No Redemption for Carmelo

I was never a jock, although I had the skills to compete in track and could run a mile in five minutes in high school even though I started smoking at 15. However, I do respect the culture, and there’s a ton of spirituality in sports, as Phil Jackson well knows. In fact, that Zen Master is mostly about spirituality. You can see the rituals manifest before the games. I especially like the circles being made these days by the Chicago Bears, but almost every team forms a circle before a game, puts their fists together and chants some sort of mantra to focus the vibe, all evidence of spirituality at work.

Harmony is the most important element on any team, not just in sports but all phases of life. The Knicks lost this element when they traded the entire team for Carmelo, a trade I doubt Mike D was ecstatic over. After Linsanity, Mike felt he’d earned the leverage to move Melo out and asked if that would be a possibility and was told “no” so he split in the most elegant way possible and has now emerged in a better situation.

Meanwhile, Carmelo shook off any bad vibes by becoming the sixth man of the Olympics and then leading his team to its best start in a decade before the wheels fell off.

The Knicks Had a Chemistry Problem

You can assemble the greatest stars in the world, but if they can’t mesh cohesively, you won’t win any championships. Jeremy Lin went from a complete unknown, to the second or third most famous basketball player in the world and had the top 2nd or 3rd selling NBA jersey as of a few months ago. He was manna from heaven, a humble dude with brains who wanted to share the ball. Jeremy held the promise of a bright new future for the New York Knicks, and may have transformed into their greatest point guard since Clyde. But we’ll never know now, will we?

Lin was banished from the team because his agent went back to Houston and asked for a shorter term will a huge balloon payment in the third year. Was this done as a Knicks-deal killer? James Dolan, the Knick’s owner, certainly took it as a sign of disrespect and disloyalty, so he immediately bought the rights to Raymond Felton, telling Felton Lin was out. The rest of us didn’t find out for sure until we woke up today.

Meanwhile, you have to wonder: Did Jeremy intentionally provoke Dolan? Was he actually seeking an early exit from the Knicks? If so, then we have to assume Jeremy was not comfortable with his current situation for some reason. A big unspoken factor may have been the loss of his closest ally on the team, fellow brainiac Landry Fields, who was never the same player after the Melo trade, just another unselfish player the Knicks let loose.

As point guard, Jeremy should be the natural leader of his team. Obviously, this was not going to happen around Carmelo Anthony. Doesn’t matter who you want to blame for this catastrophe, losing the fans’ favorite player is just another indication the Knicks have a serious chemistry problem.

Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Nets have their point guard of the future, and it looks like Dwight Howard is still a possibility to join Lin in Houston, which would instantly transform them into a title contender–provided they can manage the chemistry problems that plagued both the Magic and the Knicks this year. Howard and Anthony are very similar players. Although they clearly are the franchise players on their respective teams, they prefer to run their show with whispers and backdoor politics, while playing the innocent role in public.

Lin, on the other hand, is a standup guy willing to put his ego aside for the benefit of his team and those are the players than win championships. It’s not about talent as much as it’s about chemistry.

Scream (West Side version)

I recently started listening to some old tapes recorded at my Upper West Side apartment back in 1986 when the band first started, and I was amazed at how great the band sounds using a Walkman Pro with stereo mike to record. One of the first things I did after forming the band was invest in a small PA system. If we were going to rehearse in my apartment, I wanted the singers to be able to blast over the amps and drums. And I didn’t want to rely on the crummy house PA’s that you always find in the bottom-tier of venues. On hot days we’d open the window and just let it blast! Saturday afternoons were our usual rehearsal time. I knew we had something when a bunch of people hanging out the windows in the building across the street on West End Avenue all started applauding and cheering after we finished a particularly rousing version of “All Night Long,” a ’60s garage tune from Texas that’s particularly hard to play. That first spring we actually developed a fan club in the windows across the street who knew our regular rehearsal schedule. Later, we moved the rehearsals to real rehearsal rooms and eventually to Giorgio Gomelsky’s, as my building started rattling sabers about the noise. It didn’t help that the super lived in the apartment next to me, or that we had clouds of marijuana smoke drifting into the elevators.

Bands and sports teams are very similar in that they rely on energy harmony and transference. Some days the energy and harmony and transference are working, and some days they’re not. Going into studios to record would always boost our energy, but it could never guarantee those transcendent performances. Flick especially seemed to do his best work when the band was alone, or even late at night when we were just hanging out drinking beers and smoking joints, when he’d suddenly bust into his Lil’ Miscreant cartoon character and start channeling the ghost of Elvis or anybody else he wanted to. But once Flick got on stage, much of that improvisational energy would evaporate, and while Flick always put on great performances, that special magic we knew existed deep inside him seldom surfaced full bloom in recording studios or even onstage. To give a little demonstration of this, in case people think I’m just talking shit, I just put an alternative version of “Scream,” the first rock song I ever wrote on bandcamp just so our fans can hear that other Flick Ford for the first time. I believe this was recorded the same afternoon as that rousing version of “All Night Long.” Certainly the performances are better on this than any other version I know. And this was the original version of “Scream,” before Gordon Spaeth told us my song sounded too much like “Have Love,” and I re-jigged the guitar riff and sped up the tempo. After Flick goes off you can hear Brandel step up to the plate and knock his guitar solo out of the park, and if you listen close, you’ll hear Brian do the same thing on his bass soon afterwards.

In case you just stumbled onto this blog, I’ve been telling the stories about the Finchley Boys and Knight Riders (and Seeds of Doubt)  from central Illinois from 1966-69, while, at the same time, telling the story of the Soul Assassins, my New York City garage band from 1986-89. Check out my free eBooks, links top-right column. And thanks for stopping by.