When I moved to Los Angeles from my native Boston, the Red Sox hadn’t won a World Series in 84 years, the Patriots were the definition of an average NFL team, the Celtics were mired in the Rick Pitino era, and the Bruins were, well, about the same as they are now: cheap and bad.
Yes, I’ve managed to be on the left coast for what will probably go down in history as the pinnacle of Boston sports. After Tuesday night it made six championships that I’ve missed. Such is life when you follow your dreams of being a writer to Los Angeles and end up a secretary who can’t afford plane travel.
But this spring, for the first time, I had the chance to experience a Boston sports championship series firsthand. The Celtics met the Lakers and my two sporting locales were united in a battle for the NBA’s ultimate prize.
I don’t have thousands of dollars or connections to see a game in person, and as a blogger I don’t have any media credentials to get any kind of access. No, I’m just a Celtics fan in Lakers land; forced to watch the games on the closest TV while wearing my Celtics garb with pride in a sea of Lakers car flags and Kobe jerseys.
Each game was an experience unto itself, whether I was watching at work in between “rolling calls” or “skedding” as we assistants/secretaries call it, or in the comfort of my own home on the HDTV my Lakers-loving friend Hondro bestowed upon me in April. The highlights of the past two weeks were as follows…
The day before the series started I was listening to L.A.sports radio on the way home from another soul-crushing day of secretary work. In an attempt to rip off Howard Stern, the trying-way-too-hard hosts sent a lackey to Sonny McLeans, a Boston bar in Santa Monica. They told the minion to yell such gems as “Boston sucks” and “Kobe rules”. And I can’t get work as a writer…
What they didn’t see coming was that it was trivia night so no one was paying any attention to the idiot trying to stir the pot. Finally they had their boy talk to one of the bartenders named Sam who quickly shut up the hosts with the kind of wit you’d expect from a bartender who should be dubbed the Ambassador of Boston Sports Nation West.
It was also the first time I’ve seen an “ambush interviewer” actually have the tables turned on him and look dumber than the people they were trying to accost. Needless to say the whole charade completely backfired and I started to understand why L.A. sports fans, and their sports radio hosts, get no respect.
The day of Game One, inspired by the hacks on the radio the night before, I donned my Larry Bird t-shirt into the office as a sign of civil disobedience toward my unappreciative Lakers-fan boss. When I got into the office he told me to take it off, warning that the Celtics were about to be swept by the Lakers. Not so fast bossy boss. Maybe instead of making ill-advised predictions he should’ve been thinking about the Christmas bonus and birthday present I’m still waiting for.
He wasn’t quite so cocky after Games One and Two. Of course, in true Lakers fan fashion, he suddenly got his confidence back after the Lake Show won Game Three, prompting him to place a call into his “ticket guy” to get him into Game Five.
After the Celtics pulled off the greatest comeback in NBA playoff history in Game Four he cancelled that request. Or, more specifically, he had me cancel it. That’s my job. That’s what I do. I’m a secretary.
For Game Two, Hondro and I decided to hit up a “Lakers Bar”. We figured we should get there early to make sure we got a good seat and I was a bit worried when we arrived a mere half-hour before tip off.
However the bar was empty. They didn’t even have their wait staff working yet. We set up shop at the best table in the house and waited, perusing menus of overpriced drinks and pondering how many five-dollar tacos we could take down.
When our waiter and his bad attitude finally showed up we tried to order a pitcher of beer only to be rebuffed. Mr. Happy told us they only offered margaritas by the pitcher despite have over fifteen beers on tap. I guess that keeps things “high-class” at the Laker bar.
True to form, Lakers fans started to trickle in around the second quarter. By half time it was still so dead we decided it would be more fun watching the game back at home where there was actually an atmosphere. Thus ended my first ever “Lakers Bar” experience.
As I walked over to Hondro’s at halftime of Game Three, I ran into his building manager, wearing a Kobe jersey and finishing off the last of a smoke. As we got into the elevator I tried to make small talk. “A little tight at halftime, huh?” I asked. He looked up at me with a blank stare as if I’d just asked him something that was not directly related to what he was wearing.
Finally he processed it, and said “yeah…do you live here?” Remember, he was the building’s manager. I told him I didn’t and he turned his attention to his Sidekick. I exited the elevator as the doors opened, still unsure if he was even aware that the Lakers were actually playing in the NBA Finals at that moment.
During Game Four, as the Celtics were pulling off the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history, a friend of Hondro’s girlfriend shocked me with her lack of sports acumen. I have two sisters in that live in South Boston about the same age as this girl, who was born and raised in L.A., so I know that there are plenty of girls who know how to watch sports. This girl wasn’t one of them.
Some excerpts from her color commentary as the Lakers were collapsing: “Why are they losing? They’re playing at home”, “They’re so stupid”, and my personal favorite “They don’t even want to be on the Lakers anymore”.
When she asked me if I was from “Celtics Land” I responded just with a simple ‘yes’. I correctly assumed she didn’t know where Celtics Land actually was. When she asked I told her Boston, secretly wondering if she knew Boston was in Massachusetts on the East Coast of the United States. I’m still not sure she did.
In Game Five, again in the Lakers-friendly confines of Hondro’s abode, I thought I had converted another supposed Lakers fan-girl into a Celtics fan after I noticed she was cheering after every Boston bucket. But I was wrong. Turns out she was just a fan of the “swish” sound regardless of which team made the basket.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, people from L.A. LOVE Kobe Bryant. Blindly. Unconditionally. And it’s annoying. Almost as annoying how every single thing Kobe does gets compared to Michael Jordan.
“Michael Jordan never would’ve held his daughters like that in a post-game press conference”. “His Airness would never wipe his butt back-to-front”. Seriously, what’s with the endless comparisons? Kobe’s good. But I think this Finals proves, he’s not MJ good.
Poor Hondro still had the courage to watch the second half of Game Six at my Celtics-friendly apartment. He took it like a man and I tried not to gloat, though it was tough since we all basically knew the game was over an hour before it actually ended. When the final horn sounded I was happy the Celtics had clinched their 17th title, but a bit sad that there would be no more basketball, and no more run-ins with Lakers Nation (if you can even call it that).
On Wednesday morning I saw no Lakers flags flying from the widows of the cars I passed on my way into work. There was no mention of anything basketball related from the boss. In fact the only thing I heard from any Lakers fans was an email from Hondro with the slightly homoerotic picture of Glen “Big Baby” Davis with the championship trophy. Touche, Hondro. Touche.
There isn’t a fog of depression hanging over the city like the one that hung over Bostonafter the 1986 World Series or Super Bowl XLII. Win or lose, it just doesn’t seem to matter as much here as it does for Bostonians. And that’s why I’ll remain a Boston sports fan for life.
Because the true fun of being a sports fan is letting it matter to you.
Mike Dussault can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.