Under the Media Mask, They Are Who We Thought They Were.

In a perfect world, when your hometown team is in the finals of their league championship, your team comes out on the playing surface ready to roll, ready to win that title and take it back to the city in which they hail from. You leave everything out there, and you don’t lose by 40 points, no matter what the sporting event.

This, of course, in a perfect world.

So much is said for how the West carries themselves, full of so many superstars and so much more raw firepower. In contrast we have the East, the much criticized East, supposedly known for their soft ways and soft players. The Eastern Conference in the NBA has got nothing to be ashamed about. But what did it take to shut up the critics, the people who criticize half the teams in the whole league? It took an influx of players built in the NBA West.

Of recent Eastern championships: Shaq goes to Miami, and then we have the newly crowned 2008 champions, the Boston Celtics.

In case you live in a cave and haven’t flipped through any channels or picked up any sports pages recently, the Los Angeles Lakers took on the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. I bet you might even remember a time when Magic Johnson went up against Larry Bird. If you can’t remember, that’s fine: the NBA did a wonderful job of pounding that legendary match-up down everyone’s throats.

It is a nice touch of nostalgia, but so is seeing your high-school sweetheart at a gas station 15 years later when she’s 80 pounds overweight, a cigarette in her mouth, and a kid on each tattooed arm. Maybe if you’re lucky she’ll slip into the conversation that her husband left her. I’ll tell you what, that situation right there, however uncomfortable, would have made me more comfortable than the disaster I watched unfold in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

Let’s put the actual game itself on hold for just a few seconds. I’m not just talking about the actual game when I say it was a disaster unfolding before our nostalgic eyes. There was something far more disturbing in these NBA Finals than a simple blowout bred from a complete lack of effort.

There is not one person reading this, or maybe you yourself are the one I am referring to, who does not know someone else who used to love and follow basketball but now refuses to watch it. There’s a lot of reasons for this, maybe even the fact that the referees pick and choose on which nights the rules are actually in effect, but to keep my hate-mail at a rate lower than my electric bill, we won’t dig too deep at this point. How about the fact there is no way in hell that Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen would have been taken from the West and allowed to join the Milwaukee Bucks? How about the fact that Pau Gasol was allowed to go to the LA Lakers for what seems like a 17th round draft pick? Would Pau Gasol have been allowed to be traded to Seattle? Or is there maybe something else going on here?

Everything is a business, and at the end of the day, you can’t blame people for trying to make a buck. However, problems arise when the action is a blatant slap in everyone’s face, and no one can do anything about it except turn the channel, which many already have. The fans in Boston are incredible, have been wanting a winner, and maybe even deserve one after the years of struggle they have had. The Lakers themselves have had some tough times recently, and as early as a season ago, we were talking about a potential MVP who wanted out of LA in the worst way possible.

Both franchises, storied, nostalgic. Franchises like that have fanbases. Milwaukee and Seattle do not.

What the NBA did by allowing those trades was to show everyone just how bad the NBA really is. What happened with Boston this season is not a poorly wrapped Cinderella story. You have a team go from last place in their conference and in one move they win the NBA title. It is not a knock against the quality of the East, that’s a knock against your whole league.

Now, add on top of that how the rulebook is in effect every other night. The people who watched Larry Bird and Magic Johnson have tuned out, and with good reason.

The NBA wins when Boston is a winner, there’s a winner in LA, and as my buddy Fred says, New York is next.

And then you have the Game 6 debacle. The touchy-feely side of sports loves to tell us about how playing in the championship is every kid’s dream since before they were even born. So then in the elimination game, on the road where you need to be even more motivated, you lose by 40 points to a team that was in last place a year ago.

Tomorrow, when you go to work or you see your dad or your friend, make a case for them as to why the NBA is worth watching. In a perfect world, your argument is rational.

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