The gutty Denver Nuggets took the Lakers to seven games, and a team finally showed up to play, thanks in no small part to the return of Metta World Peace. Two days later, the Lakers rolled into Chesapeake Energy Arena and were resolutely flattened. Was it a surprise? It shouldn’t have been. OKC was coming off a lengthy rest, they were playing at home, and had a bitter taste in their mouths from their last meeting – the Peace/Harden affair.
And so, one of the hottest teams in the NBA all season long, blitzed one that has been maddeningly inconsistent. Shocking. I was casually reading the epitaphs on twitter after the game. It began with fans’ own disappointment and after many had stumbled away, was taken up by other observers of the game - the sheer unfettered delight that begins at a trickle and soon flows unabated. Have you ever seen ‘The Shining’, the elevator doors and the blood?
A festival of court jesters and fire jugglers, bombastic royalty and simpering advisers, a crowd drunken on mead and mutton, intoxicated by the prospect of drawing and quartering a team after a blowout loss in enemy territory. Would the same wanton glee exist if the tables had turned? Would there be the same level of evisceration? You have already answered that.
Apart from last year’s decision-fueled Heat, there is rarely a team that draws more righteous scorn than the Lakers – sports’ version of the Star Chamber. Not so much from the ordinary fan, but those who write and comment and tweet and dissect the game, those who view fandom as pure and best reserved for minor market teams whose Horatio Alger dreams are inevitably dashed by contemptible spoilers who buy their way to glory, snatching crumbs from the mouths of hungry children.
The loathing has to exist. Society needs its villains, all the better if they represent a shady pedestal to topple, better yet if you can spend millions to make a starlet clean up body parts in a morgue. Debate becomes amorphous, like trying to pick up a tiny ball of mercury in a paper cup. It’s the eternal case of “well we don’t mean you – we like you because you’re not like them.” Bullshit, I am them.
What if they’re right? There is truth to all things and it may just be that a subjective view from one fan can’t compete against the damning chorus line. The epic arm wrassle will ultimately break your will or your arm. And so, y’all win - we are who you say we are. As fans, as observers, as writers, as an organization. As players and as a city, and as those who don’t live anywhere near the city but are guilty by association.
We are entitled, we are spoiled and we have cards up every sleeve. We are better than you and we will ruin your dreams. It has nothing to do with numbers, nothing to do with effort, it has nothing to do with the heart of a champion. It is preordained and purchased with filthy lucre. The handle of my axe is made of gold I say, party me to your sister. We will filch from your mothers’ purses. We know dark magic. We laugh at you behind your backs and if we don’t win this time, we will again – many times over.
Tomorrow night there will be another game in Oklahoma City. Ten young men in polyester uniforms will step out onto a hardwood floor under banks of blinding white light. They will advance from one end of the floor to the other. Some will be playing with injuries, some will become injured as you watch. Each side will attempt to put a large ball into an impossibly small basket, more times than the other side, and there will be sections of seconds and minutes in which nothing else matters. And at the end of the game, one team will have won.
In the days before internet I would walk to the Stella Maris playground down the street. And I would find patched asphalt ribbons to launch unlikely shots from, for no other reason than their existence as markers. They still exist, in the time of the game itself – eternal, and apart from judgment.