When news began to circulate earlier this week that a fan of the New York Knicks had finally grown so tired of rooting for the moribund franchise that he’d chosen to put the rights to his NBA fandom up for auction on eBay, preferring to sell his allegiance to the highest bidder rather than continue to support an organization that has pushed him to his “absolute breaking point” after “17 years of pain,” I had some questions. So I asked them.
The “infuriated Knicks fan” behind the eBay auction — and the attendant 2,174-word listing that includes a bracing trip through the Knicks’ draft history, the unfulfilled promise of the Amar’e Stoudemire-Carmelo Anthony era, New York’s litany of failed head-coaching tenures since Jeff Van Gundy left town, and more — is Evan Perlmutter, age 33, from Hoboken, New Jersey. He’s the director of sales for a sports hospitality and marketing firm. He’s getting pretty into all the coverage his spleen-venting bit has generated, embracing the attention his August auction has received … and the sale-price-increasing number of bids that have come along with it.
I chatted with Perlmutter via email over the course of a couple of days about why he chose to go this route and why in the world someone would want to pay a few grand to make sure that someone else liked their team, among other things. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of our messages.
We don’t yet know which team he’ll wind up supporting from here on out; the auction’s set to conclude at 2:03 p.m. ET on Friday afternoon. After topping $3,000 for a bit, the high bid on Thursday morning sits at $2,550 — evidently the hot pursuit of some guy’s fandom can be chilled by cold feet — which still represents a jump from its starting point of $1,973 (a reference to the Knicks’ last championship, won more than a decade before Perlmutter was born). Whichever club Perlmutter winds up wedded to, it seems clear that the new squad is getting someone pretty … um … passionate.
So, why put your fandom up for sale, rather than just, say, becoming a Liberated Fan who just watches the NBA without needing to root for one specific team?
It’s important to know how passionate of a sports and Knicks fan I am. Trust me, I would rather have the Knicks be a perennial playoff team than be in this position we are today.
To be liberated is to be free … I have battled [owner James] Dolan and the Knicks for too many decades of pain. The Knicks are like quicksand: the more hope you have, the harder you try, the worse it gets. To be liberated would be to be freed of the pain, and that’s what we’re here to do. This isn’t about one draft pick, one year, one coach, one GM. This is about 20 years of fan hardship.
And after a terrible regular season, while there’s some hope, it shattered the same way: draft day. It’s always draft day. The characters and the names may change, but the narrative, the story, well, that is always the same on draft day. We are the Knicks, we are terrible, we do nothing right.
We win pointless games down the stretch, games we’d NEVER win throughout the year. But those must-lose situations in the last few games of the year to solidify that lottery spot? Nope. We WIN! We can’t even tank correctly.
The ping-pong balls never fall our way, not since the ’85 [Patrick] Ewing miracle, and those are just the years we actually have a draft pick, which are few and far between. Losing coin-flips and tiebreakers. Oh, and how about who we draft? The list goes on, and you all know the history. Jordan Hill is bad, but following the heartbreak when Steph [Curry] goes one pick before?! It’s like salt on an open wound, constantly, made worse with each 30-footer Steph pulls to send Oracle Arena into a frenzy. I mean, drafting a project from France for the triangle, something no one runs anymore, and then FIRING THE GUY WHO MADE THE PICK A WEEK LATER. How is this possible?!
I went into this draft saying Trae Young or bust, with a few other guys I would have been OK with. Or maybe, for once, we make a power move and trade up for [Marvin] Bagley. (Of course, we should have been picking sixth at worst and not No. 9, but again, that whole “being bad at tanking” thing.) My buddies asked me what would make me happy, if we drafted certain guys, and [Kevin] Knox was not only on my Do Not Draft List, but [passing on him was] certainly a no-brainer when Michael Porter Jr. was there for the taking. That was officially the straw — among almost infinite straws — that broke the camel’s back.
I can get the “straw that broke the camel’s back” argument, but I’m still curious as to why that leads you to go to the auction block. Why make this public display, and put your fandom’s fate in someone else’s hands?
I’m a very passionate fan. To let one of my first true loves, the New York Knicks, just go quietly into the night would be a disservice to myself and the millions of fans.
James Dolan has control of the Knicks and Madison Square Garden. He is driving the Titanic, and every year he somehow manages to drive this Titanic right into the iceberg, again and again. Only Dolan can manage to make Phil Jackson, who has the Midas touch, turn to garbage, and then, at the end of the road, let Phil draft a player based on a certain scheme, only to fire him the following week. You have to honestly try hard to reach some of the stupidity levels our front office has in the past two decades.
