Because Phil Jackson still doesn't care what you think, and because he still identifies himself as a "Zen Christian," the Lakers coach has taken to the religious angle in what has become a yearly tradition around this time of year.
No, not the Christmas holiday. Phil Jackson complaining about having to coach on the Christmas holiday.
The Lakers have played a nationally televised game on Christmas for the last 12 years, 11 of which came with Jackson coaching the team. They didn't play on Christmas in 1998, because of the NBA lockout, but they did play on Christmas in 1997. Jackson didn't coach that game, because he was in Chicago coaching his Bulls against the Miami Heat. Throughout Jackson's tenure with Chicago, he had to work on Christmas in a nationally televised setting. So that's two unaffected Christmas days in two decades, both because of brief retirements.
And because his complaints about working on the holiday have fallen on deaf ears throughout that run, Jackson is taking another (however well-worn) route. Acting, um, persecuted.
"It used to be Phoenix and L.A. and New York and Boston and New York or Philly or somebody on the East Coast,'' Jackson, speaking before Tuesday's game against Milwaukee at the Staples Center, said of the once much more reduced NBA schedule on Christmas. " Now, I see they have like six games (actually, five) on Christmas. It's like Christian holidays don't mean anything to (the NBA) anymore. You just go out and play and entertain (on) TV. It's really weird.''
Oy. I don't know where to start.
You'd like to shake Phil by his broad shoulders, for one. Then you'd like to go practical, and point out that the Christmas games are a huge part of the league's financial makeup, and without those games the Lakers might still be able to afford Kobe Bryant(notes) and Pau Gasol(notes); but perhaps not someone like Lamar Odom(notes). So, you got Lamar Odom for Christmas, Phil, but you still have to work that day. I have to work that day, too. Ignoring the Christmas cheer in order to crop photos and stay on the ready to post something in case David Arquette runs on the court or something.
[Related: LeBron James also against Christmas games]
So, yes, it kind of stinks that the NBA sets up five big games on Christmas even while it decides to take a day off on the night of the NCAA Final, or go easy on nights head-to-head with "Monday Night Football," or only schedule a couple of NBA games for me to watch (my personal version of Chinese food and a movie on Christmas) on the night of the NCAA Final Four.
But you've also been pretty well aware of this from the time you took over for Doug Collins back in 1989, Phil. And you've signed quite a few contract extensions since then. It's not an easy life, being away from your family and with this circus for (in Los Angeles' usual case) nearly nine full months; but it's also what you signed up for. It's why Lamar Odom gets paid a lot of money, because he's unique to the general population. And your situation, while unfortunate, is unique; and it's also why you are just one of 30 guys to be rewarded so handsomely.
Let's not sully your good case with miserable musings.
Merry Christmas, Phil. We appreciate the hours put in. Now kindly remove your crown of thorns.
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