I fancy myself a lover of independent music. You know the type: whiny, literate, geeky dudes with jangly guitars and ill-fitting cardigans. The bittersweet truth of the current state of the ol’ indie rock is that it seems that every so often one of these bands breaks through. The secret gets out and all of the sudden you can buy the new Bright Eyes record at Target right next to Toby Keith and the Eagles Greatest Hits.
My first experience with this situation came in the autumn of 1995. My copy of No Doubt’s now legendary album Tragic Kingdom arrived at the local record shop. Six months later, No Doubt were megastars and I was the jerk trying to say, “I was first” to all my 8-year-old peers who could not get enough of that sublime album. That record was my little second grade secret miracle.
Apply this same scenario to movies, (Juno), comedians (Brian Regan) hot-actresses du jour (I had the BIGGEST crush on Scarlett Johansson when she appeared in Home Alone 3!).
Once the secret is out, it is out. And there is no way to hold onto the days when it was yours.
So, I guess the secret is out on the 2007-08 Lakers. My little 20-year-old secret miracle. They are going to the NBA Finals. They are going big time. And although much of this is personal perception, seeing as they play to 18,997 people at the STAPLES Center and millions more on television, it seems like up until Thursday night, they were playing just for me.
For reasons that I will not discuss: the 2007-08 Los Angeles Lakers saved my life. No joke.
I wish I were joking. Dear God do I wish I were joking.
Over the last 97 games this group of dudes has taught me so much more about myself than any film, mentor, religious icon or what-have-you ever could. I do not like this fact. I do not want to be that guy who takes sports for more than it is: a game. I try to remind myself that these guys are just physically gifted millionaires, yet for some reason, I see something so much more tangible in these Lakers. I see the fact that most of them are scared, rag-tag, misfit, twentysomethings. Wait, I am a scared, rag-tag, misfit twentysomething! Do you see where I am going here?
Never have I ever been able to relate to an entity outside myself so well (save for Juliet Burke from LOST).
I have felt the feelings of disappointment from family and friends alike when I do not live up to expectations. Do you think Lamar Odom knows anything about that?
I have said horrible and atrocious things to people who treat me with nothing but love and adoration. I assume Kobe Bryant knows a thing or two about that scenario.
The truth of the matter is that something special is happening with this team. They are everything modern sports teams are not. They like each other. They are selfless. They are likeable. They are relatable. They are real. And aren’t those key components to what makes an appealing hero?
This season has so many moments that were ancillary to watershed moments in my life.
The Pau Gasol trade came on the heels of heartbreak. My girlfriend of two years and I had just broken up a day prior. When the Lakers beat the Pistons in November, my best friend Ryan took me to the game to raise my spirits the day I was laid off from my job due to the Writer’s Strike. The saga of the game against the Mavericks on my birthday has been recounted time and time again, and is most likely the greatest day of my life. I stood next to my Father on Thursday as he wept with joy and seeped raw emotion as Jerry West heralded his surrogate son and newly minted Western Conference Champion Kobe Bryant.
My little secret miracle was never even mine to begin with. Only the experience belonged to me.
This season has been better than any song I have ever heard. It has been more rewarding than any movie I have ever seen. Head and shoulders above any book I have ever read. More valuable than any class I have ever attended. This Lakers season has been the most compelling and all-encompassing event I have ever been privileged to be witness to.
And it is not even over yet.