The cover of Sports Illustrated's NBA season preview issue featured Nash and Howard, palms out, mugging for the camera, looking half-happy, half-constipated. The caption? Now This Is Going To Be Fun.
Is it ever. Though probably not in the manner that the magazine—and many basketball observers—expected. Like you, Jake, and non-bandwagon fans everywhere, I've been enjoying the Fall of Hoops Rome in the West. My personal favorite moment? The decadent, mildly pathetic spectacle of Bryant live-Tweeting his thoughts while watching video of his 2006 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors, which brings to mind: (a) old, pajama-clad Michael Jordan in Washington watching older game tape of his glory days in Chicago; (b) that time The Who played the Super Bowl halftime show, except it was 2010.
Moreover, I know we're not alone. Our colleagues in the rest of the media are digging this, too—not because they necessarily care about Los Angeles winning and losing, but because the Lakers' unexpected mediocrity and apparent dysfunction makes for great copy. There's an old adage among sports journalists that you either want to cover a great team or a terrible one; if the amount of what's-wrong-with-the-Lakers? coverage on ESPN and everywhere else is any indication, it's an old adage for a reason. The Lakers aren't totally terrible—more like relatively terrible—but they're far from good, and they can't seem to stop the bleeding. Which brings to mind another hoary news chestnut.
If it bleeds, it leads. Unless, of course, you're D'Antoni's defense and the bleeding involves giving up points to the other team, in which case, you're probably trailing.
All of that said, a word of caution: This won't be a joyride for long. Oh, sure, it's satisfying to see the big, bad Lakers get some overdue comeuppance. But if they stink for a whole season ... or two ... or five ... then they'll end up worse than lousy. They'll become irrelevant. And that would be a shame. Jake, you compared the Lakers to the Yankees, and in one important way you're exactly right. They're both polarizing franchises, big-spending, big-results glamour squads that non-fans love to hate. And ultimately, that's good. Sports spectators cannot live on scrappy underdogs and inspiring heroes alone. We need Goliaths. We need villains. We need something and someone to root against. Laugh now, Lakers haters, but be careful what you wish for—today's glorious, flaming train wreck is tomorrow's rusty debris strewn across an overgrown field, unremarkable, and forgotten. Or, as we call it here in the nation's capital, the Washington Wizards.