My fellow Chris Rock fans will recognize the quote as his commentary on the O.J. Simpson case, but the sense of divide he portrays is one which applies equally to another contentious topic: the Los Angeles Lakers. Here the issue has nothing to do with race, but everything to do with colour.
Purple and gold too faithful, other folks too hateful.
Recent responses received by writers unfortunate enough to have caught the hot potato have only made it clearer that few are capable of maintaining a balanced opinion with regards to the Los Angeles Lakers. Those on their side swear blind that the coming year will be a success; those on the other affirm just as forcefully that they may as well forego the whole season and avoid the embarrassment.
By now you’ll be wondering what my stance is towards the great dividers, and I have to warn you that it’s a little controversial. Buckle up, strap on the helmet, slip in the mouthguard, and do whatever else is required to brace yourselves for this.
I don’t mind the Lakers.
There, I said it. After years of tiptoeing around the matter, I’ve come out of the basketball closet and admitted that I live in the grey area, the unthinkable limbo of not having a radical view of the Lakeshow. Once an avid Kobe-caviler (it was personal: he took my number), I managed to suppress my contempt around two years ago. By 2004 my thoughts of the franchise that had so often abused my teams in the past had become significantly less murderous. Now, I can even pass a fan clad in an L.A. cap and vest without aiming a fist at the number on their chest. I must be growing soft in my old age.
My paradigm shift (and it was that), however, ran counter to the general mood of the public. Some with views more moderate than mine have since become hardcore hecklers, expending more energy on denouncing L.A. than they do supporting their own team. Casual fans on the other side, however, became die-hard fanatics. Why this phenomenon? Why have so many suddenly developed this aversion to the Lakers? Why have some supporters become devotees? Why haven’t I?
My answer to that is another question: Why should I care?
You see, they just aren’t that important to me nowadays. Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t your generic Laker-bashing. It’s simply that I can’t bring myself to respond emotionally to a team so mediocre. In the days when victory parades were an annual fixture in L.A., there was a reason for us to stand against them, a Goliath for our David. Nothing brings out the haters like the smell of victory, and the waft from the west was enough to draw out the naysayers en masse. Why, then, did the stench of the losses entice them to crawl out of the woodwork instead?
Answer: overzealous Laker fans. And the reason for these types? Laker-haters.
The problem is that these two species live together as mutual parasites, both attempting to suck the life out of the other. As far as we’ve come, it’s still a dog-eat-dog world, and if we’re not fighting in wars, competing for promotions or battling it out on a basketball court, we’re probably locking horns over something as trivial as an unremarkable club with no real championship hopes.
For those of you concerned that this is a “forever” situation, you needn’t be. There was a time when no fan outside of Utah could cast their eye over Sloan’s Salt Lake squad without cursing at the television. In their day, the Bad Boys of Detroit drew the ire of much of America, and before them the Celtics couldn’t step outside of Beantown without being met by a chorus of boos. Resolution came for them as they fell from grace. Here, however, it is on the Lakers to silence the sneers by going the other way.
For now, there is only one question capable of uniting the opposing forces: Can’t we all just get along?
Lakers and Haters alike agree that, for now at least, the answer must be “No”.