It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO GAME 7.
1. It is typically the purview of prophets and sages to unwind the tangled skein of destiny (note: for metaphor see Piers Anthony) and see where each thread leads. But there are times, there are moments in the endless chain of history, where mere mortals can find an unknotted thread, where mere men can rise in the morning and perceive their thread extending into the distance. Today is one of those days.
Today, men clad in green and white have risen from their beds with the knowledge, with the certainty, that the events that transpire today will be a turning point in their lives. When next close their eyes, they will be Perseus, forever immortalized in the stars themselves, or they will be Sisyphus, endlessly reaching for a glory just out of reach. Those are the only options: death or glory, mice or men, pride or prejudice, sense or sensibility, paper or plastic, T or A, rock or roll, strut or stroll, Hall or Oates, Sanford or Son. This is not a dialectic. There is a thesis and an antithesis, but there ain’t gonna be no synthesis.
Let’s put it this way. When an irresistible force meets and immovable object, F- the Lakers.
2. It should come as no surprise that the key to Game 7 is going to be rebounding. The team that has won the battle on the boards has claimed each of the first six games in the series and tonight should be no different. However, with Red Sox draftee/Celtics center Kendrick Perkins out and Lakers center Andrew Bynum hobbled, it is increasingly difficult to project which team will collect the most rebounds.
Jose’s analysis suggests that the edge lies with the Celtics. Paul Pierce rebounded from 11 stab wounds to return to NBA dominance. Kevin Garnett rebounded from a career trapped in the basketball purgatory of the twin cities to win an NBA championship. Tony Allen rebounded from near terminal stupidity to become a defensive force. Rajon Rondo rebounded from not being 100% sure how his own name is pronounced. Ray Allen, played a character named Jesus, which Jose is pretty sure means he can rebound from his own death. Big Baby Davis rebounded from a brutal time growing up and, if the latest Shrek movie can be believed, a reality in which he was never even born. Nate Robinson rebounded from playing with the New York Knicks. And last but not least, Rasheed Wallace, based on his personal grooming, rebounded from a period of homelessness.
The Lakers by contrast have Kobe Bryant, who rebounded from being accused of a horrible crime. Ron Artest, who rebounded… kind of… from one of the NBA’s most celebrated psychotic breaks, and Pau Gasol, who even now must rebound from watching his beloved Spanish floppers fall 1-0 in World Cup competition to the Swiss, a country that is literally based on the idea of having no offense.
3. Jose does not like sports the way he used to. Sure he still enjoys going to the games, he gets a kick out of watching his teams on television, and sports continues to play a major role in his life. Still, it’s not the same as it used to be. Jose has seen damn near everything he wanted to see in sports at a time in his life when he could a) experience it while drinking beer and b) could go out on the town to celebrate without asking for permission, and that takes the edge off of being a sports fan.
The existential angst is gone too. Without the fear of “never seeing them win it all,” the terror is gone. But when the terror departs, so does the joy at having overcome terror. In 2002, Jose would have spent all winter ruminating about Paplebon’s Game 3 collapse. This year he spent a day, maybe two. The games, all games, simply don’t mean as much as they used to.
But that changes tonight. Tonight, for the first time since at least the Patriots’ last Super Bowl, Jose feels the terror. Tonight, the game means every bit as much as it used to. If the Celtics lose, Jose fully expects to wake up tomorrow with that old familiar pain, as if someone had died and the world is now a darker, more sinister place. If the Celtics win, Jose expects to rise in the morning committed to the absurd proposition that the world is a better place thanks to a basketball game.
Jose knows why too. This is not only about the Celtics winning; it is about the Lakers losing. Jose hates the Lakers. They, like the Yankees, fill the yearning for nationalist hatred that Jose’s liberalism and compassion prevent him from expressing in his politics. They are the other, the barbarians. If one follows Clausewitz’s famous axiom and “War is politics by other means” then surely basketball is war by other means, in the sense that it is an effort to impose one’s will on the other through sheer physical and psychological domination.
Jose is not so trite as to suggest that, in this time of real war, that basketball is anything more than metaphor for war. All he is saying is that he wants to burn Los Angeles to the ground, and sow their fields with salt.
I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO GAME 7.