Draymond Green speaks so often that there is the occasional risk that he will say something that is wrong. Or at least not yet proven in the right conditions.
And this is where his postgame soliloquy on the New York Knicks’ experiment in throwback basketball (which would be Knickerbokcery, if you must) sits. As lacking proper empirical research.
The Knicks decided to play the first half of Sunday’s 112-105 Warriors win with only the ambient noise created by the game itself – sneaker squeaks, ball bounces, calling out switches (or in the Knicks’ case, not calling out switches), all as a tribute to the way things used to be when butter came from churns and shoes were made of canvas and rubber, and most barbarically there wasn’t seatside alcohol service.
Back then, the noise was supplied by the customers, and the noise they made was inspired by the players. You made a home court advantage, it wasn’t granted to you by someone in a sound booth.
And Green, in a surprise to no people, hated it.
“It changed the flow of the game. It changed everything,” he told cameras and notebooks after the game. “You get used to playing a certain way. It completely changed it. To me, I think it was completely disrespectful to everyone from Michael Levine to Rick Welts and all these people who’ve done these things to change the game from an entertainment perspective. It gives the game a great vibe. That’s complete disrespect. You advance things in the world to make it better. You don’t go back to what was bad. It’s like, computers can do anything for us—It’s like going back to paper. Why would you do that? So it was ridiculous.”
To his credit, he didn’t accuse the Knicks of anything other than marketing (“I don’t think they were doing it to, like, throw us off, but it definitely threw the entire game off”). And to his detriment he did drop some over-the-top company suck-up as though Levine and Welts invented music during basketball games when in fact it has been a staple at Knicks games since the no-bass-register-allowed organ was introduced in the early ‘70s, and may have actually be first conceived at the Mecca in Milwaukee before that.
But New York in 2017 is not the place to try such a one-off scheme anyway, not with the way the Knicks have offended their customer base with a daily crapshow of such epic proportions. Sure, Madison Square Garden is iconic and all that blah blah blah, but the Knicks have sucked the life out of their crowds with their historic inertia and present-day irrelevance.
But there is a place where the experiment of a silent half actually needs to be tried.
And not because silence is automatically better. This is not going to turn into another episode of The Old Fud Hour, When The Old Days Were Good Because They Were Old. Silence for silence’s sake is as stupid an idea as noise for noise’s sake. Besides, Green has a point when he says, “You turn on music, it just helps you get into a certain area, takes you to a certain place.” It’s what the players are used to, and have been going back two generations.
But most of the time, the players say almost robotically, “We have the best fans in all of sports,” mostly because the front office says it and wants it repeated by the employees so that the best fans in all of sports will keep throwing down money to be called the best fans in all of sports. Ain’t nobody calling the Denver Nuggets fans the best in the world when they sell out twice a year.
But they do say that about Oakland, which earned its reputation as a tough place to play in lean times and an even tougher place now when the table is always dressed out for feasting. And they don’t say it because the music is just better. They say it because the crowd is more consistently all-in than nearly anywhere else, and because the building's acoustics bring the noise to floor level, and because they just bring that irreplaceable Oakland vibe to what would normally be a homogenized experience.
Thus, it would be a fascinating experiment to see if the Warrior fans could be just as daunting a factor when they had to do all the work on their own.
Now we know through observation that cheering through the greater part of a 140-minute game is not easy work. That’s part of the reason why there is music and noise and colors that never end -- the human larynx can only do so much on its own. True, all the whatnot can become a sensory nightmare if you’re not fully prepared, and even the Warriors know there is a line to it. After all, the live bands in the top of the lower bowl are no more, though that might just have been a way for a billion-dollar franchise to save a few thousand bucks.
So I propose, over Green’s head, a challenge to the Warriors to hold a game between now and the end of the regular season with the same noiseless parameters the Knicks set Sunday, and just tell the crowd, “Today you will show us with your voices and hands and feet if you really are the baddest dudes and dudesses on the planet.” Give them a half to scare the hell out of the Phoenix Suns by simply being fully responsible for the atmosphere they wish to enjoy. Participation rather than absorption – just to see if they can do the do they way they say they can do it. Just one time, just to prove a point nobody else can replicate, and then to move on to the next thing.
Why, I put it to you, must E-40 do all the work, all the time?
And if it goes the way it should, then the Warriors can say for all time, “We do have the best fans in all of sports because they just went out and proved it. Not with their wallets, but with their hearts and hands and voices.”
It will be Oakland’s way of reminding us all that there are lots of kinds of music, and some of the best doesn’t even need a backbeat.