Monday, June 13, 2011

The Tale of a Champion

Dallas Mavericks, 2011 NBA Champions

On a cool, cloudy mid-June day in Jerusalem, when it even rained a bit, a new champion was crowned--the Dallas Mavericks--who, after being founded in 1980, finally broke through to win it all for the first time. The NBA for us growing up meant catching the Finals with Amy and Dad every summer, watching somebody else's team win it all. Our year didn't come til really feels like hell froze over.

The 90's were a great decade for Samuels' sports teams: the Reds won the World Series in '90, our Cowboys won the Super Bowl in '92, '93 and '95, Michigan football took the title in '97 and Michigan hockey in '98, and the Stars hoisted the Stanley Cup in '99 (Ann Arbor's Walnut Street was the scene of my fanatical screams that night). Since then it's been one runner-up after the next--the Stars in '00, Mavs in '06, Rangers last fall, and Michigan hockey, who lost the title game the night Dad passed away. Here's hoping I won't wait 12 years to celebrate the next title (all eyes move to our Rangers to join the club).

But in the meantime, I celebrated this as if it might take a decade for the next one. I caught the game at home with four buddies. This was the culmination of many weeks of middle-of-the-night hoops, as my Mavs did what roomies David's Celtics and Noah's Bulls couldn't--vanquish the hated Heat. We waited until the second half to pop open some 5 am beers (I went with a Moosbacher pilsener from Germany for Dirk, while Noah chose an Israeli Goldstar to toast Dirk's country losing 66 years ago).

As for post-game, when their White Sox played for the title in '05, Noah and his dad put two bottles of champagne on ice: a good one for drinking, and a cheap one for the champagne shower. So with the Larry O'Brien Trophy in the building, I prepared appropriately. How sweet was that to continue the time-honored tradition of toasting a championship with champagne! I only wish I could have sprayed champagne on Dad to celebrate his beloved team's huge win...

Dad would have had so much demise of evil to celebrate lately: the Mavs taking down the despised Lakers and Heat, the ouster of Tressel and Pryor from o state, the Navy Seals' elimination of Bin Laden. (Did I go too far to put the sports guys in the same sentence as Osama?) Regardless, Dad's smiling his head off from above these days...

Our Mavs took us on one incredible ride. I caught a February stomping of Sacramento--my fellow Israeli Omri Casspi's Kings were overmatched from the tip-off (it was cool though to see several Israeli flags around the arena). The two-time defending champion Lakers--swept away with authority. Shannon Brown likes to think LA swept themselves (Ben Rogers called him out in this brilliant interview). The media focus in the Finals was again not on Dallas, but on Miami's failures. With all due respect to my sister's profession, what is wrong with these people who can't place the focus where it belongs, on this ultimate old-school team? These guys' determination to the last minute was unreal.

Here's the radio call of the crowning glory. The nba Mini Movie for Game 6 forced tears of joy down my cheek. The Mavs now join the fraternity of Dallas champs who urged them to victory in a pre-game message (as for me, The Time is Now to write two papers). And for some random trivia, sounds like Shawn Marion and I have identical left pinkies.

It's not the old NBA on NBC; here in Israel it's the NBA on ספורט/Sport 5, and this is the swagger song, my new anthem--עוד יהיה לי/Od Yihiye Li. It's a tasty Michal Shapira cover of a cheesy '89 pop song. This one was written for Jason Terry and this team. Some translation (הנה המילים): "One day I'll spread my wings, you'll see that I'm not afraid; I'll get the good news my heart sends me, I'll break through the long distance; I'll get what I wanted, what I've been missing. Why not?" A lot of the Hebrew doesn't translate terribly well, so think of it as a sort of Israeli "My Time After Awhile" (played here by Buddy Guy). That's me spreading my wings JET style on my street.

Off to keep typing and write those papers now...As the Mavs' unmatched leader Coach Carlisle said last night, the Mavs said all year that "it's not about what you can't do; it's about what you can do." So it's time for me to be the Dirk Nowitzki of gerontology. Have a Shiner for me Dallas!!!

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