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THE SPORTS PHILOSOPHER: Diary of a Tired Lakers Fan by Brad Eastland

June 21, 2010
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      Dear Diary,

      I hardly know where to start.

Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject

      So the Lakers finally beat the Celtics, huh?   Big deal.   They’d beaten them in the finals before.   Twice.   Okay okay, so twice out of eleven isn’t so hot, I know, I get it.   And they’d never beaten them in a game seven, where it was all or nothing.   They were previously oh-for-four on that score.   So yeah, I guess it is a big deal.

      But it wasn’t the winning, it was the way they won it.   Coming from 13 points down.   Fighting.   Clawing.   Scratching.   After the game, the scrapes, scratches, blood, and bruises on the body of Pau Gasol said it all.   And Kobe, after playing literally the worst three quarters of basketball of his whole life, spent the 4th quarter getting every critical rebound, making every clutch free throw.   After 50 years of trying, the Lakers finally found their manhood.   And that was the only way they were ever going to win a game like this.   Because this is where the Celtics eat.   They are surely the toughest, grittiest, most cold-bloodedly efficient sports franchise in history, of all time, in any sport.   And the luckiest.   Beating the Celtics with finesse is like trying to kill a cockroach with kindness.   Doesn’t work.   You have to step on it with an iron boot and grind it into the dust and spit on it and then bury it with a stake of holly through its tiny little bug’s heart in a grave salted with arsenic and ill will.  

      And even then you’re never quite sure if the little bastard is dead.   Same with the Celtics.   I mean I was ready to blow my own brains out watching them drain not one not two but three friggin’ three-pointers in the final minute of that miserable 7th game.   By three different guys!   One thing about the Celtics, they have always all pulled on the same end of the rope.   I bet the favorite movie of all Celtics everywhere is “The Three Musketeers”.   You know.   One for all and all for one…. 

      As for me, Diary, I didn’t handle the ups and downs of that series with my usual grace, aplomb, dignity, cool, and charm.   Don’t know why.  

      At times I was a raving lunatic.    

      After Game Two I was fairly cursing the officials for being too stupid to understand how Ray Allen and Paul Pierce were continually making fools of them, by faking and goading and conning them into calling fouls on the Lakers that didn’t exist.  They were too stupid to understand how Ray Allen and Paul Pierce were making fools of them by faking and goading and conning them into calling fouls on the Lakers that didn’t exist, but that’s not the point.

      And then in Game Five there I sat, cursing the Celtics out loud in front of my girlfriend, my sister, and my young son, cursing them for the lucky SOB’s they are and have always been.   They are lucky SOB’s and have always been, but that’s not the point.

      And then in Game Seven, on the phone with my big brother Jeff in Virginia, on the phone for almost the entire game with him, it was once again your calm cool and collected Sports Philosopher foaming and frothing and cursing and castigating Pierce for the whiny phony lying disingenuous little punk he is.   He is a whiny phony lying disingenuous little punk, but that’s not the point.

      The point is that the harder I tried to convince myself that this game, this series, didn’t matter, the more it mattered.   Don’t know why.

      Big brother Jeff, of course, is the Boston Celtics’ unofficial First Fan.   He has lived and died with every Celtics game for over 50 years.   He is the “blarney-spewing court jester of Celtics drivel”, as I call him, and always will be.   His recall of every thrilling Celtics title run, every Celtics draft, every Celtics trade and how it affected every thrilling Celtics title run, well, it’s a little like Dustin Hoffman’ s idiot savant character in “Rain Man”.   Kinda creepy.   But kinda cool.

      It’s what makes brother Jeff great.   The things Jeff cares about—whether it’s the Celtics, the Chicago Bears, the Atlanta Braves, his sports collectables business, his wife Elena, his dogs and cats, whatever —he simply cares about more intensely and passionately than regular sane people care about things.   It’s really kind of inspiring, in a borderline psychotic way.   I love him so much.

      Makes me miss my other brother.   Chris.   The one who died.   Chris liked the Lakers too.   Hated the damn Celtics.   Wasn’t shy about saying so, either.   Whereas during games six and seven Jeff and I found ourselves actually encouraging the other’s chances, brother Chris would have broadcast no such generosity.   He would not have even pretended to be gracious.   He would have been cursing the Celtics for the lying lucky imps they are, and cursing Jeff for liking them, casting aspersions on Jeff’s sexual orientation and implying doubt as to the source and method of his very conception.   All three of us would’ve been on the phone together, in a 3-way conference call, just like we always used to do during major sporting events.   Would’ve been fun.

xxx

To Paraphrase Paul Simon, “Where Have You Gone Elgin Baylor, Laker Nation Turns Its Grateful Eyes to You."

