In a recent column, I urged the Boston Celtics to win the Eastern Division and try their luck in the NBA finals against the Lakers.
I sincerely hope Boston fans didn't misread that column and think that I, or the Lakers' fans, have anything but the utmost respect and fondness for the Celtics.
And it's obvious from some mail that the feelings are mutual. Celtic fans really do hold the Laker players, fans, and the L.A. culture, in the highest esteem.
Isn't that what sports and sportsmanship are all about?
What follows are a couple of the letters. And since the writers seemed interested in establishing a meaningful dialogue, I took the liberty to insert some comments in italics.
Dear Mr. Ostler:
On behalf of all clear-thinking L.A. area basketball fans, I thank you for the invitation to your block-buster Hollywood folly, featuring your self-admiring, showboating Lakers, winner of the pathetic Pacific.
Fans of the Celtics need not lower themselves with smug diatribes against the Lakers' organization, their ex-G.M., the Forum, or the color of their shoes."
(Are we talking about the same classy Celtic fans who, after Game 7 last season, surged onto the Boston Garden floor like crazed Cape Buffalo, then staged a drunken riot in the city streets?)
Clear-headed basketball fans know what counts, not Saint-Laurent suits on Tenexed-slicked coaches, or how many stars are on the sidelines. It's NBA championships that count.
That grimy garage (Boston Garden) you refer to has all the class and tradition, not to mention history, that you and your Lakers could never have.
(You write on the letterhead of Larry Flynt Publications (Inc.), . I know better than to engage in debate with a man in the employ of such a respected and imposing literary organization. (But something has been puzzling me. Do me a favor and ask Larry how he can justify calling his magazine "Hustler" when there has never been a feature story on Pete Rose?)
Dear Mr. Ostler and Laker fans:
We people in the east don't like you. We respect the basketball court.
(Except when the Cape Buffalo get the urge to roam. )
We don't like your floor shows during timeouts, we don't like that little creep that dances on the same floor where guys earn a living.
(Little creep? Wait just a minute, pal. Dancin' Barry is 6-foot-2.)
We don't like celebrities taking the good seats from the real fans in the big games.
(Look, if you Celtic fans really are jealous of all the Hollywood stars who attend Laker games, we'll loan you a few. For Game 1, you can have Sly Stallone, Michael Jackson and Ed McMahon.)
We don't like classy Jack Nicholson mooning the crowd in Game 7 last year.
(Admit it, you're mad because M.L. Carr didn't think of it first. )
When we lose, we stay up nights worrying.
(Ah, that accounts for the red eyes and dazed expressions.)
When you lose, it's just another night out. The Celtics are a working man's team. The Lakers are just another piece of entertainment in a party town.
We don't like the 76ers, but we hate you. The fans in Philly are blue collar working people like us. You guys are sun worshipers.
(You're right, it's not fair. We get the sun, you get the Nicholson moon.)
If we get by Philly, we'll be ready for you guys. Are you ready for us? Are you ready for a 90-degree Boston Garden?
(That depends. Do your concession stands sell Perrier on ice? )
Do you know what to do if you aren't getting the fast-break points? Have you devised any plays for crunch time other than throw it to Kareem and hope for the best?
(Gosh, I sure hope Coach Riley has come up with something else. That old throw-it-to-Kareem trick has only worked about 20,000 times.)
Good luck, Fakers, I hope Denver kicks your bleeps.
(Jack Nicholson's bleep, too?)
Lest the spirited yet cordial rivalry between the two teams and the two cities get out of hand, I would like to emphasize that this is all in fun.
I realize, for instance, that the people who rioted in Boston last season, and the ones who called and wrote to me recently, are not necessarily representative of the ladies and gentlemen of that city.
There's probably a logical explanation for the rioting. Like maybe some exuberant British soccer fans were in Boston on a package tour that night and happened to snap up all 14,000 seats.
But that's all water under the bridge, right? This is a new season, a new series. Let's all be friends.
Have a nice day.