IT IS HIGHLY unlikely that anyone else not employed by the Knicks has witnessed as much of their ineptitude this season as Dennis Doyle, whose adventure with the team now looks more like an ordeal. Last spring Doyle, 31, left an unfulfilling career as a New York City attorney representing condominium associations and co-op boards and decided to attend all 82 of the team's games, at an estimated cost of $25,000. What it will cost him in Knicks-induced misery is unquantifiable.
Doyle went all the way to London last week to watch the team drop its 16th straight game, a 95--79 drubbing by the Bucks that dropped New York's record at the halfway point to 5--36. For the Knicks it has been a season not just of loss but of abandonment. Team president Phil Jackson gave up all hope of the playoffs earlier this month when he traded two of his best players, guards J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, to Cleveland. ESPN cut the team out of the national television picture like an ex-boyfriend, dropping four Knicks games that it had scheduled. The New York Times even released its beat writer, Scott Cacciola, from Knicks coverage so he could write about better basketball—like a team of fifth-grade girls playing in a boys' league in Springfield, Ill. As beat writer Steve Popper of The Record of Bergen County, N.J., tweeted last week, "There is a distinct possibility that by the last Knicks game of the year @dennisdoyle is the only one watching."
Had he anticipated that New York would challenge the 1972--73 76ers, who finished 9--73, for the worst 82-game season in NBA history, Doyle admits he wouldn't have subjected himself to a live viewing of every game. But he refuses to stop. "I committed myself before last season ended," he says. "I was going to do this come hell or high water. So far it's been mostly hell. But I'm only going to go deeper down the rabbit hole. A season like this really gets to the root of what it means to be a fan."
Other fans don't know whether to be impressed or sympathetic when they hear how much time and money he's investing in a front-row seat to futility. "There's some pity," says Doyle, who has chronicled the experience on his literate, amusing blog, TheOakmanCometh.com. But don't feel sorry for him. "I've really enjoyed it, believe it or not," he says. "The games are the only painful part. I love the traveling and the challenge of coming up with something to write about, because you can't just write, 'They lost again.'"
Instead he has written about bumping into former Knicks tough guy Charles Oakley, his favorite player, in a Cleveland casino and shooting the breeze over beers. And about being somewhat fearful when spending a night in Portland at the home of a displaced Knicks diehard whom Doyle describes in his blog as "a complete stranger who curates a Knicks Museum in his basement and readily admits his fandom blurs the lines of obsession and sickness.... To the best of my knowledge, this is how horror movies begin."
Then there was the fan in New Orleans who offered him a courtside seat for the Knicks-Pelicans game on the condition that Doyle allow the fan to try to talk him out of leaving the legal profession. Doyle took him up on the deal, but he has no plans to return to the law game. "My friends and family know how unhappy I was before I left my job," he says. "I'm much more content now." That's partly because Doyle may have found a new career path as a writer. His blog has drawn the attention of literary agents, and he hopes to turn it into a book.
"What answers will come of this manic quest?" Doyle writes in an early blog entry. "Will I remember what city I'm in after a third road game in four nights? Can the Knicks contend for the eighth seed? Will I be the same when it's over?"
That last question, at least, has a happy answer. "It is changing me," Doyle says. "What this boils down to for me is wanting to write. I'm not sure yet, but if by the end of the season I can call myself a writer and have some sort of evidence to back it up, this will all have been worth it." The Knicks may be lost, but they have helped a fan find himself.
Says the man who has paid to be at every game these awful Knicks have played, "A season like this really gets to the root of what it means to be a fan."
Who's the most dedicated fan you know?
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