The world now remembers that sports can be fun. Thank you, Larry Brown.
When the Pistons beat, nay, embarrassed the Lakers in the NBA Finals, I was thrilled. As you might remember if you've been reading this column since two weeks ago, I just moved to LA and was rooting against the Lakers. My requests were answered by the lousy play of everyone who has ever worn yellow, as the Pistons won the series 4-1. Sort of 5-0, since they gave away Game Two.
I was thrilled partially because I got to see the Pistons upset a team I was rooting against. I was thrilled mainly because I got to see an upset at all. Upsets are fun. And that's what sports are for.
Later that night, I was at a bar in LA where tons of Laker fans were dishing out conspiracy theories as to why such a dominant team could lose.
"They paid em off!" one guy said.
"Someone paid the Lakers off?" I asked.
I then asked him how someone who makes 20 million a year can be paid off. He told me that the owner of the Lakers paid them off, in order to bet against his own team and make more money than he would have had he won the championship. I didn't ask him how he came by this knowledge (or why, if he had this knowledge, did he not use it to his own financial advantage). I simply asked him if he really believed it. The man said that stranger things have happened like, for instance, the Pistons beating the Lakers.
The Pistons could have lost to the Nets. The Pistons could have lost to the Pacers. The Pistons should have lost to the Lakers. But they didn't they opted instead to win the NBA Finals. I admit, it was against all odds. But that's what makes it cool and that's what makes it a great sports story.
Obviously, Laker fans are not happy with what happened. But the rest of the world is, because of the story. Sports are full of cool stories of underdogs dethroning championships, with no fixes involved. Just ask Bill Buckner.
And there were tons of great stories in this year's finals.
Chauncey Billups was the unlikely MVP winner, which might be the first time someone named Chauncey has won MVP in anything.
The same guy that owns the Pistons also owns the Tampa Bay Lightning. That means he had two underdog teams win major championships in just over a week. He also owns the Detroit Shock, who won the WNBA Championship. Which he was probably pretty proud of, until he got a real trophy.
Detroit Coach Larry Brown became the first coach to ever win an NCAA National Championship and the NBA finals. Philadelphia's Allen Iverson called to congratulate his former coach, which was especially heartwarming since Iverson only gets one phone call. I'm kidding. Iverson never called.
I'm always being asked why I think sports matter, and my usual answer is something complex about being part of a larger entity, community, and forgetting your problems while living vicariously through your team. But one thing I never thought of before is that they matter just because they produce cool stories. I had a lot of fun talking about the game after it ended more fun than I had while I was watching.
I had fun talking about whether or not Kobe was going to be back or if Darko Millaroundonthebench would reach his potential or if the finals trophy looked a bit like an MTV movie award. That's really what these finals were about. Detroit is happy to have won, and LA is upset to have lost but both sides are happy that we can talk about it.
Though I am way happier than I'd be if the stupid Lakers won.
Steve Hofstetter is the author of Student Body Shots, which is available at www.SteveHofstetter.com. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.