Saturday, June 14, 2008

'80s Nostalgia, Sort of

A sure sign of advancing age is when events happening in front of one's nose bring to mind events which happened a long time ago. Or maybe I'm not going soft, merely suffering from an overdose of those Magic-Larry games ESPN Classic rammed down my consciousness before the 2008 NBA Finals began.

Whatever the cause, I can't escape the sensation that the Finals so far are eerily reminiscent of the last time the Celtics and Lakers played for the title, the 1987 Finals, only with the identities of the two clubs reversed.

Then as now, the team with home court advantage won Games 1-2 without undue difficulty, lost Game 3, and came big from a big second-half deficit (although not quite AS big) to win Game 4 on the road and basically turn out the lights. Then as now, the team in charge was able to use its trademark strength (fast-breaking for the '87 Lakers, defense for today's Celtics) to dismantle its opponent for long, decisive, and downright frightening stretches of its wins. Oh, and by the way. The losing team's superduperstar, Kobe today and Larry in yesteryear, wasn't much help in Game 4.

In 1987, the Celtics won Game 5 at home, and were duly routed by the Lakers upon return to LA for Game 6. Am I predicting that to repeat itself? Yes, but not for the above reasons. A Laker victory in Game 5 seems likely because of one of sportswriting's laws of physics, Koppett's Law.

The law was formulated by the late Leonard Koppett, a wonderful sportswriter for the New York Times and many other papers. He was a pioneer user of stats, wrote terrific books, but most of all, was a philosopher of games.

Koppett's Law was formulated during a playoff series in I forget which sport. It states the following: The outcome of a game will be determined by which outcome produces the greatest amount of inconvenience for the greatest number of people. In 25 years of covering post-season play, it was my experience gravity was a poor second to Koppett's Law in efficiency.

It would be an enormous pain in the ass for everyone involved in the 2008 Finals, especially those covering it, for LA to win Game 5 and force the traveling circus to return to our fair city. NBA beat writers haven't seen home since last September, and one more airplane ride is not what they crave at this point. Hell, even David Stern has better things to do, such as consulting his attornies, than to drag his besuited self down to Causeway Street on Tuesday night. At this point, I doubt the Lakers themselves have much enthusiasm for the idea.

So that's what'll happen. Koppett's Law. QED.


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