How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Hate the Lakers [California Seething]
Editors Note: Eric broke his computer with a particularly scathing California Seething this week. So, we’re re-running his popular column, from May of 2011, on Laker hating. We strongly believe that they made the play-offs this year primarily as a response to this piece.
The rantings of a non-driving theatre professional living in altogether the wrong city
One night, early last week, something very important happened. I woke up the next morning to find the world was a better place. The sun shone brighter, my smile came easier, I experienced a level of contentment which made the frustrations of everyday life seem small and inconsequential. I knew the road ahead would be long and difficult, but I had a renewed sense of purpose, of optimism, of hope. The night before, in an exceptional display of courage and grit, the Dallas Mavericks came back from 16 points down to beat the Lakers in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals. Truly a happy day for all Americans.
Oh, and Osama Bin Laden was killed, which I thought was good news, except Martin Luther King Jr. was whining about it all over Facebook. Blah, blah, blah, rejoice at my enemy’s death, blah, blah, blah cycle of violence and hate. What a buzzkill. As Harry Truman once said “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, which is fine be me because blind people can’t hijack planes and fly them into buildings. And get your quotes right before you post online, people.”
In the days that followed, the news got better and better. The Mavericks demolished Evil Cartoon Rat King Kobe Bryant (code name: Geronimo) and his soulless band of starfucking jerkwads (plus Derek Fisher, who only joined the team because he was looking for a really tough Missionary assignment and somebody already had Pygmy Cannibals and truckers). Dallas truly played as a team — which is good news for superstar Dirk Nowitzki, five time winner of the NBA’s Nicest German Award, whose guilt over the Holocaust typically keeps him from being aggressive in the paint and winning in the playoffs. Nowitzki may be Dallas’ second most accurate shooter of all time, but unlike Lee Harvey Oswald, he doesn’t have to act alone. Because of the contributions of his teammates, the Mavericks swept the Lakers in four magnificent games. I haven’t liked Dallas this much since JR was shot.
All this delicious humiliation for the Lakers has been distracting me from the fact that my beloved Boston Celtics are locked in a desperate struggle for survival with the Miami Heat. The Heat, of course, are led by LeBron James who came to Miami after leaving his home-town Cleveland Cavaliers, an act which made him the ideal role model to thousands of young people in Cleveland, by showing them it’s possible to get the fuck out. I mean, I realize that it’s very important to be loyal to one’s hometown. I’ve discussed it quite seriously with New Yorkers and Bostonians all over Los Angeles. Still, the dude lived in Cleveland. Unless you’re a gay teen in Toledo, that’s nothing to aspire to. Like Chlamydia and The Mentalist, the best thing I can say about Cleveland is that it’s better than you expect it to be. It’s cold, grey and depressing — and somehow Global Warming is just making the snow worse. I know that the other Clevelanders are jealous of LeBron, but, guys, don’t shiv a brother in the yard just cause he’s due for parole. Make him a heart-shaped grilled cheese sandwich on the radiator and hug it out. After all, LeBron left Cleveland for the opportunity to play with two of the finest players of his generation and the chance to win multiple NBA titles. I left New York for the opportunity to have a washer and dryer in my condo and the chance to someday have a dishwasher.
Of course, the real reason to hate LeBron isn’t that he left Cleveland, but that he’s playing against the Celtics, and that means he should break his leg and fucking die.
I love the Celtics. I adore the Celtics. I love the Celtics so much I fucking hate the Celtics. It’s not a pretty kind of love. Not a sitting by the fireplace wearing turtleneck sweaters sipping hot mulled wine listening to Chicago on the Hi-Fi kind of love or a sneaking wine and chicken into the movie theatre, manic giggling at the thrift store, ordering one cup of coffee at the diner and talking all night until the sun comes up kind of love. This is… the other kind of love. This is fist through the drywall, screaming through the bathroom door, worried looks from the neighbors, break up and make up and fuck til we’re raw restraining order kind of love. Or, anyhow, that’s how it would be if they actually knew who I was. As it is now, I’m the guy stalking them around New York City, underlining passages in Catcher in the Rye, and they are living quietly in the penthouse of The Dakota blissfully unaware that I’m even alive and ignoring me until it’s too late.
I first fell in love with the Celtics during the NBA finals in 1986, when Bird, McHale, Parish, Ainge and DJ beat the Houston Rockets led by the “Twin Towers” Olijuwan and Sampson (Remember being able to use “Twin Towers” – another reason to be glad that shitbird is dead. I hope they got him unarmed on the toilet jerking off to the T-Mobile girl on a second hand Sidekick.) I can’t honestly remember what it was about that gangly, flat-footed, pock-marked crew that got to me. Maybe it was the way they played the game felt approachable to me, like if I just took enough shots on the driveway I could be one of them. Maybe it was that my Dad was cheering for them and it was one more thing we could do together. The fact that they were winning sure didn’t hurt. Anyhow, all I knew was that I was enraptured. Right after the Finals, my class took a field trip to Boston (a coincidence, I think) and as we were standing in line to board Old Ironsides, a loud gaggle of green-clad fans blustered past, still noisily celebrating the victory. In my still-squeaky Bar-Mizvah boy voice I screamed along with them as they passed, feeling like I was part of some great, triumphant tribe. And the best part was, I knew this would keep happening over and over again. After all, the Celtics were the most successful franchise in NBA history, how long could it possibly be before they won another title?
