It’s obvious why Celtics fans, often appearing inebriated, mindlessly chant “Beat L.A.!” Ever experienced a humid Boston summer? How about one of their freezing winters? They’re green all right, green with envy.
Due to my deadline, as you read this the Lakers will either be up one game over Boston in a best-of-seven series, or, perish the thought, down 0-1. Quick statistic: Phil Jackson’s playoff record is 47-0 when his team wins the first game in a series.
How intense is the L.A./Boston rivalry? Of the 63 NBA championships, the Celtics and Lakers combined have won more than half. Counting this year, their 12 championship meetings are more than any two teams in any North American professional sport. So there’s no love lost. It’s not even misplaced.
Perhaps this history explains Kenny Mack’s “Word in Edgewise” column in the Daily Press earlier this week that all but crowned the Celtics. It sounded like he was channeling Red Auerbach. (I only hope Kenny doesn’t smoke cigars, too.) Reading his column I almost found myself missing Steve Breen [Editor’s note: Breen was our “conservative” columnist who often clashed with his fellow Daily Press op-ed contributors]. The operative word being “almost.”
With gushing oil destroying the Gulf of Mexico, two wars raging in the Middle East, and our sluggish economy, you might ask how important is a basketball series between grown men who are essentially wearing their underwear? The answer? Very!
You’d think the older I get, the less I’d stress out over these things. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong. I sometimes think that the only reason I don’t have tantrums when the Lakers lose like I did at age 10 is because I’m too old and tired.
These days, after a loss, I bid my friends in the TV room good-bye with an upbeat “we’ll get ‘em next game,” and casually return to my apartment. Once inside, I might begin pounding my head against the drywall before going to bed.
This slight “immaturity” on my part is heightened because it’s the Celtics. All due respect to Kenny, I despise everything they stand for, and probably a few things they don’t.
I grew up watching the Lakers lose to the Celtics seemingly every season. Boston’s winning shot in a game seven might bounce off a player’s head, and into the basket like it was divine providence.
It all changed in 1985. I went, with my future ex-wife, to a party with her former college friends to watch game six of the NBA Finals. The Lakers were up 3-2 so that if they won the game it would be their first title over the Celtics, ever.
The Lakers were leading by two and time was running out. Boston’s Larry Bird threw up a desperation three-point shot from the corner. As the bail sailed toward the basket, my mind flashed on the previous times Boston had broken my heart. So, it was not surprising when the shot went in. But why were my wife’s friends cheering wildly? Were they secret Celtic fans? Had someone put LSD in the Snapple?
Apparently, I was so conditioned to the Lakers losing to Boston that when Bird’s shot missed (as it actually did) I literally saw it go in. I quickly celebrated with everyone else, not daring to reveal my out-of-mind incident.
Perhaps the only person who suffered more than I did during all those years (other than my good friend, Lance) was Hall of Famer Jerry West. He’s a multi-millionaire, a scratch golfer and his likeness is the logo for the NBA. But, even with all his success, West, 72, is still haunted by the Boston defeats. Other than the Hall of Fame and multimillionaire, scratch golfer and logo for the NBA stuff, I can relate.
West’s only NBA Championship came against the N.Y. Knicks, with whom there was no revenge factor. I didn’t care for the Knicks, but I didn’t hate them. Nothing is as delicious as making the Celtics, and their fans, truly miserable.
Can Kobe Bryant and Co. lead the Lakers to victory? It won’t be easy. The Celtics are thugs, bullies and whiners. (Hey, one of their star players is named “Big Baby!”)
The truth is I kind of like their coach, Doc Rivers, though I doubt he went to medical school. And Ray Allen was quite good in the movie “He’s Got Game.” But Kevin Garnet reminds me of a mean, 7-foot Scatman Crothers from “The Shining.” And I’ll never overlook Paul Pierce’s “one minute he’s in a wheelchair and the next he’s winning the game” act from 2008. Bush league (No reference to President Dubya).
Whoever wins the series, the real winner will be Commissioner David (cha-ching) Stern who must be kvelling (Yiddish for jumping for joy, assuming he can still jump). Just imagine the anemic ratings for a Suns-Magic championship.Yawn.
As a rational adult, I realize that, if the Lakers lose, life will still go on. Other than a deep depression, the worst is I may have to get some new drywall.
Depending on the outcome of the Laker-Celtic series, Jack may be reached at Jackneworth@yahoo.com but don’t count on it.