From Chuck Klosterman's 2003 "low culture manifesto," Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs:
I called the Miami Heat's front office to see if [Pat] Riley would talk to me about my hypothesis. Much to my surprise, he called back in only two days; much to his surprise, the first thing I asked him about was his hair. What I wanted to know was whether he realized that his hair symbolized the hypermodern, antitraditional paradigm the Lakers used to mock the Celtics' archetypical simplicity and Greatest Generation morality.
Oddly, Riley acted like he had heard this question before.
"Oh, I was totally aware of that," he said. "I knew I was being packaged by CBS and everybody else in the media. But I didn't pay attention to it. If you play in the finals seven times, somebody is going to notice you slick your hair back, and sportswriters make a big deal about things like that. And as those teams go down in history, the myths become more important than anything that actually went down for real."
I suppose that detached mythology is really what I'm writing about. In truth, these teams didn't play each other as often as it seems retrospectively. . . . In a way, the rivalry is akin to memories from keg parties from your freshman year at college---it all sort of runs together into one hazy image that never technically occurred, yet somehow feels to have occurred all the time.
Life is rarely about what happened; it's mostly about what we think happened. Riley knew this, too. When I asked him what the ultimate key to beating Boston was, I assumed (and kind of hoped, actually) that he'd start talking about the way Michael Cooper matched up with Bird defensively. Instead, he went into a bunch of crap about the fifteenth-century Boers.
"We had to get over the psychological element of the Celtic mystique," Riley insisted. "After we choked in '84, I had to teach my guys exactly who the Celtics were in a historical sense. I mean, the Celts were a cult who did sinister things in secret places. That's where I took it. . . ."
This is probably true, although a bit comical (I like to imagine Riley handing out scouting reports that included such insights as, "Dennis Johnson: no range beyond twenty-one feet, initiates contact on drives to the hole, may have aspirations to sack Iberia"). But it proves Riley understood that sport (or at least the transcendent moments of sport) has almost nothing to do with the concept of a game. Scrabble is a game. Popomatic Trouble is a game. Major League Baseball is a game. But any situation where Bird is boxing out Magic for a rebound that matters is not. That is a conflict that dwarfs Dante. That is the crouching tiger and the hidden dragon.
So this is how I have come to make every decision in my life: I suss out the Celtics and Lakers dynamic in any given scenario, and then I go with Larry. I'm a Celtic person; for me, life is simple.