Stuart White is a freelance writer living in the Pacific Northwest. His collaborative humor blog can be found at Wheel of Why.
When people ask me why I waste my time following sports, I say the main draw is the irrational hatred component. I could name you the teams I truly like on one polydactyly hand. The teams I hate, on the other hand? For that you’re going to need something akin to the oubliette from Labyrinth. Yeah, root-root-rooting for the home team is fun and all, but jeering a despised opponent is just as satisfying. Is it a tad silly to feel visceral reactions to a sports team composed of people I don’t know and will never meet? Sure. It’s addicting, though, and a difficult habit to kick.
Currently, the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Lakers are in contention for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. While it sickens me to have to cheer for Utah (I won’t soon forget John Stockton’s shot that prevented one of my childhood icons, Charles Barkley, from his final opportunity for a ring), there are few finer pleasures in life than hoping the Lakers crash and burn. Their purple-and-gold uniforms and their insufferable fans fill me with unspeakable rage, which I will now speak about.
My hatred for the Lakers is “childish,” sure, because I started when I was a child. As a center with the skills, at best, of a far-sighted ostrich, I was forced into countless Mikan drills during basketball practice. You wanna know who always had fun practices with lots of dainty, catch-and-shoot jumpers? The goddamn guards. You wanna know who was stuck under the basket, nauseated from vertigo and filled with dislike for his abnormal, freak size? Me. Yeah, I know George Mikan played for the Lakers back in the Minneapolis days, but my dislike of all things lake-related, aside from the Land O’ Lakes butter packages that you could fold into a sexy picture, was set from then on.
Growing up, the hate just flowed through me. Of course, it culminated in 2000 NBA Playoffs against my Portland Trail Blazers, which for me will always be remembered as the time when I learned that whatever higher power may exist is definitely not benevolent or loving. Ever since that travesty, there has been little to get excited about as a Blazers fan besides praying that the franchise will finally draft someone with adamantium knees. Every time I see that stupid highlight of Shaq’s gaping maw as he runs down the court, fingers pointed up in elation, I want to set buildings on fire a la Carol/Cheryl. I can never forgive the Lakers for the pain I’ve suffered since that fateful seventh game, nor for the amount of arson charges I’ve accrued.
While Portland’s 2013 season was far from spectacular, I’ve felt immense pleasure tracking the struggling Lakers. Knowing their super-team may fall short of the playoffs brings out some seriously sinister cackles. After the firing of Mike Brown, it’s been delightful watching the Lakers continue to play an abysmal brand of basketball. Evidently, just throwing a bunch of incongruous people together and hoping for the best is an equally bad basketball strategy as it is a bad orgy strategy.
I suppose Steve Nash is kinda cool because he has soccer skills, but besides him the team is full of unlikable players. I don’t know how someone wakes up in the morning and says, with a straight face, “Ya know, I’m really excited to root for Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace.” That doesn’t even take into account Kobe, who I’d talk more trash about but (a) he’s an all-time great player and (b) I’m afraid he may come to my room go all vampire on my jugular with his insane under-bite.
Call me a hater if you want; I’m unapologetic about my loyalties and my loathing. It may be petty of me to cheer so hard against a team, but I’m honest enough to admit that a lot of it stems from knowing my team has no chance of being a title-contender anytime soon (unless a scientist can clone circa-2009 Brandon Roy or someone finally teachers LaMarcus Aldridge to use his left hand. Maybe he could do some Mikan drills?).
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