Several years ago I was in Las Vegas for a bachelor party. I tagged along with my older brother and his friends who were six years older than me. The weekend was filled with booze and debauchery, but only one memory stuck in my mind.
One day, we were sitting by the pool, and I met a beautiful girl named Jackie. We talked and flirted, and flirted and talked. We sat in the hot tub, and shared some drinks and laughs. I somehow maintained eye contact despite her revealing bikini. I was completely on. I got her number, and we made plans to meet up later.
My brother and his friends treated me like a hero that day. How did I do that? I have no idea. I was just an ordinary nice guy and somehow managed to score an incredibly hot girl’s number.
But once the sun set, everything changed. Jackie and her friends met up with our group at a club. She was a wearing tight jeans and a loose tank top. Damn, she looked good.
And that’s when Tim noticed her. Although Tim didn’t look it, he was the player of the group. He was the smooth talker; the one who always got the girl. He immediately sniffed her out and was on the prowl. She laughed at his jokes and they flirted. My day’s work seemed to vanish from her memory banks.
Throughout the night, there was a back and forth. She’d have a drink with me, and then a dance with Tim; a gambling session with me, and then a conversation with Tim.
I turned to my brother and his friends and asked: “Do I have a chance?” They laughed and shook their head: “Don’t you know who you’re dealing with? He’s the favorite. You’re the underdog. You don’t stand a chance.”
But I didn’t give up. I tried everything: I bought Jackie drinks, made her laugh, taught her blackjack. And Tim just sat their cool, calm, and confident. When she disappeared for the night, I figured I’d continue the competition tomorrow.
I shrugged my shoulders and walked back to my room calling it a night. When I opened the door, that’s when reality slapped me in the face. Jackie and Tim and were breaking the bed together. I shielded my eyes, and slammed the door shut.
A devastating loss for the underdog.
NBA FINALS, GAME 7
That’s how I felt last night as I watched the favorite LA Lakers win the NBA finals.
As a long time Boston fan, my heart and soul was riding on this game. But I was watching as more than just a fan.
The Boston Celtics were the #4 seed. They were too fat (Big Baby Shrek) Too short (Donkey Nate.) And too damn old (almost the entire team.)
And the Los Angeles Lakers had the best player in the world, the best coach in the world, and the better athletes.
LA was Tim. And I was the Boston Celtics.
And once again, the underdog succumbed to the favorite.
The Celtics had a solid lead in Game 7 (and in the series), but they just couldn’t finish. They were completely spent by the 4th quarter and were hanging on by a thread. Playing without their starting center Kendrick Perkins, they still competed with heart and determination. They got killed on the boards, but they didn’t hang their head. Instead, they scrambled for loose balls and hustled on every play. They played vicious defense and made Kobe Bryant look like Ron Artest. Unfortunately, Ron Artest somehow morphed into Kobe Bryant, and the Lakers came through in the end.
The Celtics overachieved the entire playoffs. Most picked them to lose in the 2nd round, and some doubted they could even knock off the Heat in the 1st. But the Celtics slowed down the Flash; dethroned the King; and then used kryptonite on Superman. Their last showdown was with the Black Mamba. Their journey sounded like a video game or a sub plot from Lost.
The Celtics beat teams with the best players because they had the players with the best team. They came together. They united. They played on grit, determination, heart, and leadership. Doc Rivers tried every trick in the book to motivate this team (have you read the money in the ceiling story?) And it worked. They were one.
Then they finally faced a foe that learned from them. The Lakers didn’t play as a team until they had to. They didn’t try until they had to. They hadn’t been challenged the entire playoffs. They strutted with confidence and arrogance. They were the prototypical favorite.
It wasn’t until their backs were against the wall for the first time ever, did they realize if they wanted to win, they needed to play as a team. The backbreaker for game 7 wasn’t from Kobe. It was from Fisher, Artest, Gasol, and Vujacic.
The Lakers learned at just the right time. And even though the Celtics knew from the beginning that it took teamwork to win, it just didn’t matter in the end.
Because the favorite always wins.
Year in Review
It seems like the entire sports year has gone to the favorite. There are no underdogs anymore. There are no Rudys, Rockys, and Hickorys. There are only the Tims, the Lakers, the Dukes, and the Yankees. I made a good run back in the day and so did Butler, the Celtics, and whoever the Yankees play. But in the end, it doesn’t matter. Heart and determination doesn’t matter anymore.
The Lakers were the straws that broke the underdog’s back. It was as if Kobe Bryant and the Lakers took a cute, little puppy—the underdog— slashed its throat, and pressed it against the camera for all to see.
It was nauseating.
I wish my life didn’t revolve around sports. I wish I didn’t take these games so personally, but I do. The average male life span is 77 years-old. The average male life span of a sports fan is 70 years-old. The average life span of a Boston sports fan is 35. The small town of Boston is in the sports news every single year. There’s always a big game. And those big games wear us down. I’m exhausted. Sometimes, I wish I rooted for the Lions, or the Clippers, or the Royals. And then I wouldn’t have to endure the pain of losing when it mattered; the agony of getting so close and then failing.
Whether it’s a Boston team or an underdog, my heart is displayed for all to see. I joked with a friend that I was wagering my left kidney on the series. If the Lakers win, I lose it. If the Celtics win, I get nothing except the satisfaction of winning.
I lost again last night. Just like that time in Vegas.
I shouldn’t be surprised anymore. The favorite always comes out on top.
Because the underdog is dead.
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