I guess I do capitalize my headers. Fancy that. One of these days I'll have to put together a style guide so I can keep this all straight.
So yeah, Pat Riley back on the sidelines. Maybe Stan Van Gundy quit, and maybe he didn't (hell, it's not like you can give a guy a hard time for saying he wants to spend more time with his family), but I'm definitely thinking that no one tried very hard to convince him to stay. Quite frankly, Stan looked sort of uncomfortable (well, even more than usual) all year, and who could blame him? With Mr. Blow-Dried Armani Suit leaning so closely over his shoulder that he could probably smell hair-care products in his sleep, Van Gundy needed a reprieve more than Tookie Williams. Especially after Riles, in all his general manager genius, blew up a team that came within one game of the Eastern Conference Finals, to assemble a squad so potentially dysfunctional that even Homer Simpson would have run away screaming. Alonzo Mourning, Shaquille O'Neal, Gary Payton, Antoine Walker? I mean sure, you'd win the 1999 All-Star Game I guess, but that's pretty much over.
So then the season started, and Shaq rolled his ankle (by stepping on Ron Artest's foot, of course) and missed 18 of the first 22 games, as the Heat sputtered to a 10-11 start (despite the juvenation of Alonzo Mourning) and people everywhere started wondering what was wrong. Well, not everywhere—after all, you lose the most dominant player in basketball for 18 of your first 22, and it's generally assumed that things are going to get better when he gets back. But Riley had already been second- and third-guessing ever since the playoffs, and my feeling isn't that Van Gundy necessarily wanted to spend more time with his family (see: Jordan, Michael), but that he wanted to get the fuck away from this one. Can't blame him.
Of course Shaq had to come out and say that he didn't have anything to do with it, that while he'd certainly made clear that he loved the fact that he would get to learn from Riley, that he didn't choose for Van Gundy to go. Of course, he didn't say that he wanted Van Gundy to stay, either. In fact, if any member of the Heat had Van Gundy's back, they were probably just waiting for the right moment to stick a knife in it.
So on Monday night I had an NBA experience. No, I didn't hang out at Marquee until 4 a.m. with Richard Jefferson and the Olsen twins. Instead, I took the subway to the Upper East Side to get an MRI. But first, some background. For those of you who know me, I pretty much live on my bike. And when I started seeing a girl from Brooklyn this fall, I naturally rode to her place most of the time. I ride a fixed-gear, which is a brakeless road bike where the cranks turn as the rear wheel does. Now, my route took me up (down? across?) Dean Street, a rather nice tree- and school-lined one-way street with a wide bike lane and smooth pavement. This beautiful September day I happened to be going over early, and Dean Street was a nightmare. Parents picking their kids up from school simply double-parked in the bike lane, making the street at times impassable. I managed most of it pretty easily, but suddenly found myself in a situation—moving at a good clip, with a parked van in front of me, and another van coming up from behind. I had roughly two seconds to make a decision—hit the van parked in front, or GET hit by the van coming up from behind. I chose the former, going down in a heap but heroically popping up in time to flip off the driver.
Flash forward to three months later, and my wrist still hurts. I rode throughout the fall anyway, and it only seemed to bother me when I turned it a certain way, or when I hyperextended my thumb. Still, I figured it would just heal with time. Then, over Thanksgiving, I went to shoot hoops with my dad. Shooting was fine, but any time I tried to throw a one-handed pass, it hurt. A lot. This wasn't going away. I made an appointment with an orthopedist, got X-rays, saw nothing.
So that brings me to the MRI place, a basement office over on 72nd and York. My time was 7 pm, and I managed to uncharacteristically show up a half-hour early, thanks to another appointment I had nearby. There was brief concern over whether I'd have to take out my piercings, but that was quickly assuaged. The office was quiet—receptionists on their way home, TV overhead tuned to CNN's coverage of Tookie Williams's pending execution.
But it's the experience of the MRI that was most—or least—entertaining. Wrist and hand locked into some sort of contraption, jeans traded for a green gown (yet I could keep my sneakers on—take that, airport security), laid out on a table that's slowly sucked into a white cylinder. Having never been cremated, I can't speak to the experience, but I'd imagine if one were concsious while being fed to the flames, this is what it would look like. Fed in to just about eye-level, the MRI started up. Now, for a magnetic process, it's a noisy one. The sound was like being inserted directly into one track of a 64-track techno recording (mid-range beats), only you're the cone of the speaker. Good vibrations. I suppose budding MCs could freestyle. This goes on for roughly 20 minutes—or, in MRI time, 8,000 years—until you're passing the time by doing a home Rorschach test with the scuffs on the machine (well, that's what I was doing). And every time you'd think it was over, the tray you're on would nudge forward a billionth of an inch, and the whole process would start over again. And this was just for a WRIST. I can only assume full-body MRIs are catered.
Of course, I got a call from the orthopedist the next day—no tears or fractures, just swelling around the ligaments and bone contusions. Another month or two to let it heal, hopefully. Not even a stint on the inactive list. Damn. And I wanted to spend more time with my family.