Back when I was a kid, a friend of my dad's took me to my first Yankees game. As we sat along the third base line, downing Cokes and hot dogs, he pointed toward rightfield, where the splendid Dave Winfield stood at attention.
"Watch how Winfield plays the outfield," he said. "It's beautiful ... almost artistic."
Right around this time, many of my days would be spent two houses away on Emerald Lane, where my good friend Dennis Gargano lived. We'd play Star Wars and Batman and touch football, but what I enjoyed most was sitting on the couch alongside his father, Vinnie, as the Mets game was on TV. "Keep an eye on Keith Hernandez over at first," Mr. Gargano would note. "He never takes a play off and never loafs or relaxes."
It'd sound cliché to say those lessons stuck. But those lessons stuck. I can still see Winfield stretching his body across the grass to snare a sinking line drive. I can still picture Hernandez lunging to his right, making an impossible stop and flipping the ball to Doug Sisk for the out.
Now that I'm 38 years old and a father of two, I want to gift my children with sports-themed lessons of their own. That's why, come Oct. 30, I plan on taking Casey and Emmett to the New York Knicks' home opener at Madison Square Garden, where they can watch and learn from ... Eddy Curry.
I know, I know -- with a revamped roster featuring the likes of Amar'e Stoudemire and Danilo Gallinari and Raymond Felton, why would I have my tender offspring focus solely upon the biggest dog this city has ever seen?
Answer: Because Curry is the biggest dog this city has ever seen.
Throughout the sporting landscape, there are hundreds upon hundreds of high-flying, athletically gifted, multimillionaire performers whose lessons and narratives would surely be lost upon my children. Odds are neither Casey nor Emmett will ever grow to be a 6-foot-10 sky walker like Stoudemire. They are unlikely to shoot like Gallinari. They'll almost certainly fail to become lightning-quick ball wizards, a la Felton.
But while God-given talent is a difficult thing to quantify, laziness is not.
In Curry, the Knicks are burdened with the genetic/mental/emotional convergence of Benoit Benjamin, Michael Olowokandi and Joe Barry Carroll. In other words, a 7-foot big man oozing with ability and potential -- who simply doesn't give a damn.
The team just announced that Curry will be sidelined four to six weeks for a strained hamstring, marking his third straight training camp that he's been out with an injury or illness. He's played all of 10 games the past two seasons.
Curry is an embarrassment to skill, a 10-year veteran and the only member of the Knicks to miss the team's recent voluntary workouts. He explained away his absence by saying he was working with a personal trainer in Ocean City, N.Y., which begs two follow-up questions: With Curry boasting the physique of an inflated whoopee cushion (he appears to be more than 300 pounds), who exactly is this trainer? And does said employee have an under-the-table agreement with Krispy Kreme?
All things being equal, Curry is an NBA All-Star. He's big, he's strong, he can dominate offensively in the paint. Way back in 2006-07, his second year in New York, Curry averaged 19.5 points and seven rebounds per game. "I think he's one of the most talented big men in our league," Isiah Thomas, the Knicks former GM, said upon acquiring Curry from the Bulls in 2005. "Guys like him only come along every 15 or 20 years. As he continues maturing, he has a chance to be great."
Thomas, we all know, is a buffoon. But his take on Curry had some merit. The kid could play. I mean, he could really, really play.
He just doesn't want to.
For more than five years, Knicks fans have waited for Curry to show he has some desire. To come to practice early. To fight for rebounds. To try blocking a shot. To run hard down the court. With Stoudemire's star-studded arrival, however, that wait is over. In New York, Eddy Curry is no longer deemed useless or uninspiring, because his meaninglessness renders him un-deemable. He is all but destined to stand alongside the likes of Ron Cavenall and Greg Butler and Andrew Lang as forgotten Knicks who walked tall and contributed nothing.
That's why, as Curry collects $11.3 million for sitting on the bench this season, I'll tell my kids all about him. "See that guy," I'll say. "The one in street clothes eating the hoagie. His name is Eddy Curry. He's young, he was wealthy, he's gifted -- and he's invisible."