Making a Case for East Is Positively Exhausting

I have been asked by the NBA and Peacock Network to put together an Eastern Conference motivational packet for the upcoming finals.


Because Anthony Robbins is apparently off somewhere getting his teeth buffed and the NBA needs a 4-0 sweep as much as NBC needs to take another meeting with Vince McMahon.

In case you missed it, these NBA finals are over before they've started.

The Lakers, once from Minneapolis, are suddenly the team of 10,000 makes.

Never has a championship been so preordained. The French press is calling it phil accompli.

Sports Illustrated suggests any person thinking Philadelphia has a chance against the Lakers should "please refrain from operating heavy machinery until your head clears."

Undaunted, I have combed the annals of history, kept eyes peeled on Norman Vincent Peale while whistling Monty Python's paean "Bright Side of Life," in pursuit of reasons East should come West.

Realizing time is short, you 76ers will have to be sponges.

First, soak up these inspirational quotes.

1. "This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

--Winston Churchill, 1942, on the battle of Egypt.

Not quite sure how this equates to stopping Kobe Bryant on a breakaway, but the quote still raises goose bumps.

2. "Nothing is over until we decide it is. Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no."

--Bluto Blutarsky, in the movie "Animal House," upon hearing Dean Wormer was trying to dry-dock Delta House.

Bluto was no history major, but his gung-ho speech hangs over the beer keg in the frat house hall of fame.

3. "This may be the worst lineup in World Series history."

--NBC's Bob Costas said words to this effect about the Dodgers during the 1988 World Series against Oakland.

Manager Tom Lasorda and the boys were outraged and used the comments as motivation in a five-game win over the A's.

Good news: Costas is still with NBC and contributing to this year's NBA coverage. Hang on his every word. You never know.

Part II: Motivational Movies.

Study as many against-all-odds films as you can except for "Against All Odds."

Start with "Norma Rae" and "Erin Brockovich." These are not "chick flicks." You're thinking of "Thelma and Louise."

My drift: If Norma and Erin could stand up to bigger opponents, surely you professionals can suck it up against Shaq and Kobe.

"Hoosiers" should be kept on a video machine loop.

That, or "Miracle on Ice," which chronicles the story of the United States' gold-medal run in the 1980 Lake Placid Games.

Karl Malden isn't bad as Coach Herb Brooks.

Universal lessons can be taken from "The Bad News Bears," in which beer-guzzling Coach Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau) turns a hapless Little League squad into winners.

Don't bother with "The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training" or "The Bad News Bears Go to Japan."

I was going to highly recommend "Celtic Pride," but NBA Commissioner David Stern nixed the plan.

The 1996 movie is about two Celtic fans who kidnap fictional Utah Jazz star Lewis Scott before Game 7 of the NBA finals.

As if this series is going to go seven! (Oops, sorry).

Part III: historical precedent.

Need I remind anyone of these foregone conclusions:

* Dewey Beats Truman. Life lesson: Don't believe everything you read.

* Soviet basketball team. The Bucks thought the East was rigged? At the 1972 Munich Games, the underdog Russians handed the United States its first Olympic loss in men's basketball with a 51-50 win on Alexander Belov's buzzer beater.

Ask NBC's Doug Collins about it. He made two free throws to give Stars and Stripes the lead before officials allowed the Soviets to play best-out-of-three tries with the last three seconds.

* Super Bowl III. Joe Namath. Miami. Pool side. Girls, Girls, Girls. The Baltimore Colts were such overwhelming favorites against the New York Jets that, on the field before the game, Colt owner Carroll Rosenbloom invited Jet Coach Weeb Eubank to a postgame victory party.

Eubank said he had other plans. Jets won, 16-7.

* Miracle Mets. What was it with Baltimore and cockiness? The 1969 Orioles were loaded with all-stars Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer; the Mets boasted Ron Swoboda, Art Shamsky and Al Weis. Mets won it in five.

* Georgetown vs. Villanova, 1985 NCAA title game. Georgetown had an NBA farm team led by center Patrick Ewing. Villanova was seeded No. 8 and had 10 losses entering the tournament. Lesson: Anything can happen when you make shots. Villanova hit 22 of 28 field goals and stunned Georgetown, 66-64.

* Rulon Gardner plants Alexander Karelin. You talk about upsets. Karelin, the rogue Russian, had not lost an international Greco-Roman wrestling match in 15 years until the farm-boy Gardner cow-tipped him last summer to win Olympic gold at Sydney.

Get Gardner off the rubber-chicken tour and seat him court side close to a vendor.

There you have it. I've made copies of this memorandum in triplicate.

Lastly, Laker busters, remember Franklin Roosevelt said, "you have nothing to fear but fear itself."

Then again, FDR never knew Shaq.

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