OK, fair enough: you’ve laid out in detail why exactly someone would want to renounce the Knicks franchise. But as it stands, they’ve got a handful of interesting prospects — you might not be high on Knox and Frank Ntilikina, but there’s also a post-injury Kristaps Porzingis and Mitchell Robinson and reclamation-project flyers like Trey Burke, Mario Hezonja and Noah Vonleh — plus all their future first-round picks available, and they’re in position to have meaningful cap space in the next couple of summers. So: why do this now?
Now? Now? This is the Knicks. We’ve been here before. Remember that whole false hope thing? Quicksand.
Summer 2010. [Then-general manager] Donnie Walsh clears all the baggage and we get a clean start. That was the year we were going to turn it all around, after 10 horrible years: a new “new,” a new false promise, a decade of my life of Knicks pain later. Some teams are bad. Some teams are cursed. We have the unlucky privilege of being both.
Now? What’s our best-case scenario this year? Rush KP back, go 35-47, miss the playoffs and cost ourselves a top-tier draft pick in the process? Sounds all too familiar. No. Just tank. Trust the process. Let KP rest. All year. Be as bad as we can be — which, again, we should be doing with a developing Trae Young, building his way into his NBA body and range — to get a top pick, add Zion [Williamson] in the draft and then [sign] a top max free agent [or two] with KP.
Granted, we don’t have the cap space to do that at the moment, and no, everyone can stop thinking or even dreaming that Kevin Durant is coming here. We are the Knicks. We have Joakim Noah!
Whoever wins this auction will be able to choose the team you’ll support from here on out. Which teams would you most hate being forced to root for?
This one is pretty easy for me. A small handful: the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers, my least favorite ’90s Knicks nemeses, with a side of the Miami Heat. As a true New Yorker, I despise Boston, so add the Celtics to the top of the list, as well.
Having gone to school in the mid-Atlantic, I’ve developed a nice hatred for the Washington Wizards, too. And while we’re at it, let’s cross a few terrible teams and cities off: the Sacramento Kings, Detroit Pistons, and Memphis Grizzlies.
On the flip side, I’d like very much to align with the best basketball team since the 1992 Dream Team, the Golden State Warriors, especially since my hatred for the Rockets stemming from both the 1994 Finals and Mike D’Antoni’s coaching both make me dislike Houston.
You have promised, as a condition of this sale, to burn at least three pieces of Knicks memorabilia. Which ones from your personal collection would you be most loath to torch?
My Patrick Ewing jersey. My Allan Houston jersey. The towel from Game 3 of the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals, when Larry Johnson hit the four-point play.
I can understand why you would say you’re done with the Knicks. (From a long-term mental health perspective, it is a very defensible move.) But why should someone purchase your fandom? What sort of value do you bring to a fanbase?
When I say I’m a die-hard, I am. That’s being at games, home and away. Watching the games, and not a few minutes here and there, pre-game through post-game. Rallying the folks around me to join the bandwagon, be that in the arena or at home. I’m one of the better hecklers on the East Coast — if only Spike could have done better with Reggie and not [tick] him off, maybe we would not be here today.
I am knowledgeable and loyal … and while that may sound ironic, given what we’re talking about, everyone has a line. For me, that’s 20 years of blind loyalty. I’m passionate, charismatic, and you are not bringing just me aboard, but now a whole new following to the greatest team in the world. Whichever team it is.
Be honest: Is this, at base, a way to underwrite buying League Pass?
If anything, it’s a way to hopefully be picked by a California homer and get a West Coast trip on the books! But NBA League Pass is necessary here, for sure. First, it lets me get rid of cable. Bye-bye, Cablevision, owned by — you guessed it, James Dolan! And it also ensures that I purchase the package for the many out-of-market games I’ll need to watch. Let’s say Mark Cuban buys my fanhood — HELLO, MARK! — I’m going to need to watch my Mavericks play.
Oh, by the way: we passed on Dennis Smith Jr. for Frank. Just another day of another year in the life of a Knicks fan. But now, I’M DONE!
As we’re chatting, the bidding’s up to $3,000, with nine people having entered bids. You’ve explained why you’re doing this; what do you think is making them do this?
Because the new fans should want me! If nothing else, they know I’m (at least half a) lifer!
I’ve given the Knicks 20 years of pain and more pain, sticking by their side, going to games, buying merchandise, being all-in, 110 percent committed. I even worked at MSG for my first four years after college, in ad sales. I made a salary of $31,500, for four consecutive years, in the heart of NYC! Half of the reason why I did that job was to support my team and be able to catch the games … and this was in the “Fire Isiah” days!
Now, though, that’s over. I’m ready to jump full in to my newly committed team. Can’t wait to see what the new colors are.
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