The chant started in the fourth quarter of the Knicks-Jazz game the other night, as I sat watching the Knicks pulverize their opponents from my "best seat ever", close to the action. At first, I couldn't make out what the crowd was chanting, but after a few moments it became clear. The crowd was chanting "And-y Rau-tins".
The former Syracuse star has had a bit of a tough time in the NBA. The rookie has only appeared in 5 games for the Knicks since being drafted, and his last appearance took place over a month ago, on Feb 2nd.
Since being drafted, his only claim to fame has been an appearance in a youtube video, lip-synching "We are the NY Knicks" with teammate Landry Fields. But in the game against the Jazz, as the sub team was put in by coach D'Antoni in the 4th quarter, the crowd wanted the kid in there, to show what he could do. Everyone loves an underdog. There's always that last guy on the bench that everyone wants to see get a chance, and Andy is that guy.
The chant was deafening. It seemed like 50% of the crowd was chanting his name, and I joined in. I wanted the 3 point specialist to sink one, to show what he can do.
Moments later, the crowd roared. Andy had gotten up and was ready to check into the game. I felt like I related to the kid for some strange reason. I was more excited at that moment than any other moment in the game.
Why did I feel so emotionally invested in seeing a rookie get into the game?
I think now, as I look back on that moment, I felt as if it were me out there checking into the game. I related to the kid at that moment, wanting to achieve something that was difficult…getting a chance to do what you dream of. I felt that if Andy gets into the game, then I can get into the game …whatever my game is.
I realize that this is why we watch sports. To live vicariously through our heroes. To connect with them and experience their ups and downs, and learn lessons for ourselves and our lives.
When I watched my football New York Giants defeat the unbeatable Patriots in the Super Bowl, I felt that if the Giants could do the impossible, I could do something impossible too. It inspired me. And the moment of watching Andy Rautins check into the game inspired me as well.
This seemingly insignificant event may mean little to anyone outside Andy or his family and friends, but in the moment, the mind does not make logic of emotion. It just reacts.
And so, for that moment, I was Andy Rautins.
I felt frustration as he threw a wayward pass out of nervousness and rustiness.
I felt confidence at what I imagined he was telling himself…
"Calm down, you've done this before, a million times for the Orangemen in clutch situations. You're a pro now, a draftee for the NY Knicks….DO IT!"
And I felt joy and redemption as he hit the shot the crowd clamored for.
"I can do this, I BELONG here!"
And for a few minutes in my life, as I sat close to the action, heard the cheers, saw his face and felt all those emotions, I could say that I honestly felt like a player in the NBA. Even if it was in my imagination.