Dolan to Knicks Fans: You Dont Matter (SIC)

For years, I’ve been preaching the benefits of good grammar to an unreceptive audience.

Linguistic markers, I call them, can brand you as a bright, communicative individual with an attention to detail or as a second-tier intellect who may be careless in other matters.

My obsession with grammar has won few converts, and a lot of negative feedback; but it came in handy recently when my e-mail was hacked. The hacker, in a grammatically flawed e-mail, requested that money be sent immediately to bail me out of a tight spot in the Philippines. My good friend Karen replied , “I was about to cut you a check, but when I noted the bad grammar, I knew it was bogus.”

But James N. Dolan, the embattled owner of the New York Knicks, has given new life to my position.

Dolan is universally regarded as the worst owner in the NBA, and is high on the list of most polls of the Worst Owner in Sports (move over, Dan Snyder). Since he was handed stewardship of the Knicks in 1999 by his father Charles P. Dolan, owner of Cablevision, the once-proud franchise has suffered a series of indignities, culminating in its current 10-42 win-loss record.

When 74 year old Irving Bierman, a Knicks fan since 1952, suggested in a recent e-mail that Dolan had done “a lot of utterly stupid business things with the franchise,” and should resign, Dolan responded with this typo-laden e-mail, which Bierman’s son made public:

“You are a sad person. Why would anybody write such a hateful letter. I am just guessing, but ill bet your life is a mess and you are a hateful mess. What have you done that anyone would consider positive or nice. I am betting nothing. In fact ill bet you are negative force in everyone who comes in contact with you. You most likely have made your family miserable. Alcoholic maybe. I just celebrated my 21 year anniversary of sobriety. You should try it. Maybe it will help you become a person that folks would like to have around. In the mean while, start rooting for the Nets because the Knicks don’t want you.”

Knicks owner James N. Dolan

My initial reactions were the following. First, where was Dolan when his third-grade teacher was discussing punctuation? Second, if Dolan is a model of sobriety, then please pass the tequila. And third, this is what happens when you don’t practice good grammar as a youth—you grow up to be a fat, mindless, ill-tempered ex-drunk who just happens to own one of sport’s most historic franchises.

Upon further reflection, I wondered whether NBA commissioner Adam Silver would sanction Dolan for his vituperative response to the legitimate complaint of a life-long fan. Even a liberal-leaning expert on the First Amendment, if a Knicks fan, would have taken no offense if Silver had handed down a suspension or at least a verbal reprimand. And why not? Silver booted Donald Sterling out of the league for private comments made to a self-promoting ex-lover, and recently fined Chris Paul for suggesting that female referee Lauren Holtkamp should consider a new career.

But Silver responded meekly, “Jim is a consummate New Yorker. Jim got an unkind e-mail and responded with an unkind e-mail.”

One possible explanation for Silver’s lame response is that he was mindful of Dolan’s lead role as host of the NBA all-star game, which will be played in New York this weekend. But in avoiding that embarrassment, he has exposed himself to the charge that he is administering uneven treatment, and is insensitive to the plight of long-suffering fans.

But that is the price you pay when you hold yourself out as an arbiter of people’s thoughts and words. Take it from a member of the grammar police.


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