Basketball fan blows $25,000 watching Knicks' nightmare season

Story highlights

  • Fan spends $25,000 to watch Knicks' epic losing streak
  • Traveling far and wide, Dennis Doyle gets no respite
  • Only "morbid curiosity" keeps him coming back for more
  • Run of losses "like watching a small animal get tortured," says Doyle

(CNN)The greatest sports franchises in the world all share one thing in common: superfans so passionate they will travel far and wide to watch their teams exult in victory.

Dennis Doyle has experienced all of the travel and exactly none of the joy.
When the 32-year-old New York Knicks lifer first drummed up the plan to follow his beloved NBA team at every stop -- including London -- for an entire season, he had no idea it would be a historic one.
    Sadly for him, it was historic for all the wrong reasons.
    "This is the worst basketball that I've seen this season," says Doyle, while exiting the O2 Arena after the Knicks were blown out by the Milwaukee Bucks for their 16th loss in a row.
    Doyle arrived in London (via Iceland) on Saturday to watch the Knicks as part of the NBA's Global Games initiative.
    "I was hoping they would win close to 40 games, sneak into the playoffs and see what could happen," he says.
    Instead, the Knicks are on course to have their worst season in franchise history with a 5 -- 36 record at the halfway mark. The failure is extreme, even for a team that has battled a revolving door of personnel changes and off-court controversy for well over a decade.
    During the off season, the Knicks hired Phil Jackson to run its front office -- unchartered territory for the legendary former coach. His first move was to appoint his long-serving Lakers point-guard Derek Fisher as a rookie head coach. Both, it appears, are learning on the job at the expense of fans who pay the highest ticket prices in the league.
    For Doyle, however, supporting the Knicks is practically out of his hands.
    "If it were possible I would have left the team about 10 years ago," he says, referring to an era that included crippling player contracts along with an in-house sexual harassment charge against then-coach and general manager Isiah Thomas. "So I've given up trying to get a divorce, we're stuck together ... unfortunately."
    In London, he will attend his first English Premier League football match at his adopted team of Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday. "I ended up choosing the team most like the Knicks," Doyle explains. "They are from a big city, but have a history of disappointment. There's something that resonated with me in that."
    Rather than sport a lucky jersey like most super fans, Doyle wears an unlucky jersey, Carmelo Anthony's number 7, which he bought after the third game of the season when the Knicks had a record of 2-1. They have won only three games and lost 35 since.
    "It's a tough season, so we really appreciate his effort of trying to see all of our games," says Pablo Prigioni, the Knicks Argentinian point guard and Doyle's favorite current player.
    "You know I feel a little bit sad, not only for him, but for all Knicks fans around the world," Prigioni explains. "Because of course we never expected this kind of season; but by now we are in the middle of deep changes, so I think in the future the team will be much better."
    Doyle, who went to law school at Georgetown, received a pink slip from his law firm on the same day the Knicks announced Jackson's hire. He took it as a sign.
    After talking it over with his sister Kelly, a life coach in Charlotte, North Carolina, Doyle paid $3,500 for a season's worth of middle-tier corner seats at Madison Square Garden and began plotting his six month odyssey. Including away tickets, which he paid for in advance -- "I probably could have gotten a discount if I had waited to see how bad they are," he laments -- along with flights and accommodation, the experience has set him back $25,000.
    "It's a crazy amount of money, I understand that," he says, between sips of Guinness at an oak-infused pub in Notting Hill, west London. "But a lot of people in my position will travel the world. Lawyers burn themselves out, they take a year off, and spend a good deal of money. This is my version of that."
    Doyle, who says there was "an element of relief" in getting fired, is using the time off to hone his writing skills on his travel blog and has already signed with a book agent. A great fan of Nick Hornsby's "Fever Pitch," he intends to write a memoir about the Knicks' season in the same vein, minus the trophy ending.
    In some ways he sees the Knicks' moribund season as a perverse blessing in disguise. "I think it is infinitely more interesting to write about a really, really bad team then to write about a mediocre team, or even a really good team." he says. "Right away there is a certain interest, a morbid curiosity."
    Although the Knicks often trail by double figures early (the Bucks took a 14-0 lead on Thursday, and were ahead by 20 points in the second quarter), Doyle says he tries to remain focused at least until the end of the third quarter. Sometimes, however, the losing is just too hard to take.
    "At a certain point, it's like watching a small animal get tortured and there's no reason to continue to subject myself to that kind of pain," he says.
    Outside of the arenas, he resists the psychological pull of returning to life as a lawyer, sometimes from the most unexpected places. In New Orleans, prominent personal injury attorney Morris Bart invited Doyle to sit courtside with him, but on one condition.
    "I had to sit and listen to him explain why I was making a mistake by leaving the practice of law," says Doyle, who became aware that the VIP experience was a subtle recruiting effort.
    Even other extreme fans find Doyle's mission unattainable. "That's a lot more hardcore than I am," says Ziad Al-Essa, a 35-year-old Milwaukee Bucks faithful, who flew in from Kuwait and spent $750 on a floor seat to see the London game. "He got fired, he spent his savings watching a horrible team lose. That's a diehard fan."
    Nevertheless, Doyle admits that he'll be relieved once the season is over, and doubts he'll renew his season ticket even though he thinks the Knicks can become a playoff team next season. "I don't think I'll be able to afford it," he shrugs.
    There's one more reason why he's not renewing.
    "I miss watching it on TV," he says.