Dear Boston Celtics:
Speaking on behalf of all the clear-thinking fans of the City of the Angels, I would like to cordially invite you to play the Lakers in the NBA championship series.
In other words, I am urging and encouraging you to beat the Philadelphia 76ers, as quickly and as ruthlessly as possible, so we can all get down to business.
Frankly, folks out here in Los Angeles don’t much like you guys. We don’t like your style of play, your attitude, your former general manager, your Celtic tradition, your ugly green shoes, your fans, that grimy garage you call an arena, or the gouged-up termite condo you call a playing floor.
So why do we want you to play the Lakers in the final series? Because we love to hate you. Also because the world will not spin properly on its axis until something is done to balance out the years of Laker suffering at the hands of the Celtics.
I’m not a fan anymore, understand. I am a detached, professional observer of the sporting scene.
However, it is difficult to bury the trauma of my childhood, growing up a Laker fan during an era when losing to the Celtics in the NBA finals was an annual event, like a dental checkup or an acne attack the day of the homecoming dance.
Every time I see a parquet wood floor in someone’s rumpus room, I flash back painfully to a black-and-white vision of Frank Selvy missing that baseline jumper in 1962.
Only recently, after years of psychoanalysis, have I been able to eat New England clam chowder or shake hands with anyone named Red.
For old times’ sake, then, a lot of us out here would like to see the Celtics and Lakers mix it up one more time. Also for new times’ sake, like last season, when the series was so, well . . . so spirited.
Now and then I hear someone out here say something really stupid, such as: “I hope the 76ers beat the Celtics, because the Lakers match up better against the 76ers.”
What are we talking about here, socks in the laundry? We’re talking about tradition, pride, revenge, new characters in a classic old play.
Celtics vs. Lakers isn’t a series you analyze, it’s a series you feel in your gut.
Rest assured that the fans out here--with the exception of a few silly analysts who think in terms of matchups--want the Lakers to have another crack at the Celtics.
To tell you the truth, it’s not just the fans. The Lakers themselves want you guys. For public consumption, they’ll say such things as, “We don’t care whether the Celtics or Sixers win, whichever team wins that series will be the best representatives of the East.”
Baloney. The Lakers want you.
They probably wouldn’t admit that even to me, one of their closest confidants, but they have a score to settle. I guarantee you, they’ve given it a lot of thought. They’ve talked about it during long, lonely, midnight bus rides out there on the NBA trail.
How can the Lakers ever wipe out the stigma of crumbling after Kevin McHale’s tackle of Kurt Rambis--the cheap shot heard round the world--if they play the 76ers?
How can James Worthy erase the memory of that bad pass? How can Magic Johnson atone for his sins, if the Celtics don’t show up?
By the way, I would appreciate it if you guys don’t mention this letter to the 76ers. If Philly should somehow beat you in the Eastern playoffs, this letter, in the wrong hands, could have nasty ramifications.
It could actually incense and inspire the 76ers, and I wouldn’t want to have that kind of guilt on my head. Besides, I wouldn’t want to hurt the 76ers’ feelings, make them feel they are unwanted in the finals, even though they are.
They are decent guys, I must say, which is one reason a 76er-Laker series wouldn’t be as much fun as Los Angeles vs. Boston. Who wants to see Dr. J, the world’s nicest athlete, beaten in a championship series?
Also, the Lakers still have a series to win before reaching the finals themselves, even if it is only against the Denver Nuggets.
Again, don’t mention this to the Nuggets, who have hearts of gold and a lovable coach and deserve a better fate then to be tied up and fed to the Laker buzz saw on a conveyor belt.
Let’s just keep this between you guys and me, a friendly reminder, that if your series with Philly gets tough and you need a little added inspiration, there are some old friends waiting for you out here on the coast.
We’ll leave the porch light on and the front door open.