Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Oh that Bill Simmons...

...HE SO CRAZY!!! Always with the Boston sports he is!

I mean, Celtics-Lakers? Really?

When I woke up this morning, I half expected to see posters of Eddie Murphy's "Delirious" concert, Larry Bird's milk growth chart (don't ask) and the eternally underrated Heather Thomas hanging on my walls. Actually, I thought this would make for a cool column: me remembering my 1984 bedroom decor, singing Larry Legend's praises, taking potshots at Kareem and Magic, insulting Lakers fans and hitting Send.

So much to say here, but as a red-blooded blogger, I think I should just point out I did my research, and, well...

Bill is, for once, absolutely right. Heather Thomas is underrated. Although I could take or leave the pre-stitched camel toe.

Oh, and joking or not (and we pretty much have gotten to the point where it's impossible to even tell), any column that opens with "remembering my 1984 bedroom decor" is probably not a cool column. Because it's, you know, about bedroom decor. Which unless we're discussing how I reconciled sleeping under both Batman and Marvel Heroes bedspreads, just isn't all that interesting.

My editors, though, objected. They claim that, of the 144 columns I've written for The Magazine, 314 have involved one of my beloved Boston teams. I thought that number seemed a bit high. We haggled. I threatened to quit. They FedExed me a resignation letter with a yellow "Sign Here" sticky on it. We haggled some more. Eventually, they allowed me to write about the biggest Celtics-Lakers rivalry myths—if I remained "objective."

I'm a magnanimous guy, so credit where credit's due. That's pretty self-aware for the guy, what with referencing both his flagrant (and widely reviled) Boston homerism and the ongoing "I'm angry at ESPN and want out" thing. If only he could fully embrace the fact that he's kinda sorta become a parody of himself and rebuild a little, I could see him becoming must-read again. For serious.

By the way, do you think he'd be funnier if he could swear? I'm going to go ahead and say "fuck and yes" to that.

I agreed, if only because I didn't want to blow Chad Johnson's Pulitzer. So without further ado...

I include this line only for completeness and/or the opportunity to point out the editor's note at the top of the column:

[Ed.'s Note: This column appears in the Revenge of the Jocks issue of ESPN The Magazine, in which Chad Johnson takes over as Editor-in-Chief.]

Does anything more perfectly encapsulate the problem with ESPN than the existence of a "Revenge of the Jocks" issue of ESPN The Magazine? And hell, I find the magazine probably the least offensive part of the Worldwide Leader corporate empire.

Anyway, Simmons was talking about doing something without further ado, which I've pretty effectively scuttled. Still, no time like the recent past...

Myth: It's the NBA's best and longest rivalry.
Truth: Boston beat L.A. for the title eight straight times before falling in 1985. If that's a long-standing rivalry, so is Tom vs. Jerry, Andy vs. The Sistas and hammer vs. nail. Isn't it more of a "recent rivalry that was once a relentless butt-whupping"?

This is actually not a terrible point, although the Russell Celtics are such a ridiculous aberration (I mean, 11 titles in 13 years? To quote that Clay Davis dude from the show that I haven't watched...

...where the hell was I? Oh, right.)

Anyway, the Russell Celtics are such a ridiculous aberration that I'm not even sure Bill's point is completely fair. I mean, even if the Lakers only went from foils to rivals in the 80's, the fact that they met so many times has to count for something right? I mean, what's an older rivalry? Celtics-Hawks? (You could actually make that argument, I guess, because they did trade championships back in 1957 and 1958 and the Celtics had to trade one of their best players to the Hawks to get Bill Russell in the first place. Huh...I guess every series Boston has played this year has had historical resonance. Well, maybe not the Cavs.)

By the way, Bill, does that mean the Red Sox and Yankees only became proper rivals in 2004? It does, right? Oh, sorry, that's somehow different. My mistake.

