Sports rivalries are intense and it is common for fans to ‘hate’ rival teams. On a recent visit to Boston, one of the first things I saw was a woman wearing a T-shirt that proclaimed “ JETER SUCKS”. The feeling is mutual. In certain New York City watering holes it is inviting trouble to identify yourself as a Red Sox fan. A woman visitor to N. Y. C wearing a Red Sox Shirt was walking past one of these bars when a woman patron rushed out and challenged her to a fight ! It is also routine for fans to get on their rivals message boards and disparage their teams.
By now , I am accustomed to such pugnacious behavior from fans though I don’t condone it. What surprises me is that sportswriters who one expects to be objective seem to hate as much as the most rabid fan . The latest examples of these are the articles by T. J. Simers in the Los Angeles Times and Steve Aschbruner in Sports Illustrated.
In a Sports Illustrated article titled ” The Pieces fell into Place for the Lakers”, Aschbruner writes ” This year’s edition of the Lakers was remarkably fortunate” and goes on to list seven instances of their good fortune. A couple of the points he makes are valid but the others are not. Here is a list of his points with my comments in italics.
* The Utah Jazz releasing Derek Fisher from his contract so that his 11 month old daughter, Tatum, could be treated for the cancer in her eye. Fisher was initially going to seek the medical treatment for Tatum in New York but was able to find it nearer home in L.A. Two weeks later he signed a three year, $ 14 million contract with the Lakers and the rest you know. Yes, that was indeed lucky for the Lakers. All credit to the late Larry Miller, owner of the Utah Jazz , who released Fisher unconditionally . Otherwise, Fisher would not be around to provide the veteran presence and clutch three point shooting that was an integral part of the Lakers championship run.
*The Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace ‘donating’ Pau Gasol to the Lakers. Yes, this was a wonderful trade for the Lakers . Not only did they acquire a player who will be a lynchpin for the next several years but they were able to get rid of Kwame Brown, an underachiever wherever he has been. However, I prefer to think of this as just another one of those shrewd trades that happen from time to time. Just like the Celtics acquisition of Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves. I can’t even remember whom they gave up in return. Rather than consider the Gasol trade a piece of luck, I prefer to think of it as a testament to Laker GM Mitch Kupchak’s canniness. Also, if Marc Gasol , Pau’s younger brother continues to develop in Memphis, the trade may not look quite so one -sided in the years to come.
*Trevor Ariza’s availability. At the time of the trade, Ariza did not have an outside shot and was considered an offensive liability inspite of his defensive prowess. He developed his three point shooting after he was traded to the Lakers. Give credit to Kupchak for recognizing his potential , to Phil Jackson for enabling him to develop it and to Ariza for his work ethic.
*Yao Ming’s fractured foot. Injuries are a part of the game . I could argue that if it hadn’t been for Andrew Bynum breaking his foot last year, the Lakers might have won a title last year and 2009 would have been a repeat.
*Kevin Garnett’s strained knee. See above. Besides, even with a healthy Garnett, I doubt that the Celtics would have been able to defeat these Lakers. This is a tougher Laker team than last year’s runner-up.
* Jameer Nelson’s return to the Orlando line-up. Yes, it did disrupt the Magic rotation but I look at it as a mistake on the part of the Magic brain trust.
* Mitch Kupchak’s refusal to panic ( and give in to Kobe Bryant’s demands for a trade and to trade away Andrew Bynum.) Rather than think of it as a piece of luck, give the much maligned Kupchak credit for his guts in sticking to his guns.
At least Aschbruner is not malicious and does maintain a semblance of objectivity when he calls the Lakers lucky and good. On the other hand T.J. Simers’ article headlined ” Idolatry of the Lakers is ludicrous” is just plain nasty and totally, totally negative.Simers writes that the Laker players are a bunch of greedy, selfish players who care nothing for the city and are concerned only about themselves. Rather than write about their skills and determination, he takes potshots at them for a variety of reasons. He decries L.A fans for their fanatical devotion and suggests that there should not be a victory parade in Los Angeles because of the economic down turn. Simers’ article might not be out of place in the Boston Globe but Simers writes for the Los Angeles Times ! Go figure ! The article is so far out in left field that there is no point in attempting to rebut it.
Some teams, more than others, seem to attract more criticsm and hate than others. The Yankees are one example of such a team; the Lakers are another. Is it that they are from the big city ? Is it that they overspend in signing their players ? Is it that they are more successful ? Whatever the reason, I am not going to allow such sourpuss critics to rain on my parade. Go Lakers !!