Celebrating the Worst in Athletics
Ode to the L.A. Basketball Fan
by Jeff Hause, 6/7/2001
This is an ode to the L.A. basketball fan, the most maligned human being in the world of athletics.
Now, I am a Los Angeles basketball fan. I never leave the game early, but I know plenty of people who do. Want to know why? The Lakers are usually 20 points up and the Clippers are usually 20 points down. We're used to it. There are a lot of fun late-night things to do in our city. Sitting for an hour in traffic because you waited to see Greg Foster, the Lakers' 12th man, airball a 40-foot 3-pointer is not one of them.
Of course there are rotten fans who leave sporting events in Los Angeles early, no matter what the score is. Can anyone ever forget that great shot of Kirk Gibson hitting the game-winning home run for the Dodgers in the World Series, while the camera pans past a thousand glowing tail lights in the parking lot from fans trying to beat the traffic home? Yes, they were bad fans... But they can all claim to have seen the home run nowwhich for people living in a city that makes all of its money on bad fiction is just fine.
It happened again this year in the hockey playoffs. My beloved Detroit Red Wings were up 3-0 on the L.A. Kings in the third period, and everybody left. The guy in front of me had brought his entire family, and he made them leave with five minutes to go. The Kings then won in overtime... and the guy never returned for another game during the rest of the playoffs, despite having season tickets. I'm sure he claims to have been there, but there'll always be a family member around to call him on his lie. ("Thanks for the game, dad! It was fun listening to the Kings win the most important game of the season on the radio in the parking lot!")
But the loyal Laker fans are a different breed. They leave early, too, because they are spoiled by winning. The Lakers don't need them around to cheer them on when they're leading Cleveland by 40 in the fourth quarter. And, okay, a lot of them are spoiled by life, too. You can't afford to be there if life isn't treating you well (or in my case, if life is treating your producer well, and she has extra tickets). Hell, a good percentage of the fans make more money than the players! How many teams can say that?
Does this make them bad fans? No.
The fans contribute at the Staples Center for the entire 2 1/2 quarters that they attend. Whenever an opposing player fouls out, Anne Robinson of The Weakest Link appears on the big screen, saying, "You are the weakest link. Good-bye!" (The Kings have it the best, actually: the creators of South Park create a mini-cartoon with their characters in Kings jerseys before every hockey game.)
Now in the tradition of the L.A. sports fan, who exists in a city where everybody claims to have been there when nobody was, I'm going to give you some trivia and anecdotes on the 2000/2001 Laker season, so you can play along and pretