New York City. The Big Apple. The concrete jungle. Also, the place I finally got to tell one of the Suns’ greatest nemesis of the last two decades just how much he’s hurt me and the rest of the Phoenix faithful.
Let me take a step back though. This entire trip to New York City has become an exercise in luck (and also an exercise physically with all the walking you have to do). Since my arrival yesterday, I’ve wandered the city in hopes of finding signs that tonight could be a special night for the Suns franchise. Within minutes of walking into Times Square, mere feet from the studio the entire draft lottery will take place at, I found a pair of new purple-and-orange Charles Barkley shoes. And if they weren’t $235, I’d be wearing them with my suit as we speak. Coincidence? Quite possibly. But these were shoes that I hadn’t found in any Valley area store over the last week while actively looking for them.
If that wasn’t sign enough, when I looked up, the window of the ABC studio had lottery ball graphics in it. Staring me straight in the face, above the street entertainers dressed as Iron Man, Spider-man and Teletubbies, was the Suns’ logo. Okay, so that one is kind of a stretch seeing as every team, including ones not in the lottery, were represented in the graphic. But, I’ll take what I can get and it is not bad for my first hour in the city.
This morning, I decided it was time to have a little fun. So I packed up a stuffed Suns Gorilla doll in my jacket and went to the top of the Empire State Building. Outside of getting some very strange looks while posing the stuffed animal as if it were King Kong, the trip was a success. It was fun to get the pictures, but it was also fun to feel like the Suns, or at least a member of their staff, was on top of the world. With any luck, it’ll be the first of two times I get to have that feeling today.
While walking back to the hotel to get ready for the night’s big event, I noticed a crowd around a national book chain that will go unmentioned unless they would like to sponsor this column. (Then I’ll mention them as many times as they like.) It was an eclectic mix of older people with Knicks gear, middle age men in Michael Jordan red and black jerseys and young kids in sideways Lakers hats and Kobe Bryant purple and gold jerseys. Like any halfway tortured Suns fan would do, I of course walked right over to find out why this gathering of people wearing names, colors and numbers that from, time to time, have haunted the collective dreams of Valley fans were hanging out in the same city as me.
It turns out that legendary coach and part time Suns killer, Phil Jackson was signing his new book. I took it as a sign. A chance to exorcise a two-decade old grudge I had held inside that I had never let out, so I got in line. It’s not that I have anything against Phil. As a matter of fact, his outside the box leadership tactics have intrigued me for years the way you enjoy pop music that you’re not supposed to like. It’s just that his guidance has led to two of the more crushing playoff series defeats in the franchise’s history, the 1993 NBA Finals and the 2010 Western Conference Finals.
Like the path we’ve all walked as Suns fans, the journey was long — luckily not 45 years long but long enough. As I got up to the table I handed Phil the book he had recently written with a picture of the 11 championship rings — including the one from 1993 — adhered to the front. He took a look up and saw my polo with the Suns logo and cracked a smile. Almost as if he was acknowledging his success against the franchise and what I was there to say. As he looked up I smiled and said, “as a Suns fan you killed me in 1993, but thanks for signing the book anyways.”
Sure, it wasn’t a moment he’ll likely ever remember and it was far from the kind of speech we grew up seeing characters in John Hughes films give when they were in search of redemption or vindication, but somewhere deep inside, the 10-year-old version of me smiled and finally felt a sense of relief. Now if only I could get John Paxson to pay for all the therapy bills, I’d be all set.
As I walked back to the hotel, I saw hordes of graduates rushing towards Radio City Music Hall. I bet you can guess what color gowns they were wearing. That’s right, purple. Sorry to those of you who guessed orange. The easy explanation is New York University’s primary color is purple and they were holding department graduations ceremonies. I choose to believe it was something else though.
One of the biggest cities in the world opened its arms and welcomed this Suns fan. That or I’m just driving myself crazy with the thought of luck and signs. Either way, the waiting in my fan-chosen orange bow tie and black suit, is the hardest part.