Myth: It's an East Coast/West Coast thing.
Truth: Actually, Boston swept the Minneapolis Lakers in 1959. Owner Bob Short moved the Lakers two years later, robbing Minnesota of two legends—Elgin Baylor, Jerry West—and starting five decades of sports agony. Making matters worse, the L.A. Lakers was the dumbest team name for nearly 20 years, until the Jazz relocated to Utah. If you root for the Lakers, you not only implicitly support nonsensical team names, you've helped to desecrate Minnesota sports.

I was going to make a Dallas Stars joke here, but I realized that, if anything, moving the North Stars to Texas actually made their name make more sense, what with it being the Lone Star State and all. Is that the only time that's ever happened? Also, I love that the original Minnesota basketball and hockey teams were named after bodies of water and the state motto (the French state motto, no less) and their more recent equivalents have been the way more badass Timberwolves and Wild. If that isn't X-treme (too X-treme for unnecessary e's!!!), I don't know what is.

Oh, and his point is really pretty weak, considering the Lakers moved more than four decades ago. Fine, so one championship was Boston-Minneapolis, not Boston-LA. Whatever. If Jack Nicholson's diehard, assholish fandom doesn't say "West Coast", I don't know what does.

Incidentally, do you think it'd be possible to make a video where the real Jack Nicholson is pulling for the Lakers, while his character from The Departed is for the Celtics? Probably not, but I feel there's something there. Especially if Mark Wahlberg could be in there randomly swearing.

Myth: The 1962 Lakers were a wide-open 15-footer from toppling Bill Russell's Celtics.
Truth: You know who took the shot? Frank Selvy. (Who? Exactly.) Should Selvy be deciding your season when you have West and Baylor? I say no. Stupid teams shouldn't win titles.

Sorry, hometown allegiances talking here, but John Paxson had the final shot in Game 6 of the 1993 Finals, and likewise Steve Kerr in 1997. Oh, and aren't dumbass columnists lionizing Robert Horry for basically being a really effective, really durable Frank Selvy (well, maybe an anti-Selvy)? Or something like that. Point is, weird stuff like that happens. Doesn't mean the team is stupid. And I don't care if he's not being entirely serious. Like I said, it became impossible to even tell sometime back in 2006.

Myth: L.A. is a flashy franchise with celebrity fans named Jack and Leo, while blue-collar Boston makes do with fans named Murph and Sully.
Truth: That changed when the Big Dig was finished, downtown Boston suddenly became cool, and relaxed tax laws coaxed Hollywood into making movies in Massachusetts. During these playoffs, DiCaprio, Tom Brady, Denis Leary, Ben Affleck, the Wahlbergs, Gisele, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, Bruce Willis and Grey (the one with the show about her anatomy) took in games at the new Garden. Sure, they were heckled by drunks named Murph and Sully. But things are looking up. Boston even has bars with drinks that cost more than $5.50 now.

I love that Bill is somehow arguing it's a good thing that Boston is becoming just as full of celebrity jackasses as LA. Also, this Jay-Z you mention? That'd be Nets co-owner Jay-Z, right? Yeah, that dude's definitely a hardcore Celtics fan. Oh, and I can't help but point out Bill is holding up the Wahlbergs, not just Marky Mark, as celebrity fans. Because nothing says celebrity like the sexual healing of Donnie Wahlberg.

Myth: Kevin McHale's clothesline of Kurt Rambis turned around the 1984 Finals.
Truth: When Rambis hopped up for revenge, peacemaker James Worthy swooped in and inexplicably shoved Rambis into the Laker Girls. Way to help out, James! Ask Worthy to jumpstart your car, and he'd fry you with the jumper cables. Anyway, that was the moment things turned around.

How the hell does that invalidate the turning-around-itude (dammit, he's making me invent dumbass words) of the clothesline? I mean, I try not to get too pissed off by Bill, but this is just an unprovoked shot at James Worthy. I'd have said it was thinly veiled, but I think that would require it to be veiled on some level.

