Archive for June, 2010

Still a Fossil

I almost felt like the clock was going to turn back a little there. I fell in love with the game as a kid, back when Boston simply couldn’t be beaten in a game 7. And it seemed like that leprechaun touch would last forever at the time. But now the Lakers have nearly won as many titles, the old parquet floor got torn up along the way, and Red is as much ash as all those victory cigars turned out to be.

For a moment there I thought it was going to happen like it did long ago. I thought this group of Celtics was going to make me feel much more nostalgic then the championship group from a couple years back did. I was in the midst of fondly remembering the rotary dial phone, the typewriter, and the wooden tennis racquet. The Celtics were up by 13 and bringing it on home. Fisher was back in the dressing room. Kobe was sucking horribly. The refs were not all that noticeable. And best of all – the game could be reduced to how the effect of the old-school guys, namely Sheed and Artest played out.

Both of those guys responded well to the pressure of one of the few exciting things to happen in the playoffs this year – a game 7 to put an end to all the blowouts, horrendous calls, and Lebron chatter superceding everything else. They both carried their weight through three quarters, on both ends of the court. Which one of them was going to lose it first? Unfortunately, at just around the time that Fisher returned, Wallace started to foul. He’s always been prone to celebrating too early, letting up a little mentally, and then getting his team off track. And he did it again. The tide turned at the point where he whacked Kobe (who was sucking remember) unnecessarily just as Ray was knocking the ball loose, and cleanly. The Lakers kept on getting to the line through that final quarter, and that edge combined with the rebounding edge just couldn’t be overcome.

Or could it? The ghosts of the past appeared in the final minutes. Crazy shots were starting to go down. Boston was somehow hanging in there, even with Artest hitting what should have been the final nail in the coffin, from beyond the arc, and then blowing a kiss to his psychiatrist (of course he was able to find a good shrink in LA – and there you have your title all wrapped up as a result). Still – with the Lakers up by 2, and the shot clock off, Rondo was able to knock the ball loose from Kobe. Dennis Johnson had to be heading to the basket! But the ball grazed the sideline. Laker ball…

…and I am NOT a teenager.

All the breaks seem to go the way of the Lakers these days. Pau not only doesn’t get the call for coming back down before releasing his jumper, but the ball just barely rolled over the rim. Take that basket away and things might have turned out differently. Maybe the Celtics summon up one last punch at the end. Of course that’s just wishful thinking, and that’s where those of us that want anyone to just beat LA are for now. But it won’t last forever, just like Phil’s hairline, Lamar’s marriage, and Artest’s music career. Soon enough, the young punks wearing their Kobe jerseys will become old fossils themselves, and wish anyone could ever be bothered to chant “beat LA” ever again. I just hope it happens before the rest of us are bored to death.

Story Time

Last Friday morning I was in the middle of a field in Fergus, waiting for my wife to compete with our dogs in a big Agility trial. To kill time I played a game of scrabble against my iPod. There was no competition involved with that. I killed it again. And what actually made it a little fun was how I scored on two great words for triple word scores. The word PIG was sitting right up against the triple word square in the bottom right corner of the board. I had an S to make PIGS for the triple, but I didn’t stop there. I was able to use another three delicious letters running up from that S to make ANUS. There it was – PIGS ANUS. Not a huge score, but good enough to beat an iPod. And just so satisfying in an aesthetic sense. I may never be able to enjoy scrabble in the same way ever again. It was like getting a royal flush. You just can’t feel good about the chances of getting another one again, even if the laws of probability are not effected.

Now had I been using an iPod Touch, I might have scanned the basketball stories of the day, and come across the breaking news about Hedo and all of the reaction in which “pig’s anus” might have been used in descriptive terms a few times. Of course I wouldn’t have gone that far myself, and not just in consideration of inflaming cultural sensitivities. I would have just thought – here we go again.

I’ve come to be pessimistic about this team very late in the game, and I think it’s mostly because I never found any value in mucking around in this garbage. I do think that fans here make too much of stuff that doesn’t really matter, toss around misplaced hatred like it was chemical dispersants in an oil spill, and if they are not going to enjoy watching a winning team they settle in on the enjoyments of running the various assembled losers out of town in a hurry.

There you have it. The NBA has it’s storied franchises – the two most storied which will add new chapters beginning this week – and they have franchises that seem to pull material from the Weekly World News. I guess we can feel fortunate to have Ed Anger instead of the handful of cities that just lie in a state of continual apathy. But I’ve veered from always having room for optimism, towards pessimism, and right toward apathy myself. How many more Hedo tales and losing seasons before the fanbase as a whole just shrugs?

RF’s own Acie has created a series of matchups over in our forums, where people can vote for the most hated people in this team’s history. It’s quite impressive, a little cathartic, and eight rounds do not exhaust all the possibilities. That’s a lot of hate to fill 15 seasons. And who can we pick out as players that are unquestionably loved? A man who barked? A guy who was eternally out of shape but always found an improbable shot and a smile? Little Mugsy Bogues? I would say Alvin Williams, but even he would stir up toxic feelings regarding all the money he collected without being able to play. In any case, it’s a short list.

If this is going to be a storied franchise, the question is whether any of the stories will ever be anything other than horror stories. Rondo gave me goosebumps with his incredible dive for that ball on the floor in the Orlando series, but instantly it also brought to mind Havlicek and Bird. The Lakers just keep adding to the list of big games won with big baskets at the buzzer. The Raptors keep looking like a team where a mass exodus is either happening or about to happen. Or being dreamt of by the fans. In other words they do not typically even look like a team. But I’ve sat near guys in the ACC that spend the entire game filling the ears of their dates with all the intricacies of the hurt egos and spurned stars that have been churned up within those four walls, so I guess it all serves some purpose.

Right now I’m liking the fire I see in my dogs when they run their agility course, and the way my wife and them work as a team. I’m starved for a little competitive flare where all the drama always waters things down. There is our little Bonsai, who loves driving my wife crazy by refusing to do a number two all day long. That can really ratchet up the tension each time they’re about to go into the ring. But that’s all the drama there is, and I’ve yet to see dog anus become a problem when it comes time to perform. It’s just a little thing to overcome.

The Raptors should be so lucky. I thought the overcoming stage had happened a few years ago. When Bryan Colangelo arrived I expected something different. I was pretty certain that he could make this a place that players would not be in a rush to leave anymore. But it seems that maybe the odds were stacked against him, and I should have recognized that as soon as John Salmons talked things over with God, and God found Toronto wanting. Fish Anus.

And so here we go again, and again. And at least we know the story still goes on. This player or that player might want it to end for themselves, but our hatred makes certain it will all live on, saving the team from apathy, and pushing it forward while the love in the hearts of Celtic and Laker fans ensure that there is an NBA Finals with any kind of remote connection to the game’s past glories.