Good thing I’m not a Lakers fan because the wise guys around town are now starting to refer to the locals’ defeat against the who-are-they Mavericks as the Mother’s Day Meltdown — which is what you call a game where the reining NBA champs blow a game — and a series finale — by more than 30 points, and where two of their starters are sent to the locker room after committing flagrant fouls. An old pal in the Valley is probably even now grinding his teeth; I will not call him.
But then it’s not a mentally challenging game anyhow: ten guys in their underwear and sneakers running up and down a wood floor, throwing a large ball through a hoop. Nothing there to like, whatsoever.
Still, prior to Sunday there was something to regard: the team was the only winner in a city of millions in nearly a decade. Otherwise, its pathetic sibling is constantly embarrassing, both baseball teams have run out of excuses, our hockey teams have always skated on thin ice, and even the college teams draw a blank. Happily, the good people of L.A. have consistently refused to provide a home for a professional football team for at least 15 years and more. No need for still more grief from that genre.
So does it matter? Need we aspire to being known as Titletown, U.S.A.? Can’t we just settle for mediocrity in sports? Can’t the city that has foisted “Dancing With the Stars” and “The Bachelor” on a weary nation be happy with third place?
I rather like it. To me, it just makes good sense and is decidedly more civil. (Back to the Lakers: Remember how last June the thugs tore up sections of downtown as they put their shoulders into “celebrating” a championship? And last month how they beat the shit out of a guy who had the temerity to sport the colors of an opposing team at Chavez Ravine?) There’s a calmness to never reaching the pinnacle of the games that boys play that feeds that wonderful hope of “wait ’til next year.”
You’ve heard it before: So-and-so was a great hitter. To bad he never won the World Series (Dodger Andre Ethier, great hitter and master spitter, comes to mind, especially if he fails to be traded). So-and-so was a fabulous quarter back, but he never won a Super Bowl. But does that really diminish them, along with the exploits of countless other players who excelled?
I think one of those bottom lines here is a lack of interest in the games themselves. This is, after all, the city that seemingly invented showing up at Dodger Stadium just in time to catch the third inning and then heading for the parking lot at the bottom of the seventh. And now, of course, attendance has been reduced by nearly half as the Dodgers start their annual August fade two months early. I just happen to be one of those weird types who actually likes to be there well before the first pitch is thrown, but I’m usually in slight company.
So I guess what I’d like to see here is loyalty based on love of the game, which is hardly the same thing as endless frustration over not carrying home the trophy. Sorta like the loyalty of Cubs fans, or the Red Sox — who to date have not played to an empty seat for more than 650 games — or the Knicks or the Sacramento Kings, who recently went to court to keep their hapless team in town. And more, fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who built a new stadium to retain a baseball franchise in the Steel City for a team that hasn’t hung out World Series bunting in years.
As the Lakers’ trophy from last year gathers dust — along with the aging collection of the Dodgers’, Angels’ et al — it’s worth remembering that Perfection is the Enemy of Excellence.