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Friday, May 24, 2013
Caveman with a van: Heartbreak

By Stefan Marolachakis
ESPN The Magazine

Tyson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony
Still mourning the end of the Knicks' playoff run? Read on for some help coping.
Editor’s note: Drummer Stefan Marolachakis is traveling the country in a black van with tinted windows, touring for his band Caveman’s eponymous second album. Every week, Marolachakis will hunt the nation to gather musicians and athletes to discuss the link between the two clans. This week, our caveman reflects on his grief for his beloved Knicks and offers some tracks for respite.

Sometimes it feels like being a Knicks fan is simply the most painful thing a sports fan could be asked to endure, unless you live on the wrong side of Chicago or anywhere in Cleveland.

This Knicks season was, at many points, glorious to behold: they beat the Heat three out of four times; the defense was mugging; Carmelo was an offensive genius, and J.R. Smith was his wild-eyed wing man in the clutch. But the run is over, and I’m left to sit in shock, parsing out what exactly happened.

Sadly appropriate, when the Knicks ultimately fell to the Pacers in the second round, I was in a hotel room in Mississippi, mere miles away from the Delta, the cradle of the blues. And since all know that when the going gets tough, the tough turn to their record collection, I have been using music to cure my NBA-PTSD and creating a soundtrack of new music (and one very old song) as I climb through the classic Five Stages of Grief.

1. Denial

During this stage I blamed the refs, almost exclusively. My dad pointed out to me after the Game 6 that in the final six minutes of play, there were a total of nine fouls called, eight of which were called on the Knicks. Eight! Yes, I realize that the Pacers were too big, they killed the Knicks under the boards, etc. But eight fouls to one? And 46 free throw attempts versus 18 for the Knicks on the game? For shame! It felt like the Knicks had no chance of moving forward in the playoffs with a crew of whistle-happy refs.

Soundtrack: Tame Impala, “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards.”

2. Anger

Coach Woodson and Smith bear the brunt of this stage. It seemed that the pressures of the postseason drove these two guys -- absolutely beloved by Knicks fans during the regular season -- to revert to their old ways. Woodson started feeling like the kind of guy who coached the perennial first-round knockout Atlanta Hawks, and J.R. gave off the vibe of someone who was unfocused, nervous and hot-headed. (See his foul against Jason Terry, the whole “Insta-gate” fiasco with Rihanna. Ugh.)

Soundtrack: Pusha T, “Numbers on the Boards.”

3. Bargaining

Here’s where I start looking to the offseason, and crafting all of the fictional scenarios in which the Knicks turn their collective frown upside-down by somehow trading away their bottom-tier players for the league’s top-tier talent. I’ll spare you the specifics of what I’ve been imagining, but suffice to say that a hobbled Amare Stoudemire owed $45 million over two seasons doesn’t put us in a position of leverage.

Soundtrack: The Walkmen, "The Witch."

4. Depression

This one’s pretty self-explanatory.

Soundtrack: Charley Patton, “Oh Death.”

5. Acceptance

The “acceptance” phase is a journey I have sadly not yet completed. Perhaps with a little time I can set this season aside, write it off as yet another batch of false hopes that brought along more than its fair share of ecstatic moments and unseen heights of pleasure before crashing back to earth. That’s not going to happen anytime too soon, though. I really thought we had something special this year! (Cue the world’s smallest violin playing just for me.)

Soundtrack: John Maus, "Keep Pushing On."

CAVE DWELLINGS

I am happy to report that music will continue to help me and my saddened bandmates out this weekend in a very concrete way. Tomorrow we head off to the Sasquatch Festival in George, Wash., to play the beautiful Gorge Amphitheater on the banks of the Columbia River. Nothing like a little travel to get one’s mind off things. We plan on sharing a couple of toasts with some fellow crestfallen Knicks fans, and playing and listening to music 'til our hearts mend just a little bit.

This week Bowery Ballroom played host to the New York leg of Stonesfest, the epic night of Stones covers that a few musicians we know throw every year. They invite an incredible cast of characters to sit in with them as they go through the Stones' catalog, and this year saw Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers joining up for a song. Our guitar player, Jimmy, who custom makes guitars, talked a little shop with the man. One of the greats, without question.