Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Page 2 [Print without images]

Friday, July 2, 2004
Make L.A. the center of hate

By Patrick Hruby
Special to Page 2

Dear Sports Gods,

I don't ask for much; more to the point, you never grant me squat. I didn't grow to 6-foot-5 with a 45-inch vertical leap. Billy Packer doesn't come equipped with a mute button. And as far as I know, a topless women's professional beach volleyball league has yet to take off. But not to worry: there's a way you can make things up to me.

Deliver Mike Krzyzewski unto the Los Angeles Lakers.

Please. Por favor. Sil vou plait. I'm begging you. Send America's K-lassiest coach to America's most dysfunctional sports franchise. Bring group hugs and babbling claptrap about all the special, special kids to a group of men so jaded, you'd expect to find them in a Burmese mine. Pair the NBA's biggest egotist, Kobe Bryant, with the college game's high priest of sideline sanctimony.

Trust me: the first time Bryant drops a dismissive, contemptuous f-bomb on Krzyzewski during a time out, the resulting Coach K nostril flare -- is that special, special spittle on the corner of his mouth? -- will be well worth your efforts.

Coach K
Will Coach K lend the same kind of fatherly love to Kobe as he does at Duke?

And don't do this for you. Do it for me. Frankly, it's hard work -- exhausting, really -- to hate both Duke and the Lakers at the same time. That's almost nine months a year of corrosive bile and poisonous vitriol, an IV drip of soul-sucking Haterade. Never mind an ulcer: I'm surprised I haven't grown scales and fangs.

Put yourself in my sad, pathetic shoes. March is always shot, laid low by a joyless Final Four that includes Duke. June isn't much better. I don't dare flip to ABC on a Sunday afternoon, not unless I steel myself for the retina-searing sight of fat Jack Nicholson. Or maybe swarthy Rick Fox, looking like a landlocked Phoenician sea captain. Sans eyepatch.

Worst of all, I hardly can stand to pick up Sports Illustrated's college basketball preview issue, because some overhyped Dukie like Steve Wojciehowski is always grinning back at me. Even in the years the special, special Blue Devils aren't No. 1.

So help me out. Consolidate my hate. Give me a chance to focus. Give me a chance to live. Breathe. Exhale. Leech the toxins from the oil-spill beachscape of my jet-black heart.

Set me free -- free to detest just one team.

Without his K-ness, Duke will revert to run-of-the-mill good: A powerhouse program, to be sure, but no longer the contemptuous evil empire of college hoops, the irritating stand-in for every overachieving valedictorian know-it-all who ran for student body president. Stripped of juggernaut status, the Blue Devils will instead be, well, a lot like rival North Carolina -- a worrisome development, same as the rise of William Hung, but wholly unworthy of all-consuming anathema. Easy and safe to ignore.

Erik Meek-ish, if you will.

By contrast, the Lakers will become my 24/7 epicenter of loathing. And that figures to be great fun. Imagine if Saddam, Carrot Top and Barry Bonds all took paycuts to play for the same team. Wouldn't that make things easy? Wouldn't it feel good -- right, even -- to boo? To hurl D-cells and Ziploc-ed bags bags of urine at the field?

When I see Special K now, prowling the Duke sideline, yapping at the refs, it brings to mind Mike Myers in his horrifying "Cat in the Hat" oversized possum getup. Revulsion in my bones, I want to throw it in reverse and drive away. Or else step on the gas and turn him into roadkill. But if and when the special little man trades barbs with take-no-guff NBA refs, it'll simply make me laugh, the sheer, giddy joy of schaudenfrude.

And what about the Lakers? For better or worse, I can't lose. If the club slides deeper into decline, Bryant jacking up 50 shots a game while Gary Payton pouts like a lingerie model, I'll be delighted; if Coach K finds a way to make the likes of Kareem Rush and Brian Cook champions, I'll be delighted to further detest them.

Heck, I almost hope the K-led Lakers win the title. Just so the coach puts out another tome on Coaching From the Heart With the Five People You Meet on Tuesdays in Heaven. I'll gladly buy the book. Then burn it.

Look, Sports Gods, there's a lot of things I could ask for. Stuff that would require much heavier lifting. Like America winning the World Cup. Or Maria Sharapova having a beach volleyball-playing twin sister. But I'm neither greedy or unreasonable. Both the Lakers and the K have shown interest. Can't you just give them a little nudge?

Oh, and if it's not too much trouble, can you also see to it that that Lakers trade for Derek Jeter?

Patrick Hruby is a sportswriter for the Washington Times.