 

      A final thought, dear Diary, on who popped into my head as the Lakers lifted that ugly Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy high into the Staples Center night air.   Elgin Baylor.   My favorite player from the 60s, when I was but a young and callow youth.   I can still see the number 22 on his barrel chest and broad back….Elgin was a true all-time great, sort of a Dr. J or a Jordan before there ever was a Dr. J or a Jordan.   He could post up Bill Russell, pass the ball like Magic Johnson, dribble as well as Oscar Robertson, hit the boards like Karl Malone, hang in the air like Erving and Jordan in their primes, and had a grab-bag arsenal of off-balance trick shots to rival that of Pete Maravich.   In other words, he is several great players woven into one.   He is the all-time basketball great that the world has largely forgotten.   He was my first-ever favorite basketball player, and truly, my only one. 

      He also saved the Lakers.  Literally.   Saved the franchise.   In 1959, when Baylor turned pro, he still had one year left of college eligibility.   But Lakers owner Bob Short was desperate.   His team had just finished 19-and-53 the year before, and was in severe financial trouble.   He needed Baylor.   It was a miracle of deliverance when Baylor finally accepted Short’s offer of $20,000 a year (a huge figure back then) to turn pro.   “If he had turned me down then, I would have been out of business,” a sober sounding Short said years later.   “The club would have gone bankrupt.”   Wow.

      So I guess you could say that everything the Lakers have achieved over the last half century, they owe to #22.     

      Too bad the fates could not have been more generous in paying him back.   He never did win an NBA championship.   Moreover, Baylor’s Lakers lost in the finals to the Celtics seven times.   Seven.   Never beat them even once.   And worse yet, Baylor’s Lakers lost one of those all-or-nothing game sevens to the Celtics three heartbreaking, gut-wrenching times.  

      Elgin is 75 years old now.   He had to be watching.   I wonder what he was thinking when he saw the Lakers he saved win that 7th game he himself could never win.   I hope it brought him some teaspoon-measure of joy, and did not remind him of the bitter taste of years past.

      Anyway, I don’t know why it matters so much that the Lakers finally won that game seven.   But it does, dammit.   It does.   It just does.

      I need a vacation, Diary.   Anywhere warm, relaxing, and peaceful.   I’m open to suggestions.

meet….The Sports Philosopher!Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, undiscovered fictioneer, and lifelong Lakers sufferer— in no particular order.   Brad’s other recent columns for LaVerneOnline can be found in Sports under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.    Brad has also written 4 novels and over 20 short-stories.    Samples of his best fiction work can be discovered within the fascinating links below:
 
http://www.bosonbooks.com/boson/fiction/gamble/gamble.html
http://www.bosonbooks.com/boson/fiction/basket/basket.html
http://www.bosonbooks.com/boson/freebies/freebies.html

 

 

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One Response to “THE SPORTS PHILOSOPHER: Diary of a Tired Lakers Fan by Brad Eastland”

  1. I just don’t get the whole sports thing, when it comes to the Lakers? I understand it’s a guy ‘thing’… but why stop there? Why don’t we see the national water polo team playing and the brutal head butting that they seem to give each other in the water, I mean those Speedos are oh la la, I would watch. Or why is it we don’t see the national USA Lacrosse team on Sat morning sports? Is it because Lacrosse is a cross between hockey and polo, and most people fall asleep at any one of those games as it is? Just kidding. Or how about Canoeing, I mean if it can make the Olympics why don’t we see it weekly on CBS. Just think how fun that would be to watch…lol. I have often thought, where is the line drawn, and how is it drawn? Why is it, some sports teams seemingly make the rank and others don’t? It seems that Football, Basketball and Baseball (sadly Baseball ratings are down) are the big sports that people, fans want to see? I don’t get it.

    Here we have Kobe who is an amazing player (so I have been told), along with others on the team. Take Lamar, and I only know his name because of his wife (she has a show on the “E” entertainment channel)… seems to be a great player. But can someone tell me why it is men love this team over and above any other USA team? And why does this team get a parade, why don’t the other teams get a parade, can someone please tell me that? I just don’t understand why people fill the sports bars to watch these guys play week in and week out?

    And another passing thought… why on earth does the Mayor of LA always do a TV press conference? I have never (or I should say, not often) have seen another Mayor of any city pull a TV press conference, its very strange!!!

    Well to the basketball fans of America and Brad Eastland, I don’t get it!

    : )

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