Fragments From "Isiah! The Musical"

From time to time the news cycle offers up an event of such import and complexity that it can only be comprehended through the medium of musical theater. This week resident composer Ben Greenman takes a closer look at the sexual harassment lawsuit against New York Knicks coach Isiah Thomas.

[ANUCHA BROWNE SANDERS goes to work for the New York Knicks.]

ANUCHA BROWNE SANDERS:

Oh! My first day

I am so excited

It's like there's a party

And I've been invited

A wonderful franchise

A wonderful town

I'm floating on clouds

And I'm not coming down

[ANUCHA BROWNE SANDERS meets ISIAH THOMAS.]

ISIAH THOMAS:

Hello, I am Isiah Thomas.

Have you met my brother John?

He lives inside my boxer shorts

It's him that I depend upon

ANUCHA BROWNE SANDERS:

I'm sorry, sir

I beg your pardon

I'm new here

Working at the Garden

ISIAH THOMAS:

Well, I'm a big shot around these parts

I'm the coach of the team so I have clout.

Do you know the difference between my wang and a sandwich?

No? Well let's have a picnic, and you can find out.

[ANUCHA BROWNE SANDERS tries to ignore ISIAH THOMAS's behavior. Still, it continues]

ANUCHA BROWNE SANDERS:

I really need those papers signed

ISIAH THOMAS:

I'll get on top of you and grind

ANUCHA BROWNE SANDERS:

We need to talk about the team

ISIAH THOMAS:

I'll drive the lane until you scream

ANUCHA BROWNE SANDERS:

Call back the commissioner

ISIAH THOMAS:

My hand's full of conditioner

ANUCHA BROWNE SANDERS:

Are you ready for the meeting?

They're serving sandwiches and pie

ISIAH THOMAS:

I know which pie I should be eating

So good it makes a grown man cry

[ANUCHA BROWNE SANDERS challenges ISIAH THOMAS to a game to end the comments.]

ISIAH THOMAS:

I notice you're taller

ANUCHA BROWNE SANDERS:

But you're a pro baller

ISIAH THOMAS:

That much I can guarantee

Balling is my specialty

[ANUCHA BROWN SANDERS sighs. She plays the game. ISIAH THOMAS wins, 11-8.]

ISIAH THOMAS:

I've been meaning to ask you this

Will you reach inside my pants?

I'm just looking for a kiss

Without the charm or the romance

[This is the last straw. ANUCHA BROWNE SANDERS goes to JAMES DOLAN, the chairman of Madison Square Garden. JAMES DOLAN is holding a lightbulb in his hand and flipping a switch on the wall next to him. He seems confused that the bulb will not illuminate.]

ANUCHA BROWNE SANDERS:

I hate to be the squeaky wheel

I hate to be a bad news bearer

You need to get things in control

You need to prevent further error

JAMES DOLAN:

This bulb won't light—

It's busted, right?

ANUCHA BROWNE SANDERS:

When Isiah said

He would make a pass

I thought he meant an assist

Not him eying my ass

JAMES DOLAN:

Remember when I flicked the switch?

This thing should light without a hitch

Ms. Browne Sanders, will you sit

While I try to get it lit?

ANUCHA BROWNE SANDERS:

Mr. Dolan, I won't sit

Your request is inappropriate

The people here are inept bosses

Perhaps that explains the team's recent losses

[JAMES DOLAN, stung by her accusation that he is inept — he doesn't know what the word means, but he faintly remembers that words starting with "in" tend to be negative — and furious that she won't help him with his lightbulb problem, fires ANUCHA BROWNE SANDERS.]

ANUCHA BROWNE SANDERS:

When Mr. Thomas discussed penetration

And taking it hard to the hole

I played along and was a good sport

But now, Mr. Dolan, I'll see you in court

[Even though JAMES DOLAN is in his own office, he stands huffily and leaves. He goes into the closet instead. The racket of falling mops and brooms is heard. The next day, ISIAH THOMAS heads about the lawsuit.]

ISIAH THOMAS:

I always wear a suit these days

But a lawsuit? Never.

These wily working women

Think that they're so clever

If we're going to trial

I'll do it in style

I'll cruise through the proceeding

Consistently succeeding

Then I'll be sipping Hennessey

In my fancy suite in MSG

Bring on the stupid trial

I'll win by a mile

I was a great ball handler

So why won't she handle my balls?

