Monday, March 14, 2011

Not Worth Saving

As a kid growing up in a leafy suburb in New Jersey, I couldn't wait for the start of Daylight Savings Time each Spring. From Groundhog Day on, I would intermittently ask my mom when we could change the clocks. I would pester her about it almost as often as I would ask my dad when was the next Knicks game that my grandpa had tickets for.

An annual harbinger of the ending of the academic year, Daylight Savings Time seemed more an act of god than a piece of civic legislation. I mean, all of a sudden there might as well have been 25 hours per day. To me, that was a miracle on par with snow days. This new found time was best used in three ways.

1.Full-field scrimmaging till dusk at soccer practice while a phalanx of Chevy Suburbans and Dodge Caravans lined the edge of the field behind the Catholic church in town.

2. Riding bikes.

3. Practicing post moves that I'd cribbed from Patrick Ewing in the driveway but would never really be tall enough to use in a game not against my two younger brothers.

Having no driveway and no soccer practice these days, I drove out to West Orange, NJ on the first day of Daylight Savings Time to get an Italian hot dog from Jimmy Buff's. I was moderately puzzled by the differences between the clocks in the car, kitchen and on my phone as I traversed the Mordoresque expanse of Kearney, but I figured this unsettled feeling had as much to do with my having slept on the couch as it did with the loss of any hour.

By the time that I'd polished off my combination order (one hot and one sausage) with all the fixings (peppers, onions, potatoes) in the inimitable pizza bread, I was feeling even more aware of the hour of sleep that I'd lost at some point in the night. Driving home, knowing that I needed to be at the Garden somewhat soon for the 6:00 p.m. tip-off, it felt like that hour had been stolen from me.

No way, though. Thoughts like that almost seem resentful of Daylight Savings Times. That grogginess must have been the gunmetal sky conspiring with the 17 tablespoons of unadulterated cooking oil that I'd ingested as part of my lunch, I assured myself. Because who would dare slander Daylight Savings Time? Even if just in my head while pushing my own weight eastbound on Route 7? Nobody. That can't be true. It's not possible.

False. There have actually been opponents of DST (as it's called in the Swatch biz) ever since George Vernon Hudson first suggested the practice in New Zealand in 1895. Apparently, the lives of others are not ordered precisely as my own youth. Odd, I know, but bear with me. For those DST detractors, the benefits of that extra hour of natural light in the evening didn't cover the cost of that lost hour in the morning. Farmers and rural folk have always disliked this custom intended mostly to help city slickers save a bit of coin on incandescent street lights and such. Oddly enough, the fast food lobby actually mediated the conflict at some point, as they convinced the farmers of America that the extra hour of daylight in the summer meant that substantially more french fries and burgers complete with lettuce, tomato and onions could be sold at places that probably last passed a health inspection the same year as Jimmy Buff's.

The Knicks-Pacers tilt at the Garden was getting underway at 6:00 p.m., which by Saturday's timetable would have been 7 p.m. To me, this meant I'd be home by 10 instead of by 11. No matter how jarred my body clock was, this was terrific news because it meant there might be time to watch an episode from season 1 of Breaking Bad before bed. But for some of the supporters of the Knicks' opponent it meant something else.

Indiana is in both the Corn Belt and the Grain Belt. It's also a place for cattle and dairying. Soybeans aren't an afterthought, either. So the Pacers' constituency counts among its members some of those rural types who have really never cared for all this clock changing business. To make matters even worse, Indiana is also one of 13 states straddling time zones. Mostly Eastern but partially Central, Indiana has had a contentious relationship with time pieces and timekeepers for decades. For many reasons, most of Indiana refused to participate in Daylight Savings Time. Cities near the Kentucky and Ohio borders would observe it unofficially to help keep pace with their neighbors. Over the years, counties have petitioned the state legislature to move from one time zone to other. A group of counties whose temporal status was forever murky became locally known as "the seesaw six." There was even a US naval base straddling three counties and two time zones. Finally, in 2006, it was decreed that all counties, regardless of time zone, observe DST. And people were pissed.

Which may explain why the Pacers attacked the game from the first whistle. They were most definitely playing like a team that was making up for lost time. The Knicks, meanwhile, looked like me in the driveway as a kid. Practicing, slow deliberate moves that were not much use in game situations.

Georgetown alum Roy Hibbert got as close to "rampaging" as his plodding frame will ever allow him, scoring the first four points of the game himself. Even with our defensive stopper Jared Jeffries in the starting lineup, the Knicks had no answer for this team that boasted both a legitimate center in Hibbert and a bulky power forward in Tyler Hansbrough. The Knicks can handle a team with one of those two types. And, by "handle," I mean allow that one player to kill it in the post while doing their best to run at everyone else on the wings. But two post players? This Knicks group doesn't have the equipment, physically, emotionally or schematically to handle that sort of balanced team. With Pacers point guard Darren Collison keeping the ball on a string and solid wing play from Paul George (and later Dahntay Jones), the visitors sprinted to an 8-1 lead before the 'bockers seemed to even know that the cameras had been turned on. Playing without its best player, Danny Granger, and mired in what seemed a terminal skid, this Pacers club made the Knicks look amateurish, like they might as well not go on the road while the NIT is in town later this month.

Midway through the first quarter, the Knicks would make their only true run of the game to go momentarily ahead, 17-16. That spurt consisted of Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups and Amar'e Stoudemire scoring points. Of course it did. But once that run concluded with a made Melo free throw, the game was never really interesting again. In fact, it was downright boring. Baskets were traded as thoughtlessly as business cards at a Rotary Club meet and greet. There was no urgency or fluidity to what the Knicks were doing. There was little ball movement on offense and not enough moving of feet on defense. They were stagnant. And, the crowd followed suit. After watching three quarters Hansbrough dunking and altogether outplaying his more talented and better paid peers, even the chants of Dee-FENSE were lackluster. The malaise was so severe that I could barely muster enthusiasm for the t-shirt launch.

Perhaps you just don't want to play the Heartland's Hoops Team on a day as apparently fraught with tension as the start of Daylight Savings Time. Perhaps the home crowd and the home team approached this game, played at this early time, as if it were a lazy summer lark. Or perhaps the Knicks just got their own floor mopped with their own asses. I guess, we'll find out when these teams meet again a few nights from now in Indianapolis.

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