Myth: Magic won the rubber match with Bird in 1987.
Truth: Hold on, my editors are still electroshocking me for the joke I was about to make. [zaaaaap!] OK, we're good. Yes, it's true that Bird beat L.A. once ('84) and Magic beat Boston twice ('85, '87). But when Bird and the 1986 Celts were peaking, L.A. avoided a guaranteed shellacking by getting "upset" by the young Rockets. That's a forfeit win for Boston, bringing the tally to Bird 2, Magic 2.

As much as I'm certain there's no way he's serious...well, if that Pats-Colts column is any indication, he really does think this sort of thing happens. Hell, otherwise rational Boston fans I've spoken to do actually seem to legitimately believe the Lakers intentionally threw way the 1986 conference finals to avoid the Celtics. If you don't immediately understand that this is the dumbest fucking thing anyone has ever said this side of Michelle Malkin...well, I honestly can't help you. I'd go on, but it'd be like trying to explain why 2 plus 2 equals 4.

Corollary myth: Magic beat Boston twice.
Truth: Actually, it was Kareem who killed Boston in 1985, cruising to the Finals MVP. After Magic choked away the previous Finals (no, really—look it up), he was happy to turn things over to the Big Fella. Can you give him credit for that? No way. Including the forfeit, that makes the new Finals score: Bird 2, Magic 1. I'm glad I'm here.

You know, I was going to start his post with a nice "I really don't hate Simmons all that much" thingy. But now? Well, I'm glad I didn't, because Bill, it's time for you to fuck the shit off. So yeah, get to work on that.

Myth: In the '80s, white Americans supported the Celts, and African-Americans supported the Lakers.
Truth: The Showtime Lakers were definitely a flashier team, exemplified by Worthy's signature tomahawk dunk and Magic's near quadruple-double average in the 1982 Finals (18 points, 11 assists, 9.5 rebounds, 12 women a game). And the C's were definitely a dorkier team, exemplified by Bird's blond Afro-mullet—which did make him a hero in the white-trash states—and McHale and Bill Walton whiffing on 47.8 percent of their high fives in 1986. That said, isn't it racist to assume blacks gravitated to L.A. and whites gravitated to Boston just because Spike Lee blasphemed Larry Legend in "Do the Right Thing"? The only thing we know for sure is that, besides Lakers fans, everyone despised that ninny Kareem. If anything, he transcended race and united the country.

Since Bill is taking the anti-racist stance here, I guess I can't argue that much. Although if there's a blacker player than Kurt Rambis, well...I haven't met him. Still, it bears pointing out that the Garden was infamous for being inhospitable towards black players. Hell, Bill Russell took decades to come to terms with his treatment in Boston and make peace with the city. I know this isn't exactly the point Bill is making, but it's worth pointing out that part of the reason the Celtics-Lakers got defined along racial lines was the conduct of the Boston crowds. I'm just saying.

Oh, and I don't get all the Kareem hatred. Maybe he was an ass back in the day - someone older than us will have to comment on that, I guess - but I fucking love Kareem. He's legitimately hilarious on The Colbert Report:

How can anybody hate a man who nails his line read of "Nazi Gold!" that perfectly?

Myth: Playing in a Garden with no AC in 1984, the Lakers needed oxygen masks to survive a humid Game 5.
Truth: Whoops. This one is true.

No AC? For a finals game? In 1984? Wow, Boston is sort of a horseshit town. I'd say "was sort of a horseshit town" but, uh, you know...

Myth: There's a glaring difference between Celtics home games and Lakers home games.
Truth: Not since Boston embraced air-conditioning—not to mention cheerleaders, luxury suites, T-shirt cannons, overpriced tickets and scoreboards costing more than $250—after closing the Garden, in 1995. Throw in the heavy hitters, and it's not really sooo different from a Lakers game. Well, except for two exceptions: Boston fans show up before tip-off (not during the second quarter); and they'd never bolt close games to beat traffic. Just sayin'.

