It's Thanksgiving, a time filled with family, gratitude, and reflection. This holiday often prompts me to ponder life, and today is no exception. My wife and I are expecting our first child in April and just learned it's a girl. This is an exciting time, and even though we're still months from being parents, I can't help but raise this child in my mind.
Her life is already a series of fast forwards, as I envision her personality, various milestones and interests, along with her future in this uncertain world. But there is an oasis providing confidence about the days ahead: the Los Angeles Lakers.
I was lucky to find a wife who's also a sports fan. It's nice being able to sit on the couch with your significant other, a football game, and the knowledge both people truly appreciate what's on T.V. We'd never force our children to share our interests, but the idea of them enjoying sports doesn't feel like a stretch.
Still, sports creates natural alliances requiring my wife and I to not only tolerate certain preferences, but to already draw lines in the sand involving our kids.
For example, my wife is a Dodgers fan. I grew up a Cardinals fan, but asking my kids to root for a team in St. Louis when we live 20 minutes from Chavez Ravine is ridiculous. Thus, they'll be raised in Dodger blue. For college football, they'll back the Trojans like their old man. The NFL means supporting the Cowboys like Mom and her entire lineage, with zero talk of a Plan B unless L.A. gets a team that wasn't originally an NFC East member, giving the kids at least the option of rooting for a hometown team. (Unless it's the Raiders moving back to L.A., in which case, they'll be Cowboys fans.)
As for the NBA, my wife grew up a Spurs loyalist, but knows a losing battle when she sees one. Our children will bleed purple and gold. Period. End of story.
But this isn't simply a extension of the rooting interests I've never tried to hide while covering the Lakers. It's the proactive act of parenting. As a child and a fanatic of Bill Bidwell's Cardinals (before they moved to Arizona), I was given a harsh lesson about bad front offices and ownership. I want to shield my children from that same torture, so rooting for the Lakers feels like a wise move.
Take the other teams destined to be part of my kids' lives. An army of soap opera scribes couldn't have created the "ESPN meets Access Hollywood meets Divorce Court" train wreck that is the Los Angeles Dodgers ownership saga. I get a good vibe from Pat Haden, but a non-existent track record makes it impossible to automatically trust him to steer USC through tough times. My wife may be eternally indebted to Jerry Jones for the Aikman-Emmitt-Irvin dynasty, but is nonetheless convinced he's as big a reason for recent struggles as Wade, T.O. or Romo.
On the flip side, the Lakers have won 10 titles, made 15 trips to the Finals, and missed the postseason just twice since 1980, Dr. Buss' first season as owner. They're built for championships over the next few seasons, with Andrew Bynum a potential centerpiece for the next wave of greatness. Should Drew not pan out, however, it is easy to believe a quality alternative will be discovered. After a few bricks (Kwame Brown, Vlad Radmanovic, Aaron McKie, etc.), Mitch Kupchak is on a path to potentially go down as Jerry West's equal. Jim Buss initially came off as a dude whose only qualifications to own a team were blood lines, but the rough patches and public squabbles with sister Jeanie are now ancient history. Those at the top know what they're doing, the money is secure, and I feel confident declaring this franchise in good hands.
There are so few certainties in life, much less what you can predict way down the road. At the end of the day, it's all a big crap shoot. But aligning oneself with the Lakers is about as risk-free as any decision gets.
For most people, even the lucky ones, life features its share of letdowns. That's just reality, and impossible to avoid. But even knowing human beings generally persevere, the desire to protect my daughter from a harsh world is already palpable. By steering her toward the Lakers, I can sleep easy knowing the odds for eventual disillusionment in one aspect of her life are remarkably low.
For that, I -- along with every Lakers fan worldwide -- should give thanks on this holiday.