September 16, 2008

It's time to move on.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I’d get over the Lakers vs. Celtics NBA Finals. Let’s go back:

I’ve lived in Boston for 8 years, and it’s hard to resist the pull of a hometown team. Last year, of all years, Trevor & I decided to become more regular Celtics game attendees by sharing a 12-game package with Dan and his brother-in-law. I mean, we’d be crazy to not take advantage of the ticket prices for a near-to-last-place team that had just gotten its hands on Kevin Garnett & Ray Allen (I mean, on Scot Pollard and Eddie House). But, as born and raised Southern Californians, we could never be 100% Celtic prideful. So, we’d spend our weeks rooting for the Celtics, and the weekends (when we could stay up late enough to keep up with the Lakers), cheering on KB24 and the rest of the purple and gold.

And then, after a season of sitting in front of the World’s Most Annoying Basketball Fan (Imagine a 22 year old kid who alternates play-by-play instructions to the players – “Roll it to Ray Ray” was one of his favorites – with stories about how many beers he drank that weekend), it was time to face reality: The Celtics and the Lakers were both going to the playoffs, and (at least according to Magic Johnson and SI), would face each other in the finals. There began the weeks of stress – staying up way too late night after night, watching each game, knowing that the match-up was on its way, and being really unsure of how I wanted it to unfold.

It only took attending Game 1 of the Finals to clarify my loyalties, after which I was in Prague for the final 2 games, up at 3AM in the morning to listen to them over my laptop speakers. If I had gone to bed that night, I would have cried myself to sleep. But, instead, I spent the day working – and the cloud of What-If and How-Did-This-Happen hung over my head for weeks. And I wasn't the only one:

Over the summer, I avoided all mention of the Finals – I couldn’t deal with photos, analysis, or any kind of commentary. And I certainly couldn’t deal with Bill Simmons – that one I’m not sure I’ll ever get over. I didn't go to for weeks, and the Sports Illustrated featuring the Celtics went immediately to the recycling bin. During my commutes to work, I would avert my eyes from any billboard featuring a Celtic player, and I would jam my headphones in my ears if anyone remotely near me would begin discussing the NBA.

I couldn’t understand how the Lakers fell apart so badly at the end. I couldn’t understand how the re-introduction of Derek Fisher wasn’t enough to win with. I didn’t get why a team so full of great characters, including a very bearded Spanish man, couldn’t get their Hollywood ending. I cursed the Celtics for buying their way to the championship. I was ashamed for ever having rooted for Rondo or swooned over Paul Pierce. I thought about burning my brand new Ray Allen [Sonics] jersey. I hated Luke Walton and blamed Phil Jackson and didn’t think it would ever get any better.

I was so grateful for the Olympics and a Celtics-free team of gold medalists, and maybe that’s what started the road to healing. I can say now that the gray is finally lifting, and I can feel myself getting excited for the NBA season. At least something has been decided – I am 100% a Lakers fan now. No more of this splitting loyalty business – it’s just too stressful (Of course, now I work at an advertising agency that does the Celtics, and I walk past posters of Paul Pierce and a life-sized Lucky cardboard cutout every day.). In a lot of ways, it’s sad. It’s like another mark in the Con column of permanently living in Boston.

If you’re wondering what this means for my neighbors the Red Sox and the Angels hat hanging in my closet… It’s a little easier to be loyal to 2 (I mean 3!) teams in baseball, which I think is because of the pace of the game (There’s very little adrenaline associated with watching baseball, and a good basketball matchup is almost all adrenaline. I mean, there’s a reason that guys can score 80+ points in a game one night, and the next night their team won’t even score that many). But really, it’s simple – I still sing “So root, root, root for the Angels” during the 7th inning stretch, and whether or not the Halos have to face the Red Sox [again] in the playoffs, this year they are going to the World Series. And I’ll be in front of the TV, rally sticks and rally monkey in hand, screaming my head off.

Okay, so anyway. The whole point of this post was to talk about how I AM getting excited for the NBA season to kick off again, largely so that Dave Damshek, et al can start making new songs about the Lakers players. Like this gem about Derek Fisher to the tune of the Verve Pipe’s "The Freshman" - Go ahead, click on the link. Even non-basketball/Lakers fans will get a chuckle.