A Bulls Bandwagon Is Being Built
Editor’s Note: Introducing “Bullish,” Rory MacPhail’s semiannual syndicated column about your Chicago Bulls. For reasons that are technical, contractual, but really just boil down to good old human sloth, we pick up “Bullish” after game one of the Bulls-Heat Eastern Conference semifinals. In today’s installment, Mr. MacPhail reminds us that, while “Don’t Stop Believin'” are sage words, you must believe in the first place.
If Peggy Noonan wrote about sports, her column today would read something like, “It is Spring, which means there are vibrations of basketball glory in the air and they have found their way to the Bulls of Chicago, who have accepted and transferred them into desperately needed energy. The Bulls are beaten down, yet their flags and pennants fly high in the windows of apartments along Fullerton and Belmont and Clark. Men in fine shirts and ties gather around water coolers in corporate highrises on Wacker Drive to speak giddily of the Bulls’ victory over the hated Heat. But the vibrations are concentrated not just in Chicago. They are spreading out and beginning to infect the country like meningitis, for which a spinal tap is unnecessary, for we know the diagnosis already, the cause of the stirring in our souls: a team of destiny: the Chicago Bulls.”
This is all bullshit, of course. Anyone who’s been paying attention knows the Bulls are a good team, that they can beat Miami (twice in the regular season), that they play stellar defense, that Tom Thibodeau is an excellent coach, that they can get under LeBron James’s skin (remember LeBron’s interview after the Bulls ended the Heat’s 27-game winning streak, in which he complained about getting tackled by Kirk Hinrich [6 ft 4 in, 190 lbs]; about the Bulls’ hard fouls that “were not basketball plays”; about not being able to defend himself because whenever he does he gets called for a flagrant [even though his flagrant foul, after driving an elbow into Carlos Boozer’s beautifully immovable chest, was his first of the year. LeBron has three career flagrant fouls: one this year, and two in the ’06-’07 season. So seriously, what was he talking about?*] LeBron’s demeanor in the interview was calm and collected, but the content was nonsense. LeBron James, barely in control, drove directly into Kirk Hinrich on that non-basketball play, resulting in both players [and, specifically, the back of Hinrich’s head] hitting the floor. Hinrich simply did his job and did it well, without any sort of malicious intent. When the MVP of the league is accusing Kirk Hinrich of committing a Bill Lambeerian play when video evidence suggests the play was nothing of the sort, a shift has occurred. LeBron James talking out of his ass means something interesting has happened).
Simply put, LeBron James can be rattled, and the Bulls are the ones who have done the rattling.
Which is why the Bulls stealing game one against the Heat really isn’t that much of a shock. They didn’t have Deng, the Bulls’ usual LeBron-defender, and they didn’t have Hinrich, for which LeBron must have breathed a deep sigh of relief, because Kirk is a cheap tackling asshole! But it didn’t matter. Nate Robinson stepped up and hit big shots and had a game-high 27 points. Jimmy Butler played 48 minutes for the third straight game and held the MVP to 2 first-half points. The Human Viaduct Mural (tattoo that on your dick, Bird Man), had 1 rebound in 16 minutes. Chris Bosh was minus 11—that is, the Heat managed an 11-point deficit with him on the court. Ray Allen was minus 16 and 1-4 from three.
Plus: Carlos Boozer sucked! If he can get it going at a double-team-worthy level against the smaller Heat, the Bulls can have more success in this series. The Bulls can win this series, dammit! The vibrations!
But will they? As Peggy Noonan wrote in her November 5, 2012 column predicting a victory for Mitt, “Nobody knows anything. Everyone’s guessing.” Were the Heat rusty? Did sweeping the Bucks, playing an embarrassingly overmatched team, hurt them? Will the Heat win four in a row? Was LeBron tripped up by his sick new kicks? God fucking dammit, why did the Heat lose?!
Because the Bulls played well, as they have for the majority of the season, and the Heat played shitty, as they haven’t for the majority of the season. “A season that originally promised absolutely nothing great has grown strangely and unexpectedly delicious,” writes Michael Wilbon in his column titled, “Believing is Enough for Bulls.” Isn’t this why we watch sports? Because nothing is promised, and unexpected shit can happen? Despite the fact that it’s been implied by Big Sports, Inc., all season that the only thing standing between the Heat and their rightful championship is a bunch of stupid, boring basketball games; despite the fact that Derrick Rose has been advised by many sober-voiced, mainstream basketball columnists (including Wilbon) to sit out the season because the Bulls can’t compete with the Heat with or without him; despite the fact that no serious pundit cares about the Bulls’ two regular season wins over the Heat (because the regular season doesn’t matter, unless a team goes on a 27-game winning streak, in which case it’s time for sports nation to collectively climax); despite all of this, the Bulls continue to compete, and we are surprised. Believe!
The Heat’s story is the story of this season’s NBA, even though it’s a pretty boring story when you think about it. It’s tantamount to a shitty novel called Life as Tina Lived It, about a woman named Tina who was raised by loving, open-minded parents, who worked really hard in high school and managed to get accepted to an Ivy League college (paid for by a trust established by a wealthy grandfather upon his death), who was kind to everyone with whom she came into contact, who married an equally kind man with whom she raised equally kind, bright children, and who ultimately died of natural causes in her loving husband’s arms with a tender smile upon her beautiful, wrinkle-free face, her last words being, “I regret nothing. Life as I lived it was life as it should be…” The End. Nobody wants to read that piece of shit, which is why it hasn’t been written. The Heat are supposed to win. Everything has aligned for them. They’ve had a near perfect season. So why would anyone outside of Miami want them to win?
Which is why that sound you hear—that continuous banging—is hammer on wood. It is the sound of a Bulls bandwagon being built. The vibrations are out there, souls are stirring: people outside of Chicago—away from the banner-waving apartments and sexy middle-aged men on Wacker Drive—are beginning to pine for a Bulls victory. Let us all climb aboard and ride, ride into the heat of the fire in Florida. The Bulls are rising like so many phoenixes and have taken their talons to South Beach.
Can the Bulls win the series? Yes. Will they? It remains to be seen. It is unlikely, but possible. There is plenty of basketball yet to be played, which is a wonderful thing. And if the Bulls lose the series, I will be Karl Rove on election night 2012, questioning every call that has led to this egregious mistake of a result: “How could this happen? The Bulls were the team of destiny! This was David and Goliath! I believed! I believed!” But in this time of NBA confusion, when the Eastern conference seems to be up in the air, one thing is certain: the Bulls have a better chance than Mitt ever did.
Submitted by Rory MacPhail
* “Every time I try to defend myself, I got to face the consequences of a flagrant for me, or a technical foul, or whatever the case may be.” Again, LeBron James has 3 career flagrant fouls. He has 40 career technical fouls, an average of 4 per season. He is not oppressed by officiating.