Come this November, I'm going to have to make a decision that will have my guts in a knot. It will be a decision over which I will agonize from this day until then—100 days of going back and forth, worrying about whether I will make the right call, and wondering what the emotional baggage will be for me in the long run.
No, I'm not talking about the presidential election; that's an easy one. Mitt Romney is a money-worshiping turd who, if elected, will, with a plastic smile on his face, drive the final nail in the coffin of the American middle class while explaining that he had to give all the money to the rich people because, obviously, they know what to do with it.
My dilemma come this November will be whether I can bring myself to root for Steve Nash in a Lakers uniform.
I realize that some of you will never begin to understand why this is a big deal. I'll try to explain. For those of you who still have the "Kill Your Television" bumper sticker on your Volkswagen van, let me put it this way: Just imagine if your favorite maker of hemp-based clothing signed on to work for Nike. Yeah, it's that bad.
It's actually even worse for me. I was basically born and raised a Lakers fan. From the mid-1960s into the early 1990s, I rooted for the Lakers. I idolized Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Magic Johnson (my all-time favorite player).
But then came the mid-1990s, when—except for a handful of teams (the Bulls, Suns, Jazz and Rockets)—the NBA degenerated into this hip-hop hellhole where, for many players and fans, it was more important to be cool than to win. By the time Los Angeles ascended again to the top of the NBA around 2000, the Laker Nation had become this thoroughly repugnant thing, with crap-talking players and front-running fans. A Lakers fan wearing his Kobe jersey is the sports equivalent of a Tea Party guy waving a Confederate flag.
Meanwhile, I had always been a fan of the Phoenix Suns, dating back to when the franchise rescued Connie Hawkins from an illegal, decade-long banishment from the NBA. The Suns were my second-favorite team, and the bond strengthened when I came to Arizona.
Having been a point guard myself a million years (and 100 pounds) ago, I've always been drawn to the good ones: Magic, Kevin Johnson, John Stockton. I've always loved Nash, even when he single-handedly knocked the UA Wildcats out of the NCAAs in the first round in 1993. Nash can go anywhere he wants on the court, whenever he wants, and then throw laserlike passes for easy layups. He can dribble and pass and score. On defense, he couldn't guard a chair with a gun, but he can dribble and pass and score like nobody's business.
When he came to the Suns in 2004, he immediately made the Suns one of the league's elite teams. The Suns won a stunning 33 more games than they had the previous year. He led the league in assists and shooting percentage, and won back-to-back MVP awards. He was magnificent, and the Suns were thrilling to watch. But they were also snakebit. Year after year, ill-timed injuries and unfair suspensions kept them from winning a title. One year, NBA Commissioner David Stern unilaterally changed the course of the playoffs when he suspended a couple of Suns players for reacting to a cheap shot against Nash, but allowed San Antonio star Tim Duncan to play, despite his having done something even more egregious. That year's NBA champions will forever be known as the San Antonio Sterns.
In recent years, the Suns have faded. Bad trades by the front office and free agents leaving for greener ($) pastures reduced the Suns to a midlevel scrappy bunch who won more games than they probably should have. But with his contract up, Nash told the team that he wanted the squad upgraded so that he could make one last run at a title (he's 38), or he would go elsewhere in search of one. The front office, bunglers to the very end, decided to let the most-popular athlete in Arizona history walk without even putting up a fight.
Most of us fans figured that he would go to New York, where he spends his summers, or maybe Toronto, where, as a Canadian citizen, he is a national treasure. None of us thought he would go to the Lakers.
I'm not sure what I'm going to do. I hope Suns fans express their displeasure by staying away for a while and letting ownership take a financial hit. Nothing permanent, just a "Shame on you!"
As for the Lakers, I've had a solid and well-deserved dislike for that franchise for coming up on 15 years. At my age and with my temperament, I turn around at the speed of an aircraft carrier that's stuck in a glacier. But I'm afraid that I'm going to find myself staying up late at night, watching Nash direct a stunningly potent Lakers offense, and then hating myself in the morning for having done so.
As it says in Matthew 13:42, there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.