"If you're 55, or 35, or 15, and you're a Pistons fan, then maybe it isn't that hard to reconcile your feelings about the Lakers and Celtics: You hate them both." -- Michael Rosenberg, in the Detroit Free Press.
In the place of "Pistons," feel free to substitute the nickname of any other NBA franchise, be it Bulls or Bucks, Sixers or Pacers, Suns or Spurs, Cavs, Mavs, or Magic.
Whether you're 55, or 35, or 15, it's been that way for ages.
Nobody likes the Boston Celtics or the Los Angeles Lakers, who have dominated the Association from its very beginnings.
For the historically challenged, the Lakers -- then based in Minneapolis when their nickname made sense -- won the league title five times in six seasons, from 1949-54. The Celtics won a not just dominating but truly amazing 11 of 13 times, from 1957-69.
All told, the Celts have won a league-record 17 championships, the most recent being two years ago with the same five starters who'll be taking the floor Thursday night in L.A.
The Lakers, led by superstar Kobe Bryant, won their 15th title last year, after having lost to the Celts in the finals in 2008.
Is it any wonder then that, while Celtics fans love to "Beat L.A.!" the rest of the NBA loves to see both the Celts and Lakers lose?
But we're used to that here in New England, where winning is appreciated and applauded -- and also expected.
Remember Rod Smart?
He was the well-traveled running back and return man who, between stints in the NFL and the CFL, had emblazoned on the back of the jersey he wore for the Las Vegas Outlaws of the short-lived XFL the amusing: "He hate me?"
Well, whether they're wearing Celtics, Red Sox or Patriots jerseys, New England sports fans should have on their backs: "They hate us."
Not Bruins fans, however. They don't rate that distinction. They are to be pitied, not hated, after this year becoming only the third team in NHL history to blow a 3-0 lead in a seven-game series. As far as the way the rest of sporting America feels about the Pats, Sox and Celts, however, well -- you know how you feel about the Yankees? That's how the rest of the sports world looks at New England's teams.
The Patriots used to be lovable losers. That all changed in the Belichick Era, when, following three Lombardi trophies, an undefeated regular season, and the furor of SpyGate, the Pats became the team the rest of the NFL loves to hate.
Red Sox Nation is a nationwide phenomenon, with Boston fans showing up wearing team regalia in ballparks all across this great land of ours.
The flip side of said phenomenon is that fans in those parks think -- and sometimes say -- things that can't be printed in your family newspaper about the avid but often arrogant Sox fans that, in places such as Baltimore and Tampa, not infrequently outnumber the locals.
And, speaking of things that can't be printed in your family newspaper, it isn't just the perennial "have-nots" who are jealous of all the success New England teams have had.
Consider this sampling of comments about the Celtics from KTLA television's Ted Green, blogging on the Web site of the L.A. Times, for which he formerly covered the Lakers and the NBA.
In a "Guide to hating the Celtics," Mr. Green (with Celtics envy) trashed virtually every member of the team.
He called Kevin Garnett "annoying, arrogant and insufferable, like the rest of (the Celts.)"
He said that, if Rajon Rondo was "any more conceited, he'd dribble with his left hand and carry a hand-mirror with his right. He preens more than TV news anchors."
He said Paul Pierce "flops more than a large-mouthed bass taking his last breath," and that "every time (Pierce) shoots, he acts like he's been hit by a train." And those comments are a much milder version of Green's original remarks, which, it was explained on the Times' Web site "contained an inappropriate comment about Pierce relating to an incident in 2000 in which he was stabbed repeatedly. That comment should not have been published and has been removed."
They hate us.
They really do.
Such venom is hardly surprising, since the Lakers have faced the Celts 11 times in the NBA Finals and won just twice.
But it's not as if hardcore and hard-shelled New England fans can't deal with outrageous slings, arrows, and ill-natured barbs, whether they're hurled from the L.A. or New York City, the Left Coast or the Gulf Coast, the Rockies or the Alleghenies.
We're used to it.
They hate us. And we love it. Because it means we're winning.