I'm still not comfortable with this.
Part of me feels like it's not real yet. Another part of me expects it to be an elaborate ruse, and that Warriors-y things will happen soon to take it all away. Lebron and Dan Gilbert will cry until the league strips the team from the ownership and restores it to Chris Cohan... a horrible nightmare that feels more like what we've grown accustomed to over the decades. I know it can't happen, but I'm still afraid of that, the same way I was afraid of the sharks that could swim up the bathtub drain when I'd pull the plug as a four year old after seeing Jaws.
I'm a Warriors fan, and have been for a long time. I've read more of your conversations than Donald Rumsfeld on a three week meth bender. I'm convinced that my relationship with the team is quite unhealthy, but I can live with that for now. My other sports allegiances lie with the Cleveland Browns and the L.A. Dodgers... two franchises that invoke entirely different feelings among other fanbases.
First of all, we have the Cleveland Browns.
I know. You laughed a little. The team that got Elway into the Hall of Fame years before he ever won a Super Bowl. Byner's fumble. Former owner Art Modell's dominance issues that led Jim Brown to retire and Paul Brown to start up the Bengals. The team that was literally taken from the city under the cover of night, like a princess escaping her brown and orange tower to become a purple champion. Her replacement? Let's just say everyone in Cleveland knows exactly what the "factory of sadness" is.
I remember hearing that some Cleveland schools shut down when Reuben Droughns rushed for 1,000 yards. I absolutely cannot confirm that in any way, but it sounded plausible when I heard it. That was the first time in 20 seasons that a Browns back hit that mark, and it was one of the few bright moments in those same 20 seasons.
This is what it means to be a Browns fan.
The Dodgers. Tommy Lasorda. Kirk Gibson. Fernando Valenzuela. Steve Garvey. Orel Hershiser. Championships under the Hollywood sign. Pennant after pennant. Fake tans and fake boobs and Pedro Guerrerro doing coke with O.J. Simpson's girlfriend and that whole L.A. thing. Pisses you off, right? How about Mickey Hatcher? Mad yet? Because I can vouch first hand that a lot of Bay Area baseball fans were downright hostile when I would show up at the 'Stick in Dodger blue. You might not be mad anymore, but you sure as hell were back then, before the championships.
Even now, I guarantee someone is out printing off some shirts with the always clever "Duck the Fodgers!!!" emblazoned across the chest. Or hats. Or bumper stickers. I guess the words "Fodgers" is free to use without royalties; an unforeseen patenting snafu by whoever first uttered the timeless anthem.
Let's face it: with the possible exception of the incomparable Vin Scully, most Bay Area baseball fans hate the Dodgers and everything about them.
I think that the geographical rivalry of the Giants and Dodgers has a lot to do with it. That traces back to my grandparents' days, when both teams were playing in the shadow of Yankees Stadium, inadequate little brothers to the pinstriped paladins that uncorked champagne under confetti year after year. These envious, forgotten little brothers had battled for the same scraps for years before venturing to the orchards of California. And everyone knows L.A. and the Bay have no love lost. Politically, economically, spiritually... the cities themselves seem to have a rivalry.
Cleveland and Pittsburgh hate each other too. And more football has been played between those two teams than any team ever. Not only that, the lifetime records are close to even, with both franchises having prolonged eras of success and futility. Otto Graham was absolutely the pinnacle of winning at quarterback, many (if not most) experts will swear that Jim Brown was the greatest player of all time, and plenty of notable villains (Schottenheimer, Belicheck, Kellen Winslow Jr., Ray Lewis, Art Modell) have littered the history.
No one cares about the Browns though. You were still thinking about how bad you hate the Dodgers, a sickness spreading through you that has now evolved and you're thinking about the Lakers and they took our Wilt, our Jamaal Wilkes, our Kent Bazemore, our Terry Teagle, even our Luke freaking Walton. They took our best guys and even our crowd-favorite guys. I wasted most of Adonal Foyle's career... not wasted because I rooted for him; that part was awesome. Wasted because I spent it wondering when he would become an All Star for the goddamn Lakers. Not only that, but Byron Scott. Derek Fisher. Kobe.
I'm convinced that you guys just got me sick. Right now. In a definitive "instant karma" moment, I tried to make you mad thinking about Tommy Lasorda spitting while he talks, and that anger has infected me, reminding me of my one true hate.
You see, I hate the Giants a lot, and the Steelers a lot, and the Yankees even more, but I really hate the Lakers.
I do. I know it's a strong word and it's not really the right word but it's close enough and it sure does roll off the tongue.
I hate them because of their success. I know that. I grew up as the ghetto kid at the private school. I'm grateful for the incredible opportunities that I've squandered, but I still find myself sometimes resenting success, especially if I can't recognize how it was earned (It wouldn't be much of a diary entry without a little therapy, right?). Los Angeles is the land of stark contrasts, where one side of the street is paved with dollar bills and silicon implants, and the other side is gangs and drugs and desperation. As a Warriors fan, it's easy to look at the Lakers and feel this way.
I mean, the fans at the game are rich celebrities who always win and the franchise seemed to get all the best players forever and always win. And by always, I mean: before Kobe, the Lakers only missed the playoffs four times. Ever.
