by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

LOS ANGELES — This is your nightmare speaking, Los Angeles. This is your darkest fear. This is the voice of a city where men get their fingernails dirty, not polished, where cars are constructed, not leased, and where most adults — are you sitting down? Are you comfy in the hot tub? Got lots of bubbles? — work for a living.

Oh, god. Not that, huh?

Move over, LA. Detroit is coming. Book us a room, and put that crown in it
— the one the Lakers have worn for the last year as NBA champions. We’ll take that home, thank you. And maybe a few of those towels.

And we’ll take Mike back, too, OK? And wash his brain. God knows he doesn’t have any hair left. Hey. Downey. My friend, my pal, my colleague.

What are you, nuts?

The Lakers? Over the Pistons? Since when did you get on that bandwagon? For pete’s sake, Mike. They wear purple. They sell maps to the stars’ seats. You, of all people, should know better. You used to live here in Detroit, where life was good. Now you live in LA, where your rent has tripled, your car mileage has quadrupled and you eat Tofu for breakfast.

You call that a good move, Mikey?

Don’t worry. We’re here to save you. To return you to reality. Grab a rope. We Want To Take You Higher.

Hey! A song! Dance, dude!

Isn’t that the LA approach to basketball, Mike? Buy a ticket? See Jack Nicholson? And boogie, boogie, boogie? Real knowledgable fans you got there. Last year, they were dancing on the Forum court during the sixth game of the championships — with 10 minutes to go. Great. Does the place have a two-drink minimum as well?

In Detroit, we take a purer approach. We believe a ball is something you put in the net, not the word for the time you had at the arena.

But hey, that’s just us. You remember us, don’t you Mike? Before you got those sunglasses and that big chain around your neck? It is true, we humble Detroiters lack Jacuzzis, EST and restaurants named Spago. In Detroit, Spago would be something you feed your dog. Pour a little water on top. Chewy, Chewy, Chewy.

Hey! A song! Dance, dude!

But let’s talk basketball. Ready? Set?

You lose.

Why? I’ll tell you why. Because in Detroit, we play what is known as Eastern Conference basketball. It means you’re allowed to bump a guy now and then without him yelling: “COOTIES! COOTIES!”

That’s one reason. Our defense is another. I will not bring up the fact that it took your Lakers 14 games to get through the last two rounds. Wait. Ah. Why not? It took your Lakers 14 games to get through the last two rounds. Who were they playing? The Utah . . . Jazz? The Dallas . . . Mavericks? Must have been their great winning traditions, huh?

The Pistons, on the other hand, defeated Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in five games and the mighty Boston Celtics — leprechauns and all — in six. Now, you may say: “Heck, we beat the Celtics in six last year.” Yeah. Sure. After we tired them out for you.

No such luck this time, purple men. The Pistons have young legs, young lungs, young hearts.

And the Lakers? Their best player is Earvin (Magic) Johnson.

“Oooh, Magic,” you coo, “he’s got a great smile. He’s a great guy.”

Sure. He grew up in Michigan. You think he’d be that sweet if he was raised in Inglewood?

Understand me, Los Angelenos. We are talking Adrian Dantley, who is the perfect age, versus Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who attended George Burns’ bar mitzvah. We are talking Isiah Thomas, Mr. All- World, versus Byron Scott, Mr. All-or-Nothing. We are talking John Salley, tall enough for two men, and Rickey Mahorn, big enough for two men, versus James Worthy, who only looks like two men — himself, and Teddy Pendergrass.

And then there’s Bill Laimbeer.

“Oooh, bad dude,” you say. “Nobody likes him. Everybody hates him. He’s a crybaby, a faker, a dirty player.”

To which I say: Bill Laimbeer went to high school in Southern California.

You have only yourselves to blame.

Coaches? You have one, we have one. They each dress like a Gucci ad. Face it, the only difference between Chuck Daly and Pat Riley is the stuff Riley sprays in his hair. Who had that first, by the way, Riley or Gordon Gekko?

Benches? Yours is deep, ours is deeper. Strength? Yours is deep, ours is deeper. Championship experience? Yours is deep, ours is nonexistent.

So? What do you think? We’re supposed to come to LA and be overwhelmed? By what? Banners? We’ve seen those. Exhaust fumes? We’ve seen those. Movie stars? We’ve seen those.

The fact is, one of your biggest-grossing movies was about a Detroit cop making fun of Beverly Hills. To my knowledge, there has never been a movie about a Beverly Hills person coming to Detroit and making fun of it.

You know why?

Because we’d walk him downtown, show him The Fist, and say: “What was that again?”

We call that Taking Care of Business.

Hey! A song! Dance, dude!

OK. We’ve made the point. Detroit wins. But don’t worry, Mike. Michigan forgives you for your momentary lapse of reason. When this is done, and the Pistons have captured the title, you can still come home for dinner.

Bring some Spago. We’ll feed the dog.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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