Not long ago, Knicks fan Danny Lanzetta, the child lead in one of those pleasant 1990s-era CBS shows, sent Bill Simmons an e-mail debunking his Ewing Theory. Simmons ignored him. So Danny did the next best thing: He e-mailed us.
Here's Danny's e-mail to us:
I know you guys are usually big fans of Bill Simmons. And while I admit his columns have a certain appeal, I have long objected to (among other things) The Ewing Theory for one simple reason: it's not true.
I am a lifelong, diehard Knicks fan (spare me the cackles, but yes, I'm closely monitoring the AI situation as if it's going to matter) and have always taken offense to The Ewing Theory, which I believe unfairly maligns my favorite all-time athlete (again, no comments). And so I simply couldn't help but write ol' Bill (though I'm well aware this is the kind of endeavor your staff might deem pathetic). In any event, I've sent the following email to Bill several times, each time with a new smarmy introduction, and have yet to receive a response. I figured with his voluminous mailbags, I might actually get a sniff. Nope. Must be too busy on his porntastic book tour!
I am forwarding the email (most recently sent on November 16) to you guys to see if you have any interest in publishing it or a portion of it. Maybe I'm just way off base here. But I think Patrick Ewing doesn't deserve the kind of treatment he has received from Bill over the years (despite his relatively high ranking in Bill's pyramid or new Hall of Fame or whatever it is . . . seriously, this guy really thinks he is the basketball cosmos). And who is going to defend a multi-million dollar athlete in these hard economic times? Well, that would be me.
Let me know what you think.
And here's what Danny wrote Simmons (he does have a point):
I know how high on yourself you must be, what with a New York Times bestseller that must make you feel like a stunned Woody Allen after he got the girl in one of his Scarlett Johanson-less, pre-I-suck-now-because-I-make-films-that-are-parodies-of-the-ones-I-made-in-the-seventies-and-which-don't-have-as-much-cultural-relevance-as-they-did-then-because-the-nerdy-Jewish-type-can-get-the-girl-just-as-easily-as-anyone-else-if-he-has-the-right-job movies. (I'm prcaticing my Bill Simmons writing, though it's a bit difficult since I WAS an English major in college. And I know how you feel about those snobs.)
Mostly, I'm just surprised that a guy like you, a purported sports man-of-the-sports people (boy, I could get used to this hyphenated writing)won't print my email, which so thoroughly debunks your egregious Ewing Theory. I read your Ewing book excerpt too in which you call Ewing a Top 50 player of all time, but never say anything remotely complimentary about the man.
Here's another chance, Mr. Bill. You were once part of the sports anti-establishment, but your reticence to respond shows how you're now just another one of the frauds. Here is my argument. Again. Another chance to show you don't mind a good fight.
P.S. You like pop culture stuff. Have your staff fact-check this little ditty. I was once the lead on a CBS television series called "Brooklyn Bridge." We did lots of shows about the Brooklyn Dodgers. Marion Ross was my grandmother. My stage name was Danny Gerard. Look it up.
For years I have been reading (or rather skimming) your voluminous columns. While I occasionally laugh (The Mike and the Mad Dog column stands out in particular), I have grown tired of the smugly populist tone of EVERY SINGLE COLUMN (ever thought about diversifying your voice? You probably missed that class when you were watching every single zeitgeist film of the 80s and 90s so you could make endless, smarmy pop culture references in your 50,000 word articles).
Even that I could live with. The voice is your hook. But isn't it time a real Knicks fan debunked this completely misguided Ewing Theory you parade around as some sort of unassailable sports philosophy? I know more about the Ewing-era Knicks than just about any fan you've ever run into, and I can say, unequivocally, that the Knicks were NEVER better without Ewing than they were with him.
Much of this has to do with just watching the team during those years. But I'll provide some evidence if you like and let's see if you have the "nutsack" (that's a real Bill Simmons kind of word to use, right?) to write back. In late 1997, when Andrew Lang fouled Ewing and sent him to the floor, shattering Ewing's wrist and sidelining him for the season (the short-lived, second round comeback Ewing tried to make against Indiana surely can't be held against him, can it?), the Knicks were 15-11. They finished 43-39. That's 28-28 after the Ewing injury for the mathematically challenged. The Knicks won 57 games the year before, and many believe they could have legitimately challenged a 69-win Bulls club (remember the last game of the regular season in Chicago? How the Knicks beat a Bulls team gunning for back-to-back 70 win campaigns? Think MJ didn't want that one?) were it not for the idiotic suspensions that resulted from the Charlie Ward/PJ Brown shenanigans at the end of Game Five of the conference semis.
Yes, in the '98 playoffs, the Ewing-less Knicks did beat the Heat in the first round (a 2 vs. 7 matchup)in five hotly-contested games before falling to a superior Pacers team with a hobbled but valiant Ewing (who should have never tried to come back. But that wasn't his style.) The Knicks also upended a higher-seeded Heat team in each of the next two seasons (the magical Finals run in ‘99 and also in 2000) with Ewing. When Ewing got hurt after Game Two of the Eastern Finals against the Pacers in ‘99, the Knicks – buoyed by a sterling effort by another unfairly maligned player, Allan Houston – were able to ride the adrenaline of Camby and Spree to the Finals. But how did they do against Robinson and Duncan when they got there? Think that series might have turned out a little differently with Ewing's body to provide some resistance? I'm sure you don't think so.
There are other flaws in your "theory." Before the Lang-induced injury, Ewing had missed 20 games in the previous ten seasons. So what is your "theory" based on pre-1997-1998? Just want to discount that entire body of work when there clearly isn't a large enough sample to say whether the Knicks would've been better without him? (Ask Gerald Wilkins and Johnny Newman what they think.) And if your point is that post-injury Camby, Sprewell and Houston were more responsible for the Knicks' success than Patrick, well, that's debatable (we can go playoff game-by-playoff-game if you'd like at some point), but at this point you're also judging Ewing post-injury, in the twilight of his career.
As if I needed more evidence of your bias against all things orange and blue, how about your more recent column in which you lump Larry Johnson in with a bunch of former NBA superstars who (unlike Jason Kidd) didn't realize their limitations late in their careers? Ask Jeff Van Gundy about that. Or Knicks longtime NY Daily News beat writer Frank Isola. They'll both tell you that soon after LJ's back injury (and subsequent trade to the Knicks), he stopped pounding the dribble and forcing his awkward low post moves. He became adept at passing out of the double team and defending the post and on the perimeter.
There is more to say of course. I'm sure you'll have examples of games here or there where the Knicks thrived without the man who gave me most of my wonderful basketball memories. But real Knicks fans know that despite some of his high-profile failures, Patrick Ewing gave us a chance to win every night during our rather remarkable streak of 9 straight years to at least the second round of the playoffs (between Riley's '91-'92 squad until Van Gundy's conference finals loss in 2000).
This may sound like the bitter rantings of a long-suffering Knicks fan. And I may not know the NBA like you do. But I promise you this: I know the Knicks. Can we finally let this ridiculous notion go? Was Ewing one of the Top 10 players who ever lived? No. Of course not. But he was not responsible for the college hype that made people think he was headed in that direction. He was also damn good, played as hard as anyone ever has and adjusted his game in ways that nobody has ever given him credit for (check out the declining shots-attempted statistics that began when the Knicks brought in Houston, Johnson and Chris Childs in 1996).
You are unfairly representing a terrific player. So here's a challenge. Post my email. See what your readers think. This concept that has helped you achieve (pseudo) fame is bogus, at least as it pertains to the man whose name it bears. Quite simply, The Ewing Theory is a sham.
Yup, these are our readers.