Why the Knicks Must Embrace “The Nobility of Failure” Right Now

We’ve just seen the second of two close Knicks losses to the Celtics in the NBA Playoffs.  During those two games, the Knicks made a lot of mistakes; players have been uncharacteristically bad; and, when the games were on the line in the last few minutes, their lack of attention to detail and their lack of assertiveness to close things out were apparent.  But in spite of all that, this isn’t the time for the team or their fans to throw in the towel.  It’s one of those rare times when it’s not only appropriate to look for moral victories, it’s vital.

In spite of losing Amar’e Stoudemire for more than 27 minutes in game 2; losing Chauncey Billups for all of game 2 and the last 50 seconds of game 1; Carmelo Anthony playing uncharacteristically poorly in game 1; key players being out for long periods of time with foul trouble; and the team shooting a combined 65-for-168 (38.7%) in two games, the Knicks lost those two games to the defending Eastern Conference champion by a total of 5 points in the Celtics’ own building.  If this isn’t cause enough to go back to NYC with their heads held high, what, besides winning one or both games, is?

I’m not suggesting that we should make something up just to put a smiley face on things: “yeah, they lost two big games but they sure looked good in those uniforms”.  That would be ridiculous.  But unless the team and the fans want to FORCE the Knicks to lose four straight, now is the time to find something to build on for game 3.

In Japanese culture, there is something called “the nobility of failure”.  This doesn’t mean that they celebrate people who give half an effort and lose.  What it means is that if someone gives their all and falls short of victory, that is something to respect and to celebrate.  Plays and poems are written about such efforts and the men and women who made them.

Here in the US, we remember who won and forget everyone else.  We throw away a lot.  Our culture is different than Japan’s.

Whose way works better?  In this case, I’ll opt for Japan’s.  Keep in mind that only one country in history has had atomic bombs dropped on it.  That was Japan and we dropped two.  But they rose from that, and losing a war, and numerous other situations that put them at a serious disadvantage in the international arena, and became the economic leader of the world just a few decades later.  They couldn’t afford to throw anything valuable away.  So extraordinary efforts that fell just short were still something they could build on.

This?  This is just basketball.  But if there’s ever been a time for a basketball team to learn a lesson from a more serious segment of world history, now is that time.

There’ll be time enough to address the mistakes, look themselves in the mirror and ask how they could have missed so many shots, and figure out how they’re going to break the ice by winning game 3.  For tonight and tomorrow, however, the Knicks and their fans need to hold their heads high, recognize the team’s strengths, and feel great about how much they overcame in order to play the Celtics so closely.  Recognizing the nobility of failure, in this case, will give the Knicks and their fans a strong foundation to build on for the games, and the seasons, to come.

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One Response

  1. […] to create, Fisher is absolutely correct to be taking the approach he’s taking. I wrote about the Knicks needing to embrace this attitude during the playoffs a few seasons ago and I believe that they need to continue to embrace this attitude now. I’ll explain briefly why […]

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