Tears for the Lakers
On Monday night, I sent my son to bed in tears. It wasn't my fault, really. I just told him I wasn't going to root for the Lakers.
Then he started crying some more. And I didn't feel badly about it.
You see, my son is in his formative sports years but he already had two allegiances pre-arranged. In a deal between his mother and myself, he roots for my wife's favorite baseball team, the Chicago White Sox, and he cheers for my favorite football team, the Green Bay Packers. I gladly gave up the baseball team because there was no way my son and daughter were going to root for the Bears.
But for some reason we left the winter sports alone and like any child who loves to explore, he's discovered some things on his own. My wife nudged him toward the New Jersey Devils and he's become a hockey freak. He even fires up the Internet to check Stanley Cup Playoff schedules. Since I had no true hockey allegiance, I find his love for the NHL amusing.
Yet, his tears regarding the Lakers? By that I will not abide for the specific reason that he's drawn to L.A. because their home uniforms are yellow, his favorite color.
Sometimes, that's how five-and-a-half year olds make decisions. When I was seven I cried when the Seattle Sonics lost to the Washington Bullets in the 1978 Finals. Why? I wanted the Sonics to win and they didn't. Weeping seemed to be the logical conclusion. That, and I have a penchant for rooting for losers such as the Milwaukee Brewers and Milwaukee Bucks, so I'm acutely aware of wanting to cry over sports teams.
Lakers fans, however, should never cry. With 30 Finals appearances in 63 seasons, the Lakers have had far more success than most teams in any of the four major North American sports. The only glee I get from this is that I can point out the Lakers have a .500 Finals record (15-15), just like my favorite team (the Bucks are 1-1). So, tears for the Lakers. It's tough to muster any sympathy even for my progeny.
Every NBA franchise has had a period of deep darkness, even the Celtics. The Lakers, while having their lunch handed to them by the Celtics in the '60s, have rarely had periods of doldrums. They've snapped off the lights for a couple seasons here or there, but they don't stay in the dark for long.
"Will you root for the Lakers?" he asked, tears welling up in his eyes.
"No," I responded, "I'm rooting for the Suns."
"Because I'm rooting for the Suns," I said. "I've wanted to see the Suns and Steve Nash make it to The Finals for the longest time. "
As a lover of offense, they've been toying with my hoops heart for a while. I can only imagine how true Suns fans feel.
"So, you're not rooting for the Lakers?"
"No," I tried to explain, "I haven't done so since the '80s."
"Wh-wh-wh-why won't anyone root for the Lakers with me," he sobbed as my wife tried to console him.
"Mommy, will you root for the Lakers?" he continued.
She wasn't, but I didn't want him to think both parents were against him, so I jumped in.
"Buddy, it's OK, you can root for the Lakers," I tried in a consoling tone. "Just because I don't doesn't mean you can't."
It didn't make sense to him any more than it didn't make much sense to me that he went to bed irrationally claiming his distaste for the Suns because he "hates orange."
But that's fandom. Sometimes, you root for a team because it has been handed down from generation to generation like a family heirloom. On other occasions, you pick a team because of where you grow up or because of who your friends like or, yes, because a team wears a certain color.
There's a little bit of me that wishes my choice could be as simple as choosing a color. But as I grow older, I know it's a little more complicated that that. My heart would love for the Suns to beat the Lakers to make the franchise's first Finals since 1993, but my head tells me I'm tilting at basketball windmills again.
The Lakers' Game 1 poleaxing of Phoenix didn't make my heart or head feel better about the Suns' chances in this series. But my son was happy.
"Dad," my son asked at breakfast on Tuesday morning, "who won last night?"
A smile spread across his face and he threw his hands into the air in triumph.
It was almost enough to make a grown man cry.