For the love of the game: Westport author publishes memoir about his life as a loyal Knicks fan

Fred Cantor is living proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

As an attorney working in consumer protection law, living in New York City and then Westport, Cantor is a longstanding arts fan and would often be in the audience at live theater events.

When health issues forced him to retire, however, he began a new act in the arts world as a producer and writer.

Getting his feet wet first with a soccer memoir and then co-authoring a book about his hometown of Fresh Meadows, N.Y., he then developed and produced several music-inspired projects.

His latest book, “Fred From Fresh Meadows: A Knicks Memoir” was recently published by Strickland Press. It’s available on Amazon for $15, with 100% of the author’s royalties going to the Stamford-based John Starks Foundation.

Starks was a fan favorite next to Patrick Ewing, probably one of the most popular Knicks stars from the 1990s era.

While countless sports memoirs have been written by athletes, there are very few written from the perspective of the everyday fan.

“The book admittedly is targeted at Knicks fans, but the intended audience also is the passionate sports fan of any team,” Cantor said, noting he makes the point that one can be sane and responsible in most aspects of one’s life but a die-hard, off-the-wall sports fan, too.

“I’m hopeful they will relate to my experiences.”

Not a natural-born athlete, Cantor played sports but his true prowess was in the classroom instead of on the court.

Moving to Westport from Fresh Meadows while in the fourth grade, he was already an avid reader of The New York Times. It was here that he was introduced to the Knicks, reading box scores and sports articles.

He read about Wilt Chamberlain’s incredible 100-point game against the Knicks when he was playing for the Philadelphia Warriors. That record, set on March 2, 1962, still stands today.

Over the years, there have been countless Knicks games that Cantor has either listened to on the radio, watched on TV or attended in person. Whether the team is winning or losing, he remains a constant fan.

“For me, it’s a passion that has existed since childhood,” he said. “I value certain things and one of them is loyalty.

“As part of that, I don’t understand why people can’t stick with a team through thick and thin. That is part of the pleasure of it. It just makes it all the more sweeter when a team does have success.”

Even though they live in Westport in a senior co-op, Cantor and his wife, Debbie, have been stuck in California since November 2019 due to health issues that have them wintering in warm climates.

When the pandemic hit, he had several projects in play that were put on hold, so just for fun he began to write about his memories of being a Knicks fan.

“I never thought about doing anything in terms of a Knicks memoir, but being stuck at home I really wanted to do something that would take me away from the pandemic,” he said.

“As a personal project, I decided to work on this because I enjoy online historical research and knew it would entail not just looking back at New York Times archives but also watching videos of old games, and that would just take me to a different place.”

Whiling away the months of isolation, he researched and wrote, and a book began to take shape that found an enthusiastic publisher.

Cantor said having the profits benefit Starks’ foundation was only fitting. “I knew its mission was to help college-bound students in need, and that is absolutely something that I support,” he said.

“I’m 67 and when I was going to college, it was so much less expensive ... you didn’t have to worry about incurring enormous student loans.”

While highly personal, the book has universal themes. Even if one is not a Knicks fan, one can relate to the passion and emotions of being a passionate fan.

Cantor has many stories of how crazy a fan he has been. There’s the time he chose an apartment location in his second year of law school solely based on the cable TV package available there offering Channel 9 broadcasting Knicks games.

Or the decision to stay up late the night before taking the SAT, listening to a Knicks game on the radio instead of getting enough sleep.

Even more important than the most thrilling games he has experienced, however, are the friendships he has made with fellow fans and their common bond of the Knicks.

Cantor says he is not a role model by any means, but he hopes others might see his example and that it’s never too late to have a second act or pursue a new direction.

“I am living proof that you can take on new challenges and it can be unbelievably rewarding.”

Andrea Valluzzo is a freelance writer.