Sunday, June 8, 2008

Lesser of two evils

Of all the possible matchups to crown an NBA champion, the last I wanted to see was Lakers v. Celtics. This despite knowing Boston and L.A. are the best two teams in their respective conferences and a clash between them was by far the most intriguing pairing possible - not to mention the sideshow created by the franchises’ four decades of basketball rivalry.

However, my singular sickness as a bitter Cleveland fan simply will not allow me to enjoy the rich getting richer. I cannot abide Boston winning their 17th championship or the Lakers their 15th. Who wants to deal with the lovefest after the idiotically named “Boston Three Party” gets a ring? Who wants to hear about the genius of L.A.’s front office ripping off Memphis in a sweetheart deal to get Pau Gasol? Does Phil Jackson really need more accolades? Do New England-area sports fans really need another championship parade? Can I root for both teams to lose?

I personally don’t care much about the history, the rivalry, the big market teams going at one another; all the hype-driven melodrama that ESPN and David Stern have been prayerfully anticipating since the beginning of the playoffs. There hasn’t been a Lakers-Celts championship series in over 20 years, and I’m too young to remember much of what transpired. The only good thing to come out of that long-ago series was the Sega Genesis game entitled, understandably enough, “Lakers versus. Celtics.” If I’m not mistaken, it was the first basketball video game to keep assists. So at least the rivalry has contributed something to popular culture.

Ultimately, I will watch this series, if not from wire-to-wire. It hasn’t been that hard to pick a side either, which initially surprised me. I will be rooting for the Lakers, the lesser of the two evils. I’m no fan of Kobe Bryant, but the man is an assassin, the type of cool on-court killer I’d love to see LeBron become. I wouldn’t hate seeing Kobe get a ring without Shaq. Plus the Lakers have better celebrity representation than Boston: Jack Nicholson may have been annoying in “The Departed,” but he was mesmerizing in one of my favorite flicks, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” The Celtics don’t have a visible star at courtside, ala Nicholson or Spike Lee. However, the Red Sox are represented by the loathsome Ben Affleck, so his detestable specter automatically hovers over Boston's other teams as well.

Really, my rooting interest comes down to Boston’s whiny fanbase, who had the gall to cry about their World Series woes pre-2004, an era in which the Patriots were winning three of four Super Bowls. The region’s teams have won five championships in the past decade, and played for the title in all three major sports during the last nine months. If Cleveland fans are the Israelites trudging through the sports’ desert, than Boston fans are some other biblical figures quietly reposing in a green pasture where there’s plenty of water and food. (I could not think of a specific analogy here.) You get what I’m saying: They are comfortable and arrogant and I don’t like it.