who feel Isiah shouldn’t be fired, because the players (Isiah picked) are all from losing traditions. They then happen upon the Reverend Al Sharpton (does this sound like a Chaucer tale yet? Everything except the farting), who says some ridiculous foolishness and the question is asked: should Isiah go?
Rock: “I’m not calling for anybody to lose their job, especially around Christmas.”
Sharpton: “Let me ask you this: The Secretary General of the U.N. was sitting near me. Do we fire him because we don’t have world peace? I mean, come on.”
Spike Lee: Isiah stays.
“But, that’s a certain New Yorker,” Lee cautioned. “Sharpton, Spike Lee and Chris Rock. That might not help Isiah.”
You know what New Yorker that is, Spike? The kind of New Yorker who has been following this goddamned debacle. The kind of New Yorker who, whether black or white or Asian or something else, knows that the Secretary General’s job is a hell of a lot harder than being coach and GM of a basketball team, and that Sec’y General’s job is NOT world peace, it’s to manage the United Nations, whose goal is to uphold human rights, establish social justice, and some malarkey about saving future generations from the scourge of war (people, y’all should get on that one, really).
Everyone knows Al Sharpton just speaks to be heard. In all the yapping, Sharpton can hit some good points—putting the pressure on Don Imus being the most recent—but too often, the man thinks of himself as the “controversial” arbiter on every issue when really, he’s a flashpoint and often feels like a bottleneck black folks’ progress. These guys are likely buddies with Isiah, one of the NBA’s all-time great players, and won’t throw him underthe bus in the New York Times. But damn. That is no rationale for keeping the man. And Sharpton’s rationale is the most ridiculous of them all—acting indignant that the fans would call for Isiah’s job.
Certainly, the Fire Isiah chants are both warranted and unseemly. The team’s performance has been awful. But the fans in Madison Square Garden have been eager to “fire” people—I participated in at least one Fi-re Lay-den chant a few years ago. It had a real nice ring to it. It’s very New York, those chants—overdemanding, rushing to judgment, putting the pressure on, noxiously in-one’s-face. But the unbelievable lack of action as the Knicks remain a bizarre joke is ridiculous.
One thing I have to say about the losers who post in the blogosphere, the malcontents who shirk work and spend their days on message boards, and the jackoffs who pore over the boxscores—we care. We look at the day top day results. We’re the fans on the ground. We feel we have something to lose by watching this heinous product. We nearly live and die with this. If we didn’t we wouldn’t:
– Purchase expensive sports packages from our cable companies.
– Buy replica jerseys with money that could be better invested, and will never make us look like our favorite athletes.
– Spread the name of the team and the league to friends and children by word-of-mouth.
The fans really deserve better than a heaping pile of disinterested basketball. Unfortunately, we don’t have any say in Isiah’s tenure as coach or GM, his owner does, and his owner doesn’t care.
Maybe we should focus more on the work of the “Sell the Knicks” people. Next walkout is December 30th.