The following year, my Dad and I watched every game of the playoffs. This wasn’t easy, because our home cable system didn’t carry TNT, so it meant a lot more trips to my grandmother’s house. When she got sick of having us sit around in total silence staring at the television and decimating her candy dishes, we went to the Notty Pine Tavern in Troy. (SIDE NOTE: Name spelling is correct. Big shout out to the Troy public schools!) to cheer with the local Boston-loving booze-hounds. There aren’t a lot of non-Alcoholic fathers who would take their 14-year-old son to a bar, but this was the same guy who took me and two friends to the West Bank shopping for glass, so a watering hole in downtown Troy hardly seemed out of bounds.
I loved my grandmother, but it was a hell of a lot more fun to perch on a barstool and scream my little guts out with a bunch of drunks than to writhe in silent ecstasy and agony on the needlepoint-backed chairs of my grandmother’s tastefully appointed sitting room (the pristine living room was off limits for any activities as frivolous as “watching TV” or “living”) while the Celtics struggled mightily with the Milwaukee Bucks and Detroit Pistons. Plus the pizza at Notty Pine was a major improvement over her Andes Mints and Jordan Almonds, which were actually invented to teach Depression era kids about disappointment. It was at the Notty Pine where I saw Bird steal the inbounds pass from vile thug, Bill Laimbeer, and pass it to DJ under the rim to win the game in the 87 Eastern Conference Finals — still one of the great moments of my life.
Magic Johnson grinned his Lakers to victory that year in the Finals, but I accepted that. I knew the Celtics would be back next year and that we would wipe the smile off his smug little face. I was wrong. Every year, it got harder and harder to get through the playoffs. The early euphoric days of our relationship were over and they were replaced by the shrieking, pleading and finger-pointing of a trailer park marriage gone south. I could no longer watch them play around other people – or rather, other people could not put up with the quivering ball of Rage-flavored Jello that I would become when the Celtics would play. Finally, in 92, Bird retired and as I took his poster down from my bedroom wall, I was pretty sure the relationship was over.
I tried loving other teams. While living in New York in the late 90’s I shacked up briefly with the Knicks, but Patrick Ewing would sweat all over the pillows and wake up screaming about Reggie Miller, and Van Gundy drank all my Diet Coke, so it didn’t really work out. Plus the Knicks have some of the worst management in all of professional sports. Watching owner Howard Dolan build that team is like watching Michael J. Fox try to play Jenga — every time he makes a move, the whole thing falls apart.
When I moved out to LA, my new favorite team became Anyone Playing the Lakers. With every Laker flag I saw on a Hummer or Prius (the Alpha and Omega of LA Vehicular Douchbaggery) the purple and gold bile in my throat grew until it spewed from my throat uncontrollably. I cheered for the Sacramento Kings, the Phoenix Suns, the Minnesota Timberwolves, even the once hated Detroit Pistons. I packed my loyalty in a carpet bag and drifted on the wind to any city chanting BEAT LA. As Crosby, Stills & Nash said: “If you can’t cheer for the team you love, baby, hate the team that wins” The Lakers were willing to oblige by making themselves as hateful as possible. Lamar Odom married second rate celebutante Khipmunk Kheeks Kardashian, a Sixth-Man-of-the-Year Trophy Wife. Pau Gasol is more concerned with his CSI: Miami residuals than with playing defense, and the nicest thing you can say about Kobe is that he wasn’t actually convicted of rape and only says “faggot” when he’s pissed at the ref. In 2004 to be extra special super hateful, the Lakers brought in Gary Payton and Karl Malone to glower and sulk on the bench. It was alright for a while, but ultimately just hating the Lakers became unsatisfying. I found that, without love, hate alone is not enough to fill the heart and nourish the soul. Also, those motherfuckers just kept on winning.
Finally, in 2008, love returned to my basketball life. Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett joined Paul Pierce on the Celtics and they battled their way to the first title in 22 years. A few things had happened in my life since they won last. I finished Middle School, High School and College. I fell in love, broke up, fell in love, broke up, fell in love for real and got married. I worked for a non-profit agency, and insurance company, two comedy clubs, two theatres (one that actually pays me!), five temp agencies, sold comedy club tickets in Bryant Park, telemarketed, did market research, gave out sandwiches and fruit on the subway, directed a couple dozen shows and produced another 30 more, rented 20 apartments, forfeited 18 security deposits and bought a condo, moved to New York City, loved New York City, hated New York City and left New York City and finally spent eleven years in LA totally failing to get a dishwasher. Still, better late than never. When Kevin Garnett screamed “Top of the world!” and Paul Pierce cried with the trophy, I was a big, hairy, squealing 14-year-old boy all over again, screaming and squeaking and rejoicing in a victory that was a long time coming.
And, just like in ‘86, I thought I’d be getting this again, over and over again in the years to come, but alas, it was not to be. They didn’t even make the Finals in 09, and got creamed by the Lakers in 2010 in seven tough games. And, this year, well, who knows…Even if they get past the Heat (and, being the world’s most pessimistic sports fan, I think that’s a big “if”), they’ve got a long way to go against a whole lot of young athletic teams. Still, one game at a time. Rajon Rondo’s still got both his legs working even if he can only bend one arm, Shaq can actually make it from one end of the court to another once or twice before having to go to the bench for Oxygen, and there’s every possibility that the Heat will implode like an outdated casino. Even if the Celtics do lose, though, I can take solace in the fact that this year’s champions won’t be the Lakers, and “Not The Lakers” is my second favorite all-time team. I’ve even got the car flag to show for it:
As Obama wrote in the first draft of his Bin Laden speech:
Na na na na
Na na na na
Hey Hey Hey
To last week’s winners- go on, take a Victory Lap. You deserve it.