Kobe's Lakers missed the playoffs four times, doubling the rest of the illustrious team's entire historical futility, including the three worst seasons ever, and they're trending down despite record cap space. Players won't interview there, the locker room and front office appear to be different levels of toxic, and the face of the franchise just spent three seasons on a farewell tour with the biggest contract in the game.
First of all, greatest Lakers player my ass.
Second, I couldn't be happier. The Warriors are shattering records and the Lakers are in a freefall. I went 18 seasons with one playoff appearance. Mullin, Gatling, Hardaway, Nellie... none of those guys went through that. They got traded or fired or left and they had a lot better luck with other teams than we had following the Chris Cohan clown show. I'm a Browns and Warriors fan. I know about freefalls. I know my way around coaching turnover, scouting disasters, locker room discord, scandals, and management blunders. I know that you don't get a do-over when you take Joe Smith or a Tim Couch.
Let's just say I get to have my cake and eat it too. It's awesome. I love it. The brief delight of Fernandomania or the chills I get from Gibson's heroic trot doesn't measure up to the satisfaction of a Warriors championship, by which, I mean, basketball — I'm "Basketball" Jonez. The name says it all... I experimented with other sports, but I'm clearly hooked on hoops.
Contrasting my beloved Warriors incredible success and gorgeous basketball with my hated, envied rival's systemic cancer? It's not merely schadenfreude, and it's not really karma. It's not a good time. It's not a great time. It's absolutely, unequivocally the greatest possible time to ever be a Lakers hating Warriors fan.
I'm growing comfortable with the hate we're going to get. When Aaron, the bartender at Oskar Blues, tells me about how he hates that cocky SOB Steph Curry but how the NBA really lost something when Kobe retired, I'm excited to get the hate. There's a lot of love for the Warriors right now, and they seem to have the Midas touch. Even a disaster to close the season turned into the greatest offseason triumph since, well, maybe ever. Bob Ross, the gentle painter with the afro on Joy of Painting would have called the blown Finals "a happy mistake"; the moment where the painting seems perfect and then the artist would wipe out a huge section of the canvas and change the whole feel with a new, unforeseen direction that ultimately adds depth and texture and adds a new level to the piece.
A lot of people are going to like this team, and I think a lot of folks are going to hate them too. I sure hope so. I'm comfortable with that. I want the Lakers and the Spurs to hate us first and foremost. Those teams could use a little taste of how the other half lives, which includes them complaining about their perceived lack of respect and the hate they get from everyone else. I say, sign me up for some of that hate and disrespect. Make it a double, please. I think Kobe got more free throw attempts in that last game than Curry got all season, so yeah, send that hate this way.
Remember when we would all hang out here, throwing around ideas like "hey, it' would be cool to get Iguodala... or Bogut... or Liv... or Festus... or KMFD?!?!" I definitely think it's cool that it seems like Bob Myers reads GSoM like Santa Claus reading a winter Xmakwanzakah letter from some very good boys and girls. I feel like he took all of our good ideas and all of those ideas are working perfectly. It's like a video game roster now, a fantasy squad and I can't stop thinking about it.
For years now, we've fantasized about this. Curry, Klay, Iguodala, KMFD, Draymond. We dreamed about this for decades. This is the culmination of every good idea the franchise has ever had. This is Nellie plus Pop plus Myers plus West. This is J-Ridah plus Atma plus tafkasam plus Evanz plus Jae. Our new lineup, the new Small Ball Death Squad, the destroyer of worlds, with it's 6'7" center and 7' shooting guard, this is everything we could have ever dreamed of. It's what we joked about, the "what if" lineup that kept coming up, over and over and over. This roster, this management, this team. This is us.
We've always been losers, but all of a sudden, it's like everything went our way. Our windfall, one might say. And now, instead of stat fodder for other teams, our team has that one perfect lineup. The video game lineup of arms and IQ, a swarming defense of the greatest shooters. The bar is raised, and until the rest of the league catches up, we are the evil Galactic Empire. That lineup is the ultimate weapon in the universe, a hybrid of the Sith's ancient religion and the technological terror of the Death Star. The ultimate, ridiculous version of the the ultimate, ridiculous weapon. That lineup is going to be a catastrophe for other teams. Hurricane Vader.
The Warriors weren't an afterthought, they were a laughingstock. Opponents used to salivate over facing us; an opportunity for yet another player to post the best numbers of his career. Much like the Browns, we were a joke, a punchline, but the Warriors are at the pinnacle of sports right now. They're championship favorites (again), and so many great players have taken paycuts to be here that we pretty much expect it. The league president points to the Warriors and laments competitive balance, a battle cry no one bellowed when the team made the playoffs once in 18 seasons.
My, how things have changed.
Last season was the first time I've ever rooted for the championship favorite from the start of the season. This is different. The Warriors were already the headliners of the NBA, but when they signed KMFD, they caused an uproar. The inflammatory basketball celebrities all had their temper tantrums, which felt a lot like this:
Seriously, tell me that Stephen A. Smith's 30 minute tantrum wasn't the professional equivalent of that video.
Newsflash, Warriors fans: Everyone hates us now.
I haven't had this yet, and I have no idea what it's going to be like, but I can't stop thinking about it. I know it's going to be awesome. I'm like a hormonal virgin but with a super hot girlfriend and things are heating up and soon we're going to find out. Everything is anticipation. It's tense and there's a lot of energy, and like I said, I'm not all that comfortable with this.
But I'm pretty sure I'm going to like it and I can't wait to find out.