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An Easy Win Would Be Boring02:34
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Orlando Magic center Marcin Gortat, left, and Boston Celtics center Kendrick Perkins, right, battle for rebound position during Monday's Game 4 in the NBA Eastern Conference finals in Boston.(AP)
Orlando Magic center Marcin Gortat, left, and Boston Celtics center Kendrick Perkins, right, battle for rebound position during Monday's Game 4 in the NBA Eastern Conference finals in Boston.(AP)

“You gonna watch the game tonight?”

It was Monday afternoon, and the guy who asked the question was ringing up my groceries as they slowly slid past him.

“Sure,” I said. “It’ll be interesting.”

The grocery store guy looked up from his work.

“I hope it’s not interesting,” he said.

“Interesting” is, of course, what it turned out to be, as the Boston Celtics failed to get a shot off in the closing seconds of the fourth game of the Eastern Conference finals against the Orlando Magic, thus giving the Magic an overtime opportunity to avoid a fourth and final loss — an opportunity upon which the Magic gratefully capitalized.

The grocery store guy is the sort of fan who’d have been happiest if the Celtics had scored 60 points in that game before the Magic had launched a shot. He is entitled to his preference, which is certainly not a function of geography.

A seven-game series beats a sweep. Such a series begets not only increasingly freighted individual match-ups, but all kinds of other subplots.All over the world, there are fans of various teams playing various games who hope only that their side will win.

If they score early and often enough so that most of the crowd goes home long before the game’s over, so much the better.

If they win because the officials blow a call, so what? It’s also fine if they win because the opposition’s best players oversleep and fail to show up.

But not for me.

It may be un-American, but when I watch a game, I hope it will be interesting. Although that’s a humble and much-disparaged adjective, its manifestations are myriad and energizing.

A contest between two evenly matched opponents won’t necessarily be a thing of beauty and a joy forever, but at least it has a chance.

A game that goes into the last inning or the final few minutes tied is intrinsically more compelling than a non-contest in which one team is sitting on an insurmountable lead.

Likewise, a seven-game series beats a sweep. Such a series begets not only increasingly freighted individual match-ups, but all kinds of other subplots. It goes so long that we become familiar with the back stories of the opposition — their haircuts, their superstitions, their humble upbringings. “Saga” would be too strong a characterization for such a series, but not by too much.

So put me down for “interesting.” And if I’ve provoked thoughts of retaliation, forget it. You’ll never find the secure and secret bunker where I watch games.

This program aired on May 26, 2010.

Bill Littlefield Twitter Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.

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