The Re-Birth of a Champion: When Sports and Life Overlap, Part Two
A year and one day ago, my son, Elijah William, was born. After three long days in the hospital, we brought little Eli home on the night of game six of the NBA Finals, the culminating 48 minutes of a renewed rivalry between the league's most storied franchises, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics.
And what a historic night it was. The Celtics reclaimed their glory after a long hiatus, KG's tears and screams actually made sense, Doc Rivers completed his transformation from goat to hero, and David Stern was caught smiling. The NBA was officially back.
And I was able to hold my newborn to my chest while lounging in my favorite leather chair.
It was the kind of stuff that makes cool people smoke cigars.
Since I am not cool, however, I did the one thing any sensible Average Joe would do: I opened my laptop and bared my soul, much as I am doing now.
For this year's Finals ended in a fitting fashion as far as my son is concerned. As the Lakers began to blow open the game—on Orlando's court, no less—Eli saw the writing on the wall and headed for bed early.
When the game's final minute approached—and the Lakers' smiles got wider and wider—the cynic in me crept to the surface, because I must confess, fellow droogs, and there may be some irony in this statement, but here goes anyway: I hate the league and the same scene that plays out every June.
Blame it on the Internet or whatever else makes you feel happy inside—I simply know too much about these newly crowned NBA Champions to be happy for them. Perhaps cynicism has permanently taken residence in my heart when it comes to professional sports, but the recycled stories—just with different faces, year after year after year—well, they have made me jaded.
It was hard for me to watch Kobe and Co. claim yet another NBA Championship. I've quite frankly grown weary of the arrogance and entitlement that oozes out of the pores of so many players and coaches, and with apologies to Derek Fisher—a stand-up guy by anyone's account—I don't want my son to idolize these type of men, yet I suspect he will, much like I did as a child.
A year ago, I wrote that the Larry O'Brien trophy meant nothing, and I still believe that is the case—just in a much different sense. Because, as I watched the dysfunctional Lakers celebrate, the scene just didn't fit the description coach Phil Jackson gave it when he called on Cervantes' now cliched slogan of the journey being better than the Inn. This from the same Laker coach who was not long ago up to his neck in back-biting and bitterness with players and administration.
The true re-birth was not the Lakers' return to the top but instead the Orlando Magic's improbable run to the Finals, and more importantly, their humble acceptance of defeat—with the understanding of a caveat several Magic players pointed out.
Mr. X-Factor himself, Mickael Pietrus astutely stated, "The Lakers played very well, and we hope to do the same thing they did next year. They went to the NBA Finals and lost last year...we will work hard this offseason and want to become champions."
Jameer Nelson piggybacked on his teammate's thoughts, insisting that “you got to take something from this and come back stronger."
No twisted LeBron logic, no silly guarantees—just a simple message to work harder and pick up where they left off.
Finally, in the words of the Magic's big man and future of the franchise, Dwight Howard: “It does hurt, but...you can learn a lot from losing. Sometimes you've got to lose to win.”
Now that's a lesson I hope my son can learn.
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