While I had pledged with myself to make this a footy and Sharks-related post after a string of blog entries about music, politics, 90s movies and Jersey Shore, something else came up.
A friend of mine (OK Erin, you know it’s you. Yes, you may take credit for it now) asked me why I keep hating on the Lakers.
Well, there’s one obvious reason for that. I’m a Sacramento Kings fan, the Lakers and their butt buddies the NBA administration/refs subjected us to the nationally televised rape that was Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals.
If it were that simple, I could end this post there and my last three readers could all leave in peace. But it’s not.
I’ve suffered with my teams. I suffered through the early-2000s with the Kings, the Raiders and the Sharks never quite making it over the top to get that title before both entered periods of crappiness. The Kings are showing signs of (finally) climbing out of it led by Reke and Boogie. The Raiders finally made some smart draft picks this year. The Sharks? Well, let’s just hope Wade Graham can save us.
I’ve suffered through the whims of a senile old fool with the rest of Raider Nation the past seven years since Super Bowl XXXV. I watched the Sharks give a $600 000 dollar contract to a guy who played 10 minutes of first grade footy. I sat up late, without my mum’s knowledge, watching every Kings game I could on ESPN of the Ron Artest Era. I was there for it all.
And you know what? I wouldn’t take any of it back.
The pain and suffering helped make me who I am. Life isn’t easy. Shit, I could argue that life sucks on my worst days. Being a sports fan, to me, has been like life. All about ups and downs. More downs than ups, but when the ups finally come they’re just that little bit more special.
Take the 2008 NRL season. It had been three years since we made the playoffs and about six since the years we were fighting for a title. That wait, that stretch of pain, just made getting that far so much sweeter.
Part of me didn’t and still doesn’t care that we lost in the preliminary final. To me, getting within one game of the greatest sporting event in the world (yes, I rate the NRL Grand Final as such, with the Super Bowl, Game 3 of a State of Origin Series and Game 7 of an NBA Finals behind in order) was good enough. I had friends and family ask me if I realized just how close the boys had gotten to finally getting our first title. I told them all I didn’t care.
When the Kings make it back to the playoffs this year and give the Lakers the shits, I’ll be the same.
As the old Air New Zealand ad (maybe not so old – I remember it when I was living in Whangarei) said, being there is everything.
But that’s me. Why do I hate?
I’ll use the Lakers as my example and why I hate their fans. To me, there’s only two good reasons to be a Lakers fan:
a) 1) Your parents (or, if in a family with divided loyalties, your dad) are massive Laker fans, dressed you in a Kobe/Shaq jersey when you were a baby and made sure your first word was “Magic”. Even then, you can still ignore this – my dad used to dress me in Manly clothes when I was a kid, I rebelled and became a Sharks fan.
b) 2) You grew up in Southern California. Even so, I still distrust you – if the other NBA team in your area wasn’t owned by a cheap, racist, dirty old fucker this wouldn’t be an excuse.
Otherwise, I don’t care who you are. If you are a Lakers fan and one of the above reasons doesn’t apply to you, then you sir/madam, are a sellout.
Because odds are, since you were spawned the Lakers have been good.
The Lakers are one of a few teams in the NBA who can safely say they’ve never truly had a bad run. Even the Celtics had their period in the mid/late 90s.
It’s easy to say this has been simply because of their management, and indeed when you have a free-spending owner with a good reputation like Jerry Buss and basketball people like Jerry West running the front office, you’re not doing badly.
But the Lakers also have a massive competitive advantage – they play in LA. Los Angeles is probably the most attractive free agent destination in the NBA, yes, even behind South Beach…sorry, Miami. LA has everything – a massive TV market, great weather, loads of honeys, easy access to the entertainment industry, what have you. Shit, the only reason the Clippers were even granted a meeting with LeBron in the off-season was cause they play in LA. Had the Lakers been in the running, I can guarantee you that the Man Who Would Be King’s ego would have sent him running to sign on the dotted line with the Fake Show.
Yes, I know that out of the Lakers starting lineup only two of them (Ron Ron and Fisher) signed as free agents, but it’s not just about the big names. The Lakers can continually undercut teams by offering FAs the lure of LA in exchange for a lesser salary (Exhibit A: Matt Barnes) and therefore keep the team permanently competitive with the right guys to build a title-winning team.
Many people like to believe that once Kobe and Pau go the Lakers dynasty will hit a wall like the Celtics did earlier this decade. I highly doubt it. You don’t think guys who will be superstars by then wouldn’t be flocking to LA like flies to shit?
(I had a bad nightmare last night where in a few years, the Lakers force one of those one-sided Miami – Toronto for Bosh S&Ts where they get Tyreke and Cousins in exchange for Sasha Vujacic, three future No.1s and a trade exemption we can’t use).
So you see why I dislike the Lakers – it’s not just because they’re good, but because they have that competitive advantage over the rest of the league that as long as they have semi-competent people running the show, they’ll be good. And yes, Mitch Kupchak only counts as semi-competent – while he stole Gasol from the then-most incompetent GM in the league in those pre-David Kahn days, don’t forget he traded Shaq for what basically amounted to Lamar Odom, traded Caron Butler for Kwame Brown and drafted Andrew Bynum over Danny Granger in what I still think is a stupid decision with his only lottery pick in memory.
But why do I hate Lakers fans? To me, it’s like taking the easy way out. For all the reasons I’ve mentioned, odds are your team’s never going to be terrible. Maybe not a consistent title challenger, but never terrible. You’ll be seeing playoff series for ages to come with Coach Derek Fisher and Jack Nicholson on the sidelines for the next hundred years or so (cause come on, that guy’s immortal) before the aliens from Perseus 9 come and invade us and ban the game of basketball.
You’ll never know the lows like the rest of us do. And for that reason, you’ll never know the highs like we do either.
Maybe it’s not hatred. Maybe it’s just pity. Maybe I just feel sorry for Lakers fans, living such a hollow sporting existence. You don’t feel passion for your team – you feel expectation. You expect success. You expect to win every time. The feeling you get when you lose isn’t supporters anger, it’s merely a prick to your egos and sense of entitlement (something every Lakers fan I know personally has in bucketloads).
Or maybe this is all bullshit and I can’t get over being anally raped as a 10 year old, sitting up late on ESPN to watch the Kings-Lakers Western Conference Finals when my parents had all gone to sleep. Even I knew we were being fucked over.
Whatever. I’ll close on one thing. When the Kings are playing the Lakers in this year’s playoffs (1 v 8 in the West, write it in) compare the crowd of Staples Center to the crowd at Arco Arena.
The Staples crowd will be bigger, possibly even louder and definitely much better looking. But the Arco crowd will be the only one truly packed to burst with passion.