Game 1, Chicago
Lakers 103, Celtics 89
Bill and I stare at the TV screen with dead expressions as the clock ticks down to 0:00. At the buzzer, Bill tries to pull himself together.
“No problem,” he says, his hand limp over the edge of the near-empty bowl of Cheetos. “If we win game 2, we steal home court. Just need one of the first two.”
I shrug and slump. “I don’t know,” I say. “Maybe it’s just better if we get swept.”
Bill looks at me like I’ve just threatened his children. “Excuse me?” he says.
“I don’t know,” I say. “If it goes seven games, you know how much more heartbreaking that’ll be than just getting swept?”
Bill stands. Behind him on the screen, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is doing his happy-go-lucky post-game interview, smiling from ear to ear.
“Look, I know you have your trip coming up in a few days,” Bill says, pointing an orange-stained finger at me, “and I realize that a long, drawn out series could make your life a little tougher, but I’m not going to tolerate quitter talk.”
Suddenly, the Elvis Presley version of Glory, Glory, Halleluiah
starts playing under Bill’s words.
“You think Larry Bird
was ready to quit with his team down 2-1 in the ’84 Finals?” Bill says.
I shake my head.
“No!” Bill says. “And what happened?”
I reply in a weary, defeated voice. “They won game 4,” I say.
“And then took the Championship,” Bill says, “And you think when Larry, or John Havlicek for that matter, were in trouble in their respective Eastern Conference Finals games with 5 seconds left to play, that either of them decided to quit?
No they didn’t. What did they do?”
“They stole the ball.”
“That’s right,” Bill says. “Twenty-two years apart, they each stole the ball.
Bill starts to pace a bit, like a coach delivering a great halftime speech. Even with an orange Cheeto hand, he’s kind of inspiring.
“And when Bill Russell faced the demons of racism, sometimes from his own team’s fans, what did he
I stare. For a second, I’m not sure what answer Bill is looking for, but then I realize there is no wrong answer.
“He persevered?” I say.
Bill rolls with it. “He persevered,
” he repeats, pointing at me. Flecks of orange salt fly in my direction, “and oh yeah, he only revolutionized the game of basketball and won 11 championships, that’s all. No big deal.”
I lean forward on the couch. I’m starting to feel it.
“WWLBD, baby,” Bill says.
I look confused.
“What would Larry Bird do?” he says.
Bill knows how to get to me. He knows about the Larry shrine in the basement. He knows my dad took me to John Havlicek’s last game, and even though I didn’t understand the relevance of it at the time, it set the stage for my worship of Bird. He knows that I was in attendance for “the Duel” against Dominique and the Hawks. And he knows that despite the responsibilities of home and family that keep me from spending crazy amounts of money to attend games, my blood runs green.
“And finally,” Bill says. “Do you think this narrative is compelling to anyone if you’re a whiner and a mope?”
I shake my head.
“That’s right,” Bill says. “Nobody likes a whiner. So what are we gonna do?”
“Take game 2,” I say. And I actually believe it.
“Damn straight,” Bill says.
We both look at the TV. Kobe Bryant is finishing his standard drivel interview.….we just have to take this series one game at a time.
“Maybe just a good ankle sprain,” Bill says, eying Kobe. “Just something to slow him down.”
“No,” I say. “We want them at full strength. Beating them means more when everyone’s healthy.”
Bill looks to me. “That’s the spirit!” he says. “That was just a test. You passed.”
I’m not sure it was a test, but I’ll take the passing grade anyway.
The TV interviewer pulls back the microphone and turns to the camera. It’s Stache.
“Thank you, Kobe,” he says. “And now, back to you for answers to larger
questions, like ‘Who the hell is John Havlicek?’”
Links: Travelling: Intro / Book Jacket
, Chapter 1: Cribbagegate
, Chapter 2: Two e-mails
, Chapter 3: Pattern
, Chapter 4: Shattered
, Chapter 5: Hilarious Pee
, Chapter 6: Suicide
, Chapter 7/8: Coaching High school, Shark attacks and appetizers
, Chapter 9: June
, Chapter 10: 18 and oh no
, Chapter 11: DNA
, Chapter 12: Peanut Butter Sandwiches
, Chapter 13: Tom Brady and the McGuffin
, Chapter 14: Game 1
, Chapter 15: Who the H is John Havlicek?
Labels: chapter 14, Evil Ted, Game 1, traveling