Thursday, June 05, 2008
My upstairs neighbor is a Lakers fan.
I don’t know if he comes about it honestly; that is, whether he’s originally from Los Angeles. I should know that, he being my neighbor and all, but we’ve never gotten particularly close. He’s a nice fellow; his wife is a nice woman; they have a baby daughter who hardly ever cries; but, for whatever reason, MY WIFE and I just haven’t become Fred and Ethel to their Lucy, Ricky, and Little Ricky – or, in this case, Little Lucy.
Anyway, I know for sure that he roots for them. Last year, during the playoffs, I heard cheering, and then groaning, and then stomping of the feet, and then clapping, and then swearing. Well, it wasn’t "swearing" in the sense that he uttered perfectly audible curse words. I heard indistinct muttering and polysyllabic something-or-others. From the tone, I assumed he wasn’t saying his prayers. I thought these noises sounded vaguely familiar. And I was right. They sounded like ME, whenever I’m highly involved in a sporting event.
So, I put on my TV and tried to figure out what sporting event he was watching with such fervor. There was golf, but nobody makes sounds like that when they’re watching golf. The Red Sox were on, but the sounds were too sudden, and often, to be connected with a baseball game. It had to be something faster-paced. Then, I flipped over to the channel carrying the Lakers – Suns game. Bingo! His sounds correlated perfectly with the changing fortunes of the Lakers.
I’ve been a Celtics fan for well over 40 years. In all that time, I’ve never rooted for the Lakers. I’ve admired the Lakers. I’ve respected the Lakers. I’ve sung the praises of Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. Larry Bird is friends with Magic Johnson, so who am I to be his enemy? I’ve had occasional good thoughts about Happy Hairston and Frank Selvy and Gail Goodrich. Rudy LaRusso is a name that trips off of the tongue pleasingly. I sometimes even wish peace on Kurt Rambis, but then I sober up and the feeling passes. Hearing someone in the same house as me, cheering for the Lakers, was a jolting and unpleasant experience.
However, since I followed the Celtics all season, including almost every minute of a team record 18-game losing streak, I wasn’t averse to finding some other team that had a realistic chance to win a few games in a row. So, I sat downstairs, watched the game, listened to Mr. Ricardo go through his gyrations upstairs, and sent my psychic energies through my ceiling (through his floorboards) and wished for the Lakers to win.
Oh, goodness, I crack myself up sometimes. There was no way I could root for the Los Angeles Lakers. I willed the Phoenix Suns to win, despite every fiber in my being telling me that Ricardo is a good guy and I should really be wishing his team well. I couldn’t help it. My green blood just would NOT allow me to root for the Lakers. It would be like watching a Popeye cartoon and rooting for Bluto.
The Lakers lost, and they were eliminated from the playoffs shortly thereafter. End of season for both of us. I felt bad for him, but I had no choice.
Move the clocks ahead and it’s next season. This season. I’ve spent the greater part of the year – at least when the Celtics are on the tube and I haven’t been able to wrangle an actual ticket to the games – sitting in my easy chair, doing my best impersonation of a profane Tommy Heinsohn, raining down curses upon the heads of the referees. I had little doubt that, during some part of my histrionics, my neighbor got the impression I was a Celtics fan. Of course, I often wear a Celtics cap, and I have a green towel in the back window of my car that says "GO CELTICS!" And, if he ever Googled my name, he’d come here and see me going on and on about Rajon Rondo, so it wouldn’t be too hard to figure out.
A couple of weeks ago, as the semi-finals were just underway, I ran into him as he was going down the cellar and I was coming up. That’s where our shared laundry area is in the duplex. For the first time since he and his wife moved in two years ago, I broached the subject of basketball loyalties.
"Hi, Ricky Ricardo."
"Hey, Ricky Ricardo, you’re a Lakers fan, right?"
He got this gleam in his eye, like possibly I might be one, too. He said, "Yes!"
I dashed his hopes immediately.
"I’m a Celtics fan."
He looked at me as though I should say penance.
I carried on.
"Anyway, I heard you cheering the other night when the Lakers game was on."
He got a look of concern on his face. He said, "I hope I didn’t make too much noise or anything."
"No, of course not. Anyway, you’ve probably heard me doing the same when the Celtics are on."
"No. I haven’t heard a thing."
Either his hearing is much worse than mine or I’m not cheering loud enough.
We finished our conversation with an agreement that it would be really fun to see the Celtics and Lakers play each other in The Finals. Then he went to do his laundry. Meanwhile, I’m sure we were both thinking, "The (Lakers/Celtics) suck!"
Tonight, I’ll be wearing my green jersey and cheering for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kendrick Perkins, and all of the good guys. Ricky Ricardo will probably be wearing purple and gold, stomping his feet, and cheering at the exact same time as I’m cursing. The battle of Winsor Avenue will have begun. I know I’ll handle it graciously, no matter what happens. He’s a Lakers fan, though, so who knows what sorts of demented thoughts could be going on inside of his head? If the Celtics win, he might come storming downstairs in the middle of the night and knife me. Or at least put bleach in with my coloreds.
Anyway, if anything happens to ME, I know the entire city has my back. If anything happens to HIM, mums the word.
(Just kidding, Ricky Ricardo, just kidding.)
See you tomorrow with an update on our contest, assuming I’m still alive.
GO CELTICS! BEAT L.A.!