I don’t know whether I should feel proud or ashamed for waiting this long to write a column about the NBA Playoffs. We’re now in the middle of the second round, and things are looking pretty good from this guy’s perspective. My Orlando Magic finished the first round with a nice little sweep of the Charlotte Bobcats, and there’s not a whole lot to complain about. The matchups are as intriguing as ever, and the NBA’s dream matchup of Kobe vs. LeBron is still plausible, meaning that it won’t be long until our brains are saturated with puppets.
I promise I won’t waste this space discussing how Orlando is about to absolutely dismantle the Atlanta Hawks because, well, it’s just inevitable. With Game 1 in the books — a 114-71 shellacking in the shadows of Disney World — I’m fairly confident that my boys will make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Thus, instead of predicting the outcome of the Playoffs, I want to present you with a moral dilemma, an issue that I currently have no resolution for and one that you can hopefully relate to.
If all goes well — which it will, or else Earth will be swallowed by a giant black hole as hell simultaneously freezes over — Orlando is set to face the winner of the Boston Celtics-Cleveland Cavaliers series.
It’s important to note that I really, really dislike the Cavs. As much as the majority of “basketball America” would disagree with me, this is an incredibly overhyped team that is inadequately coached, poorly built and whose success is completely dependent on the performance of a single player. Most annoyingly, there’s no such thing as a Cavs fan; Quicken Loans Arena is filled with LeBron fans. For all of these reasons, the LeBrons get the silver medal on the list of my least favorite professional franchises.
But Cleveland is a distant second on this list to my least favorite team in the world, the bane of my existence, the Boston Celtics. There is not a single thing I have ever enjoyed about this team, its upper management or the city of Boston itself (from a sports perspective — keep your pants on, Revolutionary War nerdlingers). Offer me two tickets to Game 7 of the NBA Finals, and in 29 out of 30 scenarios, I would say yes without blinking. The exception would be if the game were at the Boston Garden, at which point I would shred the tickets and choose instead to lie on a bed of nails.
By now, you hopefully understand my stance on this series. I want both teams to lose in embarrassing, train-wreck fashion. But herein lies the problem — that is impossible! So here is where the aforementioned moral dilemma comes into play. It’s Monday night, Game 2 of the series. After coming from behind to snatch the first meeting, the Cavs were sitting pretty with a 1-0 series lead. I intended to approach Game 2 as an objective basketball fan, but obviously failed. During the second quarter, as the Celtics steadily increased the lead, I caught myself giving a little Tigeresque fist pump when Boston point guard Rajon Rondo dished one of his 19 assists to an open Garnett under the basket.
No big deal, right? You bet your sweet ass this is a big deal. A fist pump for Rondo is equivalent to a chest bump with Satan. It just felt dirty.
Did I understand why it happened? Of course. As much as I’d love the Magic to send LeBron home again, I’d rather not see him in the Conference Finals. Boston is old and deteriorating, and although they have given Orlando fits since I started walking, the Celtics would undoubtedly be the better matchup for the Magic.
But still, I feel like I should draw a line somewhere. Should a Yankees fan ever pull for the Red Sox? Would you ever jump on the Cal bandwagon? Would Cain ever fist pump for Abel?
It’s been bothering me for days, yet I still have no answer. My heart is telling me, “Don’t be such a wimp, dude, the Magic will roll over either team,” while my heart says, “If we have to play LeBron, your life will be shortened by four-and-a-half years.” I’d love to listen to my heart, but one more 40-foot buzzer beater like last year and I am guaranteed to be in the operating room within the hour.
For now, I’m going to make a conscious attempt to refrain from taking sides. It’s not healthy, and cheering for either team just results in a giant loss of dignity. It’s just a giant lose-lose situation that could only be remedied once the Magic makes it back into the Finals.
And with that bitter rant, I can now thank karma for Orlando’s impending collapse to Atlanta.
Zach Zimmerman could spill salt, walk under a ladder and see three black cats on Friday the 13th and he would not have given himself as much bad luck as this column just did. Give him some kind of good luck to counteract it at zachz “at” stanford.edu.