I wish she'd come and see my office

Or return my repeated calls

Or just accept the fact that

On a crisp November evening

I might wait outside her window

For hours without leaving

I welcome a trial

Have you seen me smile?

[The case goes to court. ISIAH THOMAS explains how ANUCHA BROWNE SANDERS's charges will be destructive to the team.]

ISIAH THOMAS:

Sticks and stones

May break my bones

And stones and sticks

May hurt the Knicks

Throw rocks and twigs

If you insist

Say sexist pigs

Are in your midst

But in the end

Your accusation

Is just a source

Of aggravation

It's only words

It's only names

Our job here

Is to win our games

So fling those sticks

And throw those rocks

But aim them at

The jury box

[ANUCHA BROWNE SANDERS repeats her claims regarding ISIAH THOMAS's behavior. Other revelations include the fact that former intern KATHLEEN DECKER had sex with Knicks player STEPHON MARBURY in the back seat of a car in the parking lot of a strip club.]

KATHLEEN DECKER:

I got in the car

Excited? Very.

I was about to have a night with Marbury

He shoots, he scores

He's not a scrub

I had just emerged from the topless club

Marbury's a star

Or the closest we've got

And I was drunk in a parking lot

STEPHON MARBURY:

My sneakers cost just fifteen dollars

They're perfect for the country's youth

This intern, man, was even cheaper

That may be rude but it's the truth

[KATHLEEN DECKER then testifies that ANUCHA BROWNE SANDERS was an abusive boss.]

KATHLEEN DECKER:

She yelled at me

And made me feel inferior

Even before I had sex

In the car's interior

And pleather stuck

To my posterior

[Suddenly, ANITA HILL bursts into the courtroom.]

ANITA HILL:

He touched me too

It's true. I promise.

ISIAH THOMAS:

Now what the hell?

ANITA HILL:

Sorry—wrong Thomas

[ANITA HILL exits the courtroom. The jury deliberates. They find ISIAH THOMAS guilty. The Knicks are ordered to pay $11.6 million in punitive damages. ISIAH THOMAS addresses the press.]

ISIAH THOMAS:

I'm innocent, very innocent

You can write that down

You can put it in print

I'm being smeared, being very smeared

Just you wait and see

I'll be totally cleared

Of the lies and the slanders

Of Anucha Browne Sanders

[ISIAH THOMAS goes back to Madison Square Garden. His first stop is JAMES DOLAN's office. He picks up the phone immediately and gets back to work.]

ISIAH THOMAS:

Get me Wade!

What do you mean no trade?

Draft Durant!

What do you mean we can't?

How about Ewing?

Are we renewing

His contract? I can't concentrate

So filled am I with rage and hate.

[ISIAH THOMAS realizes that JAMES DOLAN's phone is a plastic prop. It's not even plugged into the wall. This should make him laugh, but it makes him cry.]

ISIAH THOMAS:

I'm not cut out for the normal world

I only know about basketball

Even if I wanted a sexual favor

I never should have asked at all

Maybe I'll be exiled

To Georgia or Wisconsin

All because I wanted her

To touch my Magic Johnson.

[ISIAH THOMAS brightens.]

ISIAH THOMAS:

This verdict is so horrible

And yet, I see a silver lining

Somewhere off beyond the clouds

A ray of sunlight's slyly shining

The things I've been convicted of

Might be a great distraction

From the fact that the team I ran

Performed to no one's satisfaction

When Larry Brown went overboard

I took charge of the Knicks

And they just threw up bricks

Throughout two thousand six

To say they were embarrassing

Is an insult to embarrassments

And so now I will grit my teeth

And tolerate these grim events

[ISIAH THOMAS does appeal the conviction, but only so that the issue of his guilt or innocence will stay in the headlines. The Knicks narrowly squeak by in a preseason exhibition against Tel Aviv and are blown out by the Cavaliers, 112-83, in the season opener.]



Ben Greenman is an editor at the New Yorker and the author of several books of fiction. His latest book, A Circle is a Balloon and Compass Both, was recently published.

Previously: Fragments From 'Me And O.J.! The Musical'