It all started out with such promise.
While perusing the halls of our local Vons recently, my almost two-year-old son, Jack, noticed a plastic mini-basketball set, seductively hanging above the Fruity Pebbles. After examining it and finding all the parts were there for a game, I decided that despite the fact that makers of the product were clearly dyslexic, for a few bucks the “Street Pro Gamez” basketball set was worth it.
As soon as we got home Jack asked for the ball. Being a former “hoopster” (starting center on the Blaine County Men’s League Final Four squad of an eight team league) and hoops coach (the Mammoth High Boys’ team averaged nearly three wins a season with me on the bench), it was with the sheer delight of a proud first-time father that I assembled the hoop and began teaching my son some of the finer points of the game.
“Here ya go now little buddy, Dunk It!”
Jack took to the game quickly, and within minutes began shoving every ball he could get his mini-mitts on through the basket. As he continued to dunk away, I went about my fatherly duties (took out the trash, burped, scratched my reproductive area), but soon he called me back over to show me his latest move. And that’s when the joy of the moment was destroyed.
After getting my attention, Jack grabbed the little orange basketball, made a cross-over (or what we used to call “traveling”), and dunked the ball through the net. He then took a couple of quick steps away from the basket and dove onto the ground like he had just taken a hard foul. A full-on, full-fledged “flop” if I’ve ever seen one. Neither the dog nor cat was within five feet of the kid when he made the basket and there’s no way they could have fouled him. Still, he lay on the floor crying out, “I down!” paused for a second, and then bounced back up and did the exact same thing, ending on the floor, crying for a foul, over and over again. And that’s when it dawned on me: We’ve been watching too many Lakers’ games.
Between national television, Fox Sports West ad nauseam coverage and the occasional game on KCAL, the Lakers are on the tube around here almost as much as Jay Leno and Ryan Seacrest—only those two look more manly.
Sure, the Lakers may be defending Champs and are a pretty talented bunch, but you could find more tough guys in a middle school choir. Sometimes it seems like an opponent doesn’t even have to touch a Laker; just give him a mean look, and the purple and gold clad player will go flying across the floor. That’s why the average Lakers’ game consists of more flopping around than a net full of Alpers’ trout when Tim is taking another load to the lake.
Tim Alpers actually coached college hoops at Tulsa University and his claim-to-fame (besides breeding monster trout) is having coached against Larry Bird a few times. Now Larry Bird never “flopped.” There was no doubt about it when he got fouled. That’s because Larry Bird is an albino god and played in the NBA’s heyday; the “No blood No foul,” Kurt Rambis-with-taped-glasses-after-getting-clotheslined-by-Kevin-McHale, illustrious Eighties. The Celtics actually brought a little of it back a couple of years ago, but now they’re like that Jerry Garcia classic, “Old and in the Way.” Which means we’re stuck with the “Fakers,” a team softer than butter on the roof of a car stuck in LA traffic.
While it’s easy to make the argument that Kobe “I love Colorado” Bryant is the best player ever (Yes, I’m talking to you Michael Jordan, I saw you in that Wizards uniform, and the White Sox one, too), the rest of the Fakers (besides Derek Fisher) don’t strike fear in the hearts of anyone outside of Sacramento. In fact all Luke Walton usually elicits from opponents is the munchies.
As for the rest of the Fakers, Pau “Grandma-arms” Gasol? No offense intended to any real Grandmas out there, as most of you have better muscle definition than Pau does, but please. The only thing that’s really frightening about Ron “Anger Management” Artest is his rapping. He makes Shaq sound like Snoop Dogg. Lamar Odom married a Kardashian (look what happened to poor Bruce Jenner) and will now also be appearing regularly on the E! Network, which is certainly not a bastion of masculinity. And then there’s “Sasha” “Don’t mess with my hair” Vujacic, who’s real name is Aleksander but prefers to be called by a girl’s name.
Of course, some may argue that my own beloved Celtics have a famous flopper themselves in Paul “Oh my knee, carry me off the court… okay I’m fine” Pierce. It’s a tough argument to contend with, especially since Pierce grew up in LA rooting for the Lakers.
Maybe it’s just that purple and gold just doesn’t intimidate or impress people, even the ball players wearing the fabled colors. I think I’ll make sure Jack wears only Kelly green from here on out.
“If the NBA were on channel 5 and a bunch of frogs making love were on channel 4, I’d watch the frogs, even if they were coming in fuzzy.” –Bob Knight
Photo by McKenna: Jack, pre-flop, goes up for two.