|Alec and David, Grottaferrata, Italy|
The confessional’s illuminated by a flickering screen, it’s been two weeks since my last post. A confluence of events pulls like the tide - the game might still be my haven but the appetite to write about it is supplanted by a churning washtub of houses and cars, the edge of nuclear disaster and jet fighters over Libya. A friend remarks on deja vu and it’s true, past generations like a projector in reverse, the discotheque bombing in Berlin and the disaster at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and four decades of botched attempts on Gaddafi’s life. The public’s attention sputters to life and networks swarm with increased tactile stimulation, obscuring the sun.
The Lakers are 12-1 since the break, on a terminator mission and not really bothered by odd crackling sparks and hiccups. Minnesota has the temerity to launch a sustained offensive on Friday, retreating only after Michael Beasley is crushed under the basket by Andrew Bynum. The offending giant is tossed amid earnest prostrations by fans and media types - "that was unacceptable behavior!" The calls for gentlemanly decorum are beginning to puzzle me but I’m temporarily buoyed by Coach Dave Miller’s clarion twitter-calls, "Get out of my paint!"
The weekend proceeds in bits and pieces, I click past Anderson Cooper’s furrowed brow and find college brackets and word of Bynum’s two-game suspension. Some mutter darkly about Stern conspiracies but most seem absorbed with the notion that there’s no place in the game for this sort of thing. Not so long ago, the same critics clamored for an enforcer to protect the rim. I doubt Bynum premeditated anything that could cause an injury - he simply acted in the moment and I’m okay with that. It’s nothing Oakley or Rodman or Alonzo or Deke wouldn’t have done. In ‘Mindgames’, Roland Lazenby recounts how Phil Jackson once threw a backwards elbow and broke Jerry West’s nose coming off the court - after the game was over.
I’ve been in a funk all week as I always am this particular time of year - I remember why on Sunday morning - it’s my older brother’s birthday, gone these many years but it never really leaves you. We played guitar together in bands long ago. Some retro punks in Italy recorded an obscure old song of our’s, mailed the disc last week. Alec’s walking guitar line lives again, and it touches me a way I can’t describe. Two of the Italians are also brothers, they understand. I told them how my family lived a year in Grottaferrata, a lifetime ago. Crazy artist parents.
I’m looking through a box for old tax returns and find Staples Center game notes, handed out for the 2000 Western Conference Finals - Game 7 against Portland. One of the best I’ve ever seen live or otherwise. Of the 24 players listed, only four are in the game today. Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal. Many look to a Lakers/Celtics rematch this year and if it happens, the four will be united in one more battle. Darkness falls and it’s Lakers vs. Portland once again, this one a possible first round preview. It’s an ugly game, the switch is old and rusty but it clicks on late, Bryant redeems a night of aging, injured misfires with a final burst of incendiary effort - screaming after he nails a fade-away jumper, pulling his jersey over his head as he runs down court. They've clinched the Pacific Division.
Another day has passed, I’m typing and my old pooch has a tennis ball in his mouth with a hopeful look. I take him out one last time, the moon’s been crazy big lately, it looks like an old black and white horror movie with clouds racing overhead. Any ball can be Otis’s best friend, carried around with great reverence and he’ll insist on bringing it out with him of course, promptly abandoning it as he marks every square foot of the field, sniffing and staring off into the distance with a confused look on his face. Old dog. He doesn’t seem to miss the thing until he’s back inside, staring at me once again. I don’t know, buddy, I wasn’t watching what you did with it. My mind was other places.