Disingenuous congratulations to the Carolina Panthers and Golden State Warriors for their fabulous so-far seasons.
No, seriously, some of us wished you nothing but the worst.
The guy who said records were meant to be broken would have been in a headlock sitting next to me Dec. 11 as I put historical rancor aside to root for Boston to chuck the Warriors off the Golden State bridge.
It took a lot for a born-and-bred Lakers fan to root for the Soylent Green, but sometimes in life you have no choice.
(Spoiler alert: never count on Boston for anything except decent fish soup)
This was personal and Machiavellian. The truth about records is that the people closest to them DO NOT want them broken. Go ask a shrink why this is true, but it is. I don’t have any ties to the 1972 Miami Dolphins but I get why their players pop champagne, every year, when the last undefeated NFL team goes down to defeat.
Honest to God, I don’t care if Carolina ends up earning the first perfect season since Miami went 17-0, but I know why Dolphins from Flipper on down were begging the New York Giants to stop Carolina at 13-0 on Sunday.
I was doing the same thing Dec. 11, selling my soul for Boston, in a game I wouldn’t have otherwise watched in a million years, against a Golden State team I really like.
But there was just no way on Earth I would have accepted well the Warriors snapping the Lakers’ record of 33-straight wins, set in the glorious campaign of 1971-72. I was already putting an asterisk on Golden State trying to carry over four wins from last year’s regular season.
People on TV were saying the win over Boston would have put the streak at 28, which was totally bogus given the games Golden State actually lost in between.
Never mind, though, because Boston choked at home and allowed the Warriors to escape with a double-overtime win. Yet, the Celtics contributed to my cause by wearing out the Warriors in advance of their quick-turnaround game at Milwaukee.
It set up a Biblical, full-circle confrontation in the same Milwaukee where, on Jan. 9, 1972, the Lakers’ 33-game streak finally ended. I remember it like yesterday. That was my team, and my streak. Those were my heroes: Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Gail Goodrich, Happy Hairston and Jim McMillian.
With Golden State creeping closer, I was nervous about an NBA game in December for the first time since…December of 1971. Here I was a grown man, in his later 50s, a professional journalist no less, assessing Milwaukee’s chances of taking the Warriors down.
It seemed highly probable. Winning consecutive games on the NBA road is tough enough, but Golden State was an exhausted, wounded team as it wobbled from Bean Town to Beer Town.
I monitored the game closely on my smart phone and smiled comfortably as the less-talented Bucks jumped to an early lead on their way to victory.
A shout out to psychoanalysts out there: why do we care so much about our streaks? My guess is people are generally nostalgic but not always because times back then were better.
I don’t remember being happy at all in 1971-72 but, as I found out later, neither was Jerry West. That year I was an awkward teen, insecure, bean-pole skinny with crooked teeth and cavities. Nolan Ryan had not yet entered my life as a California Angel.
Eureka, Dr. Freud! Maybe I buried myself in the Lakers because they were one of the few things that made me happy? Ah ha! That team, and that streak, helped mask the more painful memories.
I prefer to block out the bad and instead remember my dad letting me blast the car horn in the driveway after the Lakers finally won the NBA title in 1972.
So, yeah, stay away from MY records. I’m the same way about UCLA’s 88-game win streak in basketball, and Ryan’s 383 strikeout season in 1973. These are more than just numbers to me. Get close and I’m coming after you with hexes and voodoo dolls.
I understand Oklahoma football fans who cherish its streak of 47 straight wins under Bud Wilkinson in the 1950s.
What relief Sooner Nation must have felt when Ohio State snapped Miami’s 34-game streak in the 2002 title game, and Texas snapped USC’s 34-game streak in the 2005 title game.
I get why old timer Yankee fans don’t want to see Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak broken.
It’s not because the old days were necessarily better. They could have been worse. Maybe we cling to the past, not just to remember, but just as often to forget.
It’s the existential fear of getting old, that all this is finite, when, in 1972, it was all ahead of us.