Social media has provided the ability for total strangers to become friends and yet as close as we can get sometimes, there are times like today when the space between leaves an empty feeling.
I heard about the passing of a passionate Knicks fan, a Long Islander and devoted follower of the Fix named Paul Kuznetz. Like so many of you, Paul loved the Knicks and his desire for information was insatiable. He regularly posed questions to me and other beat writers on Twitter -- for those who are curious, his account handle was @schlatko -- and he was also very active on fan message boards, such as HomeoftheKnicks.com.
Paul is the guy who told you Carmelo would be a Knick as far back as last summer. And when I say he told you, I mean he repeatedly insisted it would happen. In fact, in August 2010 he posted this on HomeoftheKnicks.com:
"i am willing to put my membership on the line that melo will be a knick.
if he doesn't end up here you guys can tell me to leave. thats how confident i am."
And the funny thing is, the night it went down, Paul tweeted me saying, "How much did we screw up? I want melo, but dolan gave up the world!"
Yes, Paul was just like you. But he was also individually special as someone with an inspiring story I wanted to share.
Paul Jay Kuznetz was once a rock and roll star on the rise. He was a talented drummer with the band "Mother Mary" in the early 1990s. They were a group that some compared to Janes Addiction. If you were in college at the time -- like I was -- and listened to college radio, then you might remember a song named, "Another Day" that was a short-term hit back then. If you hit the usual circuit in New York of CBGBs, Webster Hall and the Limelight, then you'd remember Mother Mary, as well. He hooked up with a lot of great bands and musicians. I'm told he and Prince's drummer -- no, not Shelia E, someone more recent -- were tight.
Anyway, that's not what made him special. Many of you have your own success stories, too, each just as personally valuable. But Paul's story takes a turn.
In 2006, he was driving home one night when his car was completely obliterated by a truck. He suffered severe spinal cord injuries that effectively ended his drumming career (I've met a few of you who are also drummers, so I'm sure this hits home).
Paul would need three surgeries on his neck and three on his back to repair the damage, but he would never be the same. It was learned that the truck driver was texting on his cell phone while he was driving and never saw Paul's car.
Paul had plenty of reason to be angry. He had reason to wallow in self-pity. But he absorbed the devastating impact and re-generated it into positive energy. He became very active in promoting the awareness of the dangers of texting and driving, something that so many of us do these days without a second thought. He also got involved with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and also with another foundation, Lucky Laces, which supports those who have suffered from spinal cord injuries.
Only a month ago, Paul helped organize a benefit concert at the Crazy Donkey in Farmingdale that featured the 80's metal band Kix. I'm told the place was packed and the event was a hit.
I didn't know Paul personally but I know he was an avid reader of the Fix. Some of you might have known him through the Fix, Twitter, Facebook or through the message boards. Homeoftheknicks.com owner Evan Scheck reached out to me about Paul's passing.
"We will always remember Paul as being the guy who was so certain Carmelo was coming to the Knicks, even from the beginning," Scheck said. "At times he got a little overzealous in his beliefs, but that just goes to show how invested and steadfast he was. In the end, he was right - Melo landed on the Knicks. He was the type of guy who truly believed that unwavering faith would be rewarded in the end, and I am sure he probably approached his health with that same mindset."
If anyone wishes to honor Paul's life, the family is asking for donations in his name to either of his two favorite charities, LuckyLaces.org, or the Long Island Golden Retriever Rescue (www.LIGRR.org).
I plan to purchase laces from LuckyLaces.org for my son's Squirt hockey team. They will wear them on the ice next season in memory of Paul and with a lesson to learn about the character he showed after that tragic night five years ago. His life may have taken a turn for the worse, but he still tried to make the world better.
God bless you, Paul.