The obvious: I’m a huge Lakers fan, as well as a huge Kobe Bryant fan. If you’re aware of how I first began blogging, you know this. With that said, let’s hope our venerable Editor-In-Chief, Matt Moore, is having a good day… if he isn’t, he probably won’t speak to me for a week because of this. Here goes nothing.
I’ve been a part of the ideological minority for most of my life. I’m a Mac user in a Windows world. I’m a Christian in a very hostile and increasingly secular society, but I’m also an intellectual in a Christian sub-culture that tends to frown on my thought process and the questions it leads to. I’m a moderate conservative who attended two of the most liberal colleges in the nation and, until very recently, was living in one of the biggest liberal hotbeds in the United States â€” all environments very hostile to conservatives, especially Christian conservatives. For that matter, I’m a conservative in a culture that is swinging decidedly left. Oh, and here’s one for you: I absolutely believe that global warming is real, but I absolutely don’t believe that it is a human-created problem.
I believe this is the part where you ridicule and insult me because I don’t believe what you do.
Here are a couple more for you: I’m a Lakers fan in a sports world that loves to hate the Lakers and their fans, and I’m a Kobe fan in a world still full of Kobe haters. And as many of “us” as there are, there are a lot more of “the rest of you” â€” and you don’t tend to play nicely with others us.
The one thing that all of the above have in common is that in each case, being a part of that group means suffering a constant onslaught of verbal affronts from the vocal majority. It means being continuously inundated from every direction with rhetoric that, aside from typically being untrue, is unwelcome and offensive to me.
As someone who has had plenty of experience as a member of ideological minorities, I can tell you this: It’s tiring. It wears on you, and it just gets old. Sooner or later, you just want to withdraw yourself from the conversation entirely, because you’re tired of fighting the world â€” and more than anything, you’re tired of everyone constantly attacking you, and the things you love.
So it is with the Lakers â€” in the media, among sports fans, and more than anything, throughout the blogosphere.
This is a game in which sometimes things go your way, and sometimes they don’t. Skill isn’t always everything; sometimes, you need to catch a break at the right time. When the Lakers catch a break, the blogosphere and a whole host of Lakers-hating basketball fans flood the interweb with rhetoric about injustice, favoritism, and conspiracy theories. But when their opponents catch a break, mum’s the word.
As a case in point, last year’s final game between the Lakers and the Warriors was a game in which the Lakers caught a break. After Baron Davis sent the game to overtime, Derek Fisher and Monta Ellis got tangled up, and Fisher hit the floor. Ellis was charged with an offensive foul, and a chance for the Warriors to force a second overtime turned into two Kobe Bryant free throws to end the game.
YouTube replays showed that Ellis had not committed a foul. If anything, the foul had been on Fisher.
Fast forward to Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals between the Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs. As time expired, Brent Barry heaved a desperation shot from half court that, had it gone in, would have won the game. Derek Fisher, caught in the air after biting on one of Barry’s fakes, came down on Barry as he leaned around to get the shot off. No foul was called, the shot missed, and the Spurs lost the game. It was the correct call for a number of reasons, but that didn’t seem to matter.
As a general rule â€” one with notable exceptions, of course â€” bloggers are snarky, superior, and condescending. Above all, and more than any other subset of American culture that I can think of, the sports blogger has completely mastered the rhetorical arts of righteous indignation and moral outrage. They are pretentious and hypocritical, often lambasting their critics for the very things of which they are themselves so frequently guilty.
But they’re funny, witty, and clever. And more than anything, they’re preaching to the choir. Their audience is one that shares their bias, their likes and dislikes. Therein lies their appeal â€” they have found their niche.
In both of the examples above, bloggers and the fanbases they represent were predictably true to form. Fans across the internet were livid. Blog posts impuning the league and condemning the supposed preferential treatment shown to the Lakers popped up all over the web. The old conspiracy theories were dusted off, and righteous indignation and moral outrage flowed like water.
Golden State had become a blogger favorite. If the Warriors miss the playoffs by one game, they said, it will be because of the refs pro-Lakers bias. In the case of San Antonio, a team so widely disliked that only the Lakers could turn sympathy towards them, many bloggers still like to mention that playoff series as though it should come with an asterisk attached
“That’s not going to get called in the Western Conference finals,” Barry said. “Maybe in the regular season. But that call shouldn’t be called in the Western Conference finals.”
“An official will tell you the game is called at the end of the game exactly like it is during the meat of the game, and thatâ€™s their story and they are going to stand by it,” said Popovich. â€œIn reality, I donâ€™t think thatâ€™s true, and I could give a thousand examples that things are called differently down the stretch, where I think most referees feel, and I agree with them, that things need to be more definitive before you are going to make a call. A referee is going to be hesitant to make a call that can decide a game at the end of the game unless it is really either gross or obvious. Thatâ€™s why I said that if I was an official I would not have called that a foul last night.â€
Time and time again, bloggers have insisted that at the end of games â€” especially important games â€” the officials should “let them play,” even in many cases where there is a legitimate foul, for fear of the referees deciding the game. In fact, barely a month earlier, the internet had erupted in outrage over just such a situation. But this time, the popular opinion was that the foul should not have been called, because of the context.