I'm honestly just legitimately curious here. Is that even remotely true? Or is that just a myth constructed by Boston fans?

Myth: Half of the rivalry's appeal has to do with the magnificent clash of uniform colors.
Truth: It's actually closer to 75 percent. For stoners, watching a Celts-Lakers game in HD is like staring at a 50-foot fish tank.

Referencing stoners is never not funny. Look it up. +100 to Bill.

Myth: L.A. and Boston get all the breaks.
Truth: Au contraire! The Lakers somehow acquired Wilt and Kareem in the first two three-$5-bills-for-a-$100-bill trades in NBA history. They swapped a fading Gail Goodrich for two No. 1's (one of whom became Magic). They traded journeyman Don Ford for a future No. 1 (James Worthy). In 1995, free agency rules mysteriously changed one year before Shaq became a free agent, and L.A. just happened to stumble into a ton of cap space. And 2008 was the year of the Pau Gasol hijacking. Wait, that deserves its own myth.

I refuse to do the research necessary to refute this. But when I scanned Wikipedia, I did discover this sentence in the Boston Celtics article: "After the season, Auerbach completed what may be the most lopsided trade in NBA history." Sounds promising. Let's read on...

Auerbach had always been a fan of stockpiling draft picks, so even after the success of 1979–80 the Celtics had both the 1st and 13th picks in the 1980 NBA Draft leftover from the M. L. Carr trade. Auerbach saw an opportunity to improve the team immediately, sending the two picks to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for center Robert Parish and the Warriors first round pick, the 3rd overall. With the draft pick, Auerbach selected University of Minnesota power forward Kevin McHale. With these three future Hall of Famers on the team the Celtics had a core in place to become a dominant team in the NBA.

None of that's fishy, of course, but it seems ridiculous that LA catches all the breaks because it always seems to get good players while Boston is just congratulated for making smart moves. Seriously, that's all this really comes down to. Maybe a few lucky trades or whatever, but otherwise? Eh, they're just two historically good organizations, and that's it.

Myth: L.A. and Boston were reborn this season with two legal megadeals.
Truth: At least the Celts gave up Al Jefferson for KG. How was the Gasol trade legal? If I kill my mailman and no one ever finds out, does that make it legal? Jerry West's old team (Memphis) gift-wrapped its best player for the team that once employed West for 40 years, taking back a pupu platter (Kwame Brown, a third-string guard and two crappy picks). This happened even though the Lakers' season would have been over without a center. Had this trade taken place in a fantasy league, it would have led to three weeks of vicious e-mails, crumbled friendships, guys quitting and maybe even a fistfight. In the NBA, it led to the Lakers being presented the 2008 Western Conference trophy by...yup, a crying Jerry West. The NBA, where chicanery happens.

Again, I think anyone with a functioning cerebral cortex can probably figure out that the Gasol trade, while lopsided, was no more fishy than the Garnett and Allen deals. Oh, and I love the blatant conspiracy-baiting of calling the Grizzlies "Jerry West's old team", as though he made some cloak-and-dagger call to make them give up their franchise's best player. Especially when Minnesota's current GM might have a Boston loyalty or two. But then, I don't for a second think Kevin McHale would trade away Kevin Garnett just to help out his old team as part of some massive rig-it-for-Boston conspiracy. You know why I don't think that? Because I'm not fourteen.

And on that note...Micklewhite OUT!!!

(OK, maybe I am fourteen. But only a little.)

1 comment:

Archie Micklewhite said...

Oh, by the way, in case anyone wants to quibble over my Paxson/Kerr points, I am aware that it was technically Toni Kukoc who had the absolute last shot back in 1997, and I certainly would never argue either Paxson or Kerr were the reason the Bulls won. My only point is that it doesn't automatically make a team stupid if a role player happens to have the opportunity for a game-winning shot.