Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ali vs. Frazier

Four games down, and does anyone seriously believe the Lakers-Celtics series won't go all seven games?  Having only seen the great heavyweights of the 1970s on video replay (which, being out of time and context can never do them justice), there is a short supply of battles with superior and evenly matched individuals (boxing is so far gone it is not even funny) or teams.  Battles that truly can go either way on the slightest shift of momentum: that leave you physically spent just from watching.  Not an underdog triumphing over a superior foe, or a superpower overwhelming foes, but two even teams lining up and going at each other at full-speed, no quarter asked, no quarter given, the entire contest.

THIS is what the Celtics-Lakers NBA Championship has become. 

This is the Ali vs. Frazier, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Dallas Cowboys, New York Yankees vs. Kansas City Royals of the 1970s.  This is the Celtics vs. Lakers, St. Louis Cardinals vs. New  York Mets, San Francisco 49ers vs. Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants (truly the Golden Age of the NFC with four legitimate superpowers in one conference trading hay makers over the decade). This is Mike Tyson vs Evander Holyfield, Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s. This is the Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees, New England Patriots vs Indianapolis Colts of the 2000s.

Are these rivalries declining? You bet. Anyone remember any great baseball rivalries from the 1990s with two evenly matched teams? Baltimore Orioles vs New York Yankees for a year or two? Seattle Mariners vs New York Yankees for a brief period. The steroid era was also great for another phenomenon: craptastic rivalries. Toronto Blue Jays vs Detroit Tigers? Gimme a break!

But the Celtics and the Lakers matching-up right now is a true classic.  My friend, Tim G., taked about how watching the games so far he could feel an ulcer building in his stomach watching from the edge of his seat.  I know exactly how he feels.  At times, I have to switch the channel and give myself a pep talk that its really not the end of the world if the Lakers win a road game.  The fact that the Celtics are "my team" only heightens the drama, just as with the Red Sox or Patriots games.  Yes, I almost brawled with half of Negril, Jamaica after Holyfield beat Tyson while on our honeymoon (Big Mike Tyson fans down there. They knew Michael Jordan and Mike Tyson in 1997 for American Sports.  Heaven forbid you disparage either of them!), but nothing touches as deeply as "your team" fighting out on the court, field, park, gridiron, or ring. 

Why is that?

Because I suffered through the Rod Rust and Dick McPherson years. The Butch Hobson and Joe Kerrigan years. The Rick Pitino and M.L. Carr years. 1-15.  Laughingstock of the league. Worst team ever.  Tickets available at walk-up. 

We were there then.  We are reaping what we sow. We are enjoying the investment on the years we spent supporting horrible teams with horrible coaches, horrible management, and horrible players. 

Celtics vs. Lakers is now a best of three series.  Only a few rounds left in the heavyweight battle. I know I will be on the edge of my seat watching the two champions fight it out.  This is truly the best of the best.

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