Hi. I’m Andrew Rafner.
Over the past year and a half you should have a pretty good idea of what I do around here. I try and either be as ridiculous as possible with some wild allegory or just be unabashedly absurd with grandiose verbiage and sardonic quips.
That is not what I am trying to accomplish in this edition of Section 316.
This is not about Lamar Odom’s wardrobe, nor is it about Andrew Bynum nor is it even technically about basketball in general.
This story is about me and why I have unintentionally become the most hated man in the Lakers Nation.
I fell in love with the Lakers last season. I had never experienced an 82-game season in which every contest contained an essence of the magic that would ordinarily seep to the surface only during the playoffs.
For me, it was something entirely different.
Before last year, the Lakers had always been either on the cusp of a championship or miles away from achieving the most sacred of basketball goals; never in-between.
In 2007-08, nobody saw what happened coming. Most prognosticators didn’t even see a viable scenario in which our Lakers could even contend for a playoff spot, let alone an NBA Title.
It was a surprise. Each game was a miracle. Each fastbreak contained some sort of pure unadulterated joy. Each Sash three-pointer was somehow a sign from the heavens that something special was happening. I chronicled this feeling sufficiently after the culmination of the Western Conference Finals last season in a story titled “A Little Secret Miracle” because that was what it was to me: a miracle.
And then the Finals happened. Night after night my heart was ripped, shredded into little ribbons and then thrown into my face while a leprechaun did a victory jig at my feet.
It happened as the buzzer sounded at the end of Game 6, as the Lakers walked off the court, my heroes with their heads hung low, green and white confetti fluttering down from the rafters and sticking to their sweat drenched bodies, I stopped growing. I stopped progressing. My brain refused to develop as a fan, and it carried over all the way throughout the Lakers 82-game season in 2008-09.
I have never really spelled it out: I never got over the 2008 Finals.
And because of this state of suspended animation and gnawing sense of unfinished business that I have become an angry, disconcerted, negative anti-fan. I have not allowed myself to enjoy the third most successful regular season in Laker history, instead opting for undeservedly making fun of a 21-year old for being a 21-year old or whatever else was pissing me off on that particular day.
I have been clamoring for something magical to happen, and in the process, I have missed so much. I have missed watching Andrew Bynum transform from the pudgy, mini-fro’ed kid elbowing Shaq into a grown-up, not only ready to accept the title of “savior”, but relish in it. I missed Pau Gasol continue to etch his name besides James Worthy as the greatest Laker power forward of all time. I missed Kobe actively defer to his teammates and expand upon what he crafted last season when he decided it was fiiiiiiiiiinally time to trust his mates. (I didn’t miss Lamar, thank god. He somehow keeps me honest.)
Something semi-magical already did happen; it just wasn’t as dramatic or poetic as last season. Last year was an in your face assault, this year was a subtle ballet.
It was my fault. I wanted what I felt I was robbed of last season, so I tried to fit a square peg into a very, very round hole. I never got over it.
And now, with the NBA Playoffs underway and the ellipsis put on my fandom fifteen victories away from becoming a complete sentence, I am starting to find myself again.
I now know that it was never about Andrew’s knee, and it was never about losing to Charlotte or beating Boston. It was never about having the best regular season record and it was never about how many points per game Sash averaged. It was definitely never about whether or not Kobe wins the MVP.
It has always been about one thing: a championship. A way to avenge the heartbreak (Wow, I sounded like suuuuuuuuuuuch a dork. But, it is true).
I’m no longer angry. I no longer feel any need to make YouTube videos that piss people off. The passion in the City is beginning to bloom. The Laker flags (nerdy as they may be) make me smile ear to ear. The Facebook status updates, the celebratory Tweets, the LD2k videos, the makeshift bootleg souvenir stands; they are all starting to sprout up, and they are making me believe that it can happen. All these things are making me believe that I was wrong; that it was always here, and I just forgot it.
I don’t like being the guy who says, “It is ours to lose”. I’m not even the guy who likes to readily admit that it is even ours, but I now realize that it is fun to say.
It now makes sense that it will be “ours” because we all get to share in the celebration.
We all get to meet in the middle of Chick Hearn Court in mid-June, hug strangers, scream, act the fool, buy t-shirts and most importantly, feel good about doing it.
We are just doing it a year late.
I am not this guy, but for some reason, I feel like I know how this story ends, I just need to wait and see how it all unfolds.