Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Take a Minute(or 10) and Recognize







Hello Suckas. Today's post will be spent revisiting a great moment in Philadelphia sports history. The reasons for a trip down memory lane are simple: most of the city's best moments are in the past, this particular moment is incredible, and some fans under the age of thirty have no idea this ever happened.

Let me begin by providing a modicum of background information, personal and otherwise. I was born in 1980. I was a conscious person capable of memories and interests beyond my blankie and my mommy probably by the age of three or four. By age five I was, by any loose definition of the word, a fan of the Sixers. I considered Julius Erving a superhero, Charles Barkley a hefty hero, and Mo Cheeks a trusted friend. And I HATED the Boston Celtics. I would cry when the Sixers lost. When the Sixers lost to the Celtics I stewed. And brooded. And, of course, cried. In fact I was as much of a fan then, at age five, as I am now, only now I can read, operate a remote control, and choose my bedtime, all of which make sports fanaticism easier and ultimately more debilitating.

My reason for including that information is to point out that any Sixers fan in the early 1980's, no matter how old, despised, detested, and begrudgingly respected the Boston Celtics. And vice-versa. The rivalry was real. It wasn't exaggerated for tv, or conjured for headlines. The players hated each other, the coaches hated each other, the towns hated each other. What on earth could be better?

Let me get to the guts of the flashback before I turn this into a screed on the way things used to be. The Sixers and Celtics, in the spring of 1982, were easily the two best teams in the East, and had been for years. The Sixers had beaten Boston in the 1980 Eastern Conference Finals before losing to LA and rookie Magic Johnson in the Finals. In 1981 The Sixers held a 3-1 lead on Boston, choked it away in spectacular fashion, and sat at home as Boston went on to shitbeat a vastly inferior Houston team in the Finals. By 1982 stakes was high and the pressure on the Sixers was monumental.

Philly again took a three games to one lead. One more win and they would face off against Showtime for the second time in three years. But a blowout loss in Boston was followed by a devastating loss at The Spectrum, which evened the series at three games apiece and sent the city of Philadelphia into a depressive tailspin of epic proportions. From what I've heard and read, the mood following the game six loss was one of abject pessimism impressive even in this town. Nobody believed they could go back to Boston and win game seven. NOBODY. Except maybe my father, one of the only Philly optimists I've ever met.

Blowing a 3-1 lead once is bad. Doing it in consecutive years is traumatic. Suffering it at the hands of your most hated rival? Words cannot describe.

Back to Boston they go for game 7 at The Boston Garden, where Celtic fans parade around in sheets before the game. Presumably they do this to represent the ghosts of Celtic past, but it's not out of the question that many Boston fans were also members of the Klu Klux Klan. In fact this would make sense.

The game begins and The Sixers play tough and smart. They build an early lead and stick together, withstanding several Boston runs. They do the impossible. They beat more than the Celtics. They beat the ghosts, the shame of the previous year, the pressure, and the crushing negativity of their own fans and media.

Several trusted fans of a generation before myself have stated that this win was the sweetest win ever. Sweeter than a year later when they won the title. And I trust them. And I hope any fan of the Sixers, any fan of basketball or sports, can take a few minutes to watch the end of the game and look at several things. First the clip.

Now watch and listen for these things:

1) Our unis are a fucking treasure.

2) Bill Russell only waits :47 into the clip before stumbling through the first of many unintelligible comments.

3) Andrew Toney is gangstafied. At the 3:13 mark of the video watch as he dunks on the fastbreak, pretends to hand the ball to Kevin McHale, then decides it would be funnier and more insulting to slam the ball on the ground and make Ugly Kevin pick it up.

4) At 4:16 the camera briefly shows security sprinting towards what I can say with 99% certainty is a brawl between a rowdy Sixers fan(Steve Solms no doubt) and a dejected Klansman.

5) At about 4:36 the win is assured and the Sixers bench begins to relax and celebrate. I love this part. You can feel the joy, the us-against-the-world satisfaction of the win, and the genuine euphoria of the team and coaches. Watch For Billy Cunningham's dramatic fist pump. He's almost trembling with emotion. It nearly feels quaint in it's earnestness. Try picturing a current NBA bench looking so giddy at the end of a game. Not happening.

6) 7:43. The coup de grace of the video. I gotta put aside any and all bitterness at the Boston fans and give them outrageous respect for this effort. Facing defeat, they begin chanting "Beat LA! Beat LA!", exhorting the Sixers to take care of business in the Finals. This is mind-blowing for so many reasons. It almost deserves it's own post. I will just say that the NBA crowds of today are too busy staring at jumbotrons to have the patience, creativity, or flat-out guts to attempt anything of this quality. Way to go Boston fans. Now please go die.



Afterward:

The Sixers failed to win for the third time in six years in the Finals. After losing to LA in six games they sign Moses Malone, destroy the league in 1982-83, win the title by sweeping the Lakers, get incredibly drunk of the plane home and parade in front of millions of happy people, myself not included, which is a tragic story for another time.



I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Congrats Obama. Beat McCain! Beat McCain!

4 comments:

  1. Impossible to watch that clip without getting chills. I too love the beat L.A. effort.

    "If they don't score soon, it's going to be more and more difficult to score..." "...Now that they've scored, they're gonna keep scoring."

    The hairstyles, the enthusiasm, the short shorts...You gotta love the '80s.

    I also enjoyed when Mo Cheeks ran into the ref, and how they rolled credits while the game was still happening.

    Go Sixers. Go DR.

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  2. AH, nothing like proudly remembering something I don't remember but only wish I did. Chief Naka, you are a true inspiration.

    Next time post some NBA Superstar videos, I haven't heard John Mellencamp in a hot minute.

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  3. ...Or as J-Gold would say with Nostrils flared, "A hot second."

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