How quickly things change when the Lakers are involved.
Sick and Tired
I generally try to keep my own righteous indignation and moral outrage to myself. Why? Because apparently, the fact that my team wins a lot precludes me from any right to rant, or even to be upset about, well, anything (can you tell that I’m expecting my share of “Oh, you poor poor Lakers fan, it must suck to be you!” comments?). But also because I don’t enjoy it from others, so unless Matt comes looking for it via Gmail chat, I simply put my rant over whatever injustice has just occurred on repeat in my head, and never let it out. I do my best to keep it out of my writing, and I often come around to see the other side of things.
But I’m sick and tired of hearing everyone bitch and moan only when the Lakers get a break, but not when they get a raw deal. So now you get my self-righteous rant. Ironic, no?
In a recent loss to the Spurs, Roger Mason hit a two-pointer from the left corner to tie the game with only a few ticks left on the clock. Feeling Derek Fisher behind him, he kicked his legs and leaned off balance as he shot â€” and got a whistle on a touch foul that simply should not have been called.
On the other end of the court, Trevor Ariza drove into the paint and put up a shot, absorbing significantly more contact than Mason had. But instead of free throws, Ariza was called for traveling. Replays revealed that there was no travel.
Two days ago, the Lakers again lost, this time to the Bobcats. But with 39 seconds remaining in the first overtime period, the Lakers were up by three. That’s when Kobe Bryant was called for a touch foul on the perimeter, causing him to foul out of the game.
Up to that point, Bryant had dominated both the fourth quarter and overtime:
- He had scored eight of the Lakers’ 10 points in the first overtime and assisted on the other two.
- Going back to 2:21 in the fourth quarter, he had scored 15 of the Lakers’ 20 points, and assisted on the other five.
- In the entire fourth and first overtime periods combined, he had scored 18 of the Lakers 33 points, and assisted on 11 of the 14 scored by his teammates, making him directly involved in 29 of the Lakers final 33 points up until he fouled out.
Without Kobe, the Lakers fell apart. They were unable to score without Bryant to create good shot opportunities for them, and with Walton replacing him, the stifling defense that had characterized their forth quarter comeback and overtime dominance became slow and porous.
The foul that removed Kobe from the game was a minor touch foul, much like the one on Fisher that resulted in Mason’s game-winning free throw. The same bloggers who have so often insisted that it’s important to “let them play” at the end of close games were predictably silent.
My issue is not with those calls; they’re not why we lost those games. My issue is with the bloggers, who cry foul when the Lakers benefit, and turn a blind eye when they don’t. And make no mistake about it: Had the Lakers been on the receiving end of either of those calls, resulting in a Lakers win, we would not yet have heard the end of it from the blogosphere. But they don’t really care about the calls â€” they just care about the Lakers losing, and the reinforcement of their conspiracy theories and anti-Lakers rhetoric.
Such was the case in the Finals, when the Lakers suffered a 19-2 first half free throw disparity in Boston, and lost by six points. A few days later, Tim Donaghy made accusations about fixed officiating in Game 6 of the 2002 series between the Lakers and Kings â€” a series that he did not, at any point, officiate. Care to guess which one was labeled a travesty, and which one was brushed off as completely the Lakers’ own fault? I asked bloggers to man up, but have yet to hear of anyone doing so.
Look, I get that you hate the Lakers. I really do. But going off like a ticking time bomb every time the Lakers get a break, and then looking the other way when they get a raw deal, doesn’t make you clever, witty, or insightful. It makes you boring, predictable, and tired, not to mention completely unoriginal.
While we’re at it, so does criticizing Lakers fans for being “bandwagon fans,” or for being arrogant, smug, or condescending. Your anti-Lakers bandwagon is just as clichÃ©, and your self-righteous attitude toward Lakers fans is just as arrogant, smug, and condescending.
Do you want to be original? Are you interested in adding something of value to the discussion? Call it the same way every time, no matter who it favors, and stop trying so hard to take the joy out of the game for those of us who root for the Lakers. God knows you’ll be alone in that.
Try admitting that there was something fishy about Game 2 against the Celtics, and you may find Lakers fans willing admit to something fishy about Game 6 against the Kings. Try admitting that LeBron James’ jumpshot and post game have a long ways to go, and you may find Lakers fans willing to recognize his substantial improvement in defense and free throw shooting. Try admitting that sometimes we get the raw end of the deal, and we’ll probably admit that sometimes we get some lucky breaks.
Along the way, you may find that Lakers fans aren’t as disagreeable as you think, when you’re not so busy tearing us down at every turn. And I can go back to keeping my rants to myself.