Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Dating Game: Playoffs Edition

Maybe this is just limited to the female perspective (I suspect that it is) but I've always viewed my relationships with sports teams like one might view romantic relationships. 

Most of us start dating at birth--usually because we've been betrothed from day one to a team of our parents' choosing (usually it's Dad's choice). Although we may have our struggles, and may at times question whether or not our parents' choice has been a blessing or a curse, at some point we affirm the relationship with non-verbal vows that are very similar to those that couples exchange at the altar. Though we may never say it out loud, our hearts commit for better or for worse (in good seasons and bad) until death (or a Baltimore Colts-type situation) do us part.

For me, I was betrothed at birth to two teams--the Florida State Seminoles and the Atlanta Braves. To this point, I have been faithful to both in good times (National Championships, World Series) and bad (cheating scandals, playoff heartbreakers). Sometimes we get mad at each other, sometimes we say things we don't mean, but at the end of the day we accept our relationship for what it is.

It's the NFL and the NBA that have been more of a struggle for me. I fell head over heels for the Jaguars when they came on the scene in '95, but we went too far, too fast and they wound up breaking my heart. They chose Mark Brunnell over me, and I took it hard. I rebounded for a short time with the Washington Redskins, but that ended before it really began when they decided to trade Brad Johnson and hire Steve Spurrier. Recently, the Jags and I have gotten back together, but the future of our relationship is still uncertain. 

In Facebook terms, "it's complicated."

The NBA is an entirely different story. I feel like I've been playing the field there for decades. I dated the Bulls in the mid-nineties (really, who didn't?) and showed some interest in the Magic back in the Shaq and Penny Hardaway days. Back then, Orlando was the new kid on the block in Florida sports (I should say north-central Florida sports, the Heat came on the scene then too, but my sleepy town in North Florida might as well be on a different planet than Miami) and I was attracted to them, but then came the lockout. After that, I went through one of those periods where you're convinced that all teams are bad and you're happy to be single and not tied down to any one situation.

I probably would have stayed on the outskirts of the NBA had it not been for my college roommate, Alicia, who happened to be a die-hard Lakers (read: Kobe Bryant) fan. Based on her recommendation, I started a casual relationship with the Lakeshow (as she calls them) and though content, I never felt a spark. Not like I do with the 'Noles, the Braves and even sometimes, the Jags. The Lakers are like that gorgeous guy you date because he's just so damn attractive, even if his personality isn't so great and he's got a sketchy history (at best).

Still, I rode out the Lakers train for a few years and maybe I would still be on it, if the Magic hadn't come along this season and swept me off my feet.

The new kid on the block just showed up at the class reunion with a lot more muscle, a swanky ride, and a lot of class. Suddenly, I'm wondering if fate was at work all along. Maybe the Magic and I were meant to be together and it just took us a while to figure out--we had to go through all those difficult times to reach this moment when their success has stepped in to offer a glowing light during the dark times of my Period of Bitter Unemployment (heretofore known at my PoBU).

Maybe...just maybe...this is love.

Or maybe this was a really elaborate way for me to justify jumping on the Magic bandwagon as they head to the finals for the first time since '95. 

You be the judge.

Later days,