The playoffs are the point in a season where I like to take pen in hand and express my support and appreciation for a job well done to one particular team or another; Depending on the sport and the season. A sort of a "thank you from a fan" statement... said sincerely, before the team either wins or loses.
Normally, being a serious homer with limited sports knowledge, the team would be one I know well enough to have an opinion on; Usually the Patriots or the Celtics... and absolutely never the Red Sox. But this year, a long time and noble opponent of the Celtics, the LA Lakers, have suffered their fair share of adversity. I think the Lakers need a slap on the back.
So, instead of my usual homer praise, this year I want to say thanks to the LA Lakers for giving their very best in their effort to win a title. Win or lose, true LA fans know they have a great team and should have had a great time watching. Titles are a matter of fortune and destiny and karma. Getting to the playoffs is truly what it's all about in the long run. It's why the season is played. You can't win a title if you don't earn the chance. Being one of the 16 teams that makes the playoffs is the primary goal of every team. Having a team that is in contention every year is really all any fan can and should hope for.
Like any lifelong Celtics fan, I love to hate the Lakers. I take it as a serious civic obligation. But my 'hate' is limited to wiseacre comments at vulnerable times when the team is down, as a way of sticking it to their fans and best exploit the pain in the rivalry we share. In truth, the Lakers are a class NBA organization and a highly respected foe. I would be proud to root for them had I been born on the left coast.
Since the NBA began, the Lakers have been a serious contender every season. Please don't point out what few losing season they ever had ... they are a virtual playoff lock any season. But no one has a lock on the title. When the playoffs start it's anyone's prize... Records don't matter. Everyone is 0-0.
Bad games, good quarters, great shots, bad calls, tough breaks, big baskets, bad misses... they are the great equalizers. Keep the score close and let circumstance plays its part. A 10 point difference with a minute to go isn't a lead... it's an edge. Favorites fall out of favor for all kinds of reasons. It's a roll of the dice.
At times like this I feel almost bad for the Lakers. As the home team from the City of Lights, they play in a media/celebrity driven environment that is far more hostile and widely reported when it comes suffering bad entertainment. It isn't easy maintaining the support of image conscious city and media. LA is a city that expects a lot from their celebrities in return for their attention. They avoid losers and has-beens with deliberation.
Maybe it's me. But I've come to believe that the celebrity community, that is a big part of the Lakers image, suffers from unrealistic expectations based on early reviews by entertainment sources as opposed to the sports media. They adopt an attitude that follows an "if the critics like it then it must be good", kind of reasoning. It seems like the whole city gets it in their head early that the Lakers will win the Finals this year and nothing less is considered. Parties are planned 6 months in advance because... well just try to get the space for a party with less than 6 months notice, And God forbid if things don't go according to the script!
The Lakers hit a rough patch, nothing more... nothing less. Yet a lot of their "fans" are acting like the Lakers have betrayed some sacred promise to bring home the championship. Phil Jackson is suddenly an idiot; Bynum has gone from being the second coming to the last option. Every move by Kobe from this point on will be subjected to more professional and psychological analysis than your average Supreme Court decision.
There has been hysterically harsh reaction from their photo-op fan base over their struggles against a reportedly inferior opponent. The number of paparazzi can be impacted by a losing effort. Personal exposure suddenly becomes an issue. Movers and shakers find it harder to move and shake. Plans are ruined.
"What? Lose? Can they do that in LA? What gives? I paid good money for these tickets! That producer was supposed to be there!"
In spite of my civic obligation I will be rooting for the Lakers on Sunday. They need the honest support of fans who appreciate them for what they do... not where they do it. They are the yin to the Celtics yang. My Celtics most likely won't make it to the NBA Finals. But if the impossible happens, the Lakers are the only team I want to see waiting for us when we get there. Any other opponent is always a second rate show. It's the one matchup that makes the Finals final.