Mere seconds after we'd discussed calming FreeDarko down until the rumblings of the pre-season can be heard from afar (this off-season's a wrap—Finley's actual decision will be an anti-climax, and no one in the league is smart enough to think as highly of Earl Watson as I do), something stranger than Dracula, more far-flung than Bigfoot, demanded I lay post to blog and create a sensible frog.
Walking around UT's campus this morning, I witnessed the unthinkable: a young black woman sporting a Hawks t-shirt. Not a Nique throwback, not a Josh Smith future-dweller—a plain old, red and white, "your Atlanta Hawks" tee. Granted, she had the laces to match, but if this was a fashion statement, it didn't exactly get out of the gate. This was meat and potatos, "my team" stuff.
(okay, maybe it was a throwback-ish joint, since it was red and white, bird etched in silhouette, no yellow. But if so, the style quotient was at an absolute minimum)
This was the first time I've ever seen someone display what looked like pure allegiance to the NBA's forgotten team. As I've said several hundred times, there is no reason the Hawks should be such a phantom franchise. At the risk of sounding Hitler-ish, Atlanta is the black capitol of America, basketball the blackest sport going. Why ownership can't put butts in the seats is beyond me; you'd think that, unless they put the whitest, least athletic, coach-centric team on the floor, they'd be able to draw at least some fans (they already get a reasonable amount of dap from celebrities, mostly because they live in ATL and are rich enough that they might as well buy courtside, if nothing else to see the opposing team).
The Hawks' total inability to take advantage of their location and surrounding culture is like nothing if not the predicament of the ugly, ugly New York Knicks. The Ewing teams were tough, rich with swagger, and majestic in their own, fuck you kind of way. The difference between them and the Pistons is the difference between hardened, cynical city style and urban blight (the Pistons, even today, are a beacon unto the place they call home). Yet during the Knicks recent stretch of misery, the team has been notably unable to convincingly tie themselves to the "basketball capitol of the world" legacy. Marbury was a nice step in this direction, I guess, but does the rest of that roster really scream "THE WHOLE CITY'S BEHIND US?!?!?!?!"
Yes, Knicks fans, it has come to this: announcing that you'd want to play for the Knicks is a nod toward a gilded past, not a serious statement of purpose (see Melo's SAS interview), and in the present your franchise is only slightly more competent than the Hawks.
(I did my laundry, and then this happened. . . )
After thinking about this a little more, I'll admit that the Knicks and Hawks have very different expectations surrounding them. The Hawks just need to make people care again, while the Knicks are not only sort of close to making the playoffs—they're in a city that demands winning, not just novelty. If the Hawks put together a team that piqued Atlanta's interest, or just found a way of reminding would-be fans that they are a full-fledged professional basketball franchise, it would be a virtual PR coup (albeit a no-brainer). The Knicks, on the other hand, sell out all the time no matter what, and have fans that would root for skinless Muppets if they could win in MSG. What makes Isiah's tenure so maddening is that, while success might be too much to ask, he seems pretty much set on not even acknowledging this more superficial, but equally vital, part of the bond between team and locale.