I hate the Los Angeles Lakers.
They’re the popular kid everyone seeks validation from. They’re the talented kid who effortlessly succeeds at everything. They’re the smirking kid who never gets caught. And needless to say, never suffers.
Yeah, I hate them.
So imagine my delight when one of this summer’s most-coveted free-agents publicly turned them down. With apologies to Stevie Wonder, for once in my life there was a player who didn’t lust over the prospect of wearing purple and yellow and playing in the lurid land of glam.
Wait. Is this really happening? Did the quarterback-slash-prom king just get snubbed?
This is OMG rare. Rare like an issue of Cosmopolitan without the word 'sex' on the cover. Or congress enacting legislation. Or middle-class wages rising.
It just doesn’t happen.
But there it was in yesterday’s sports section: ‘Dwight Howard headed to Houston’.
Predictably, the popular kid didn’t react well.
Even Shaquille O’Neal, who left the Lakers in a huff following an unsuccessful showdown with Kobe Bryant, re-discovered his loyalty and chided Howard’s decision, saying Howard couldn’t handle the pressure of playing on a stage as prominent as L.A.’s.
But at the age of twenty-seven and in his athletic prime, perhaps Howard didn’t see the point of committing to an aging team whose prima dona centerpiece is a year or two (or one unsuccessful rehab) away from retirement.
And I’d be a little more reluctant to call Howard’s decision to play in Houston (where he’ll be compared to the luminous Hakeem Olajuwon) ducking the limelight. Ducking the limelight would be Minnesota. Salt Lake City. Charlotte.
Not the fourth-largest city in the United States.
Dwight Howard spent a season playing basketball at the end of the rainbow, and he didn’t like it. For once the popular kid gets to see what it’s like on our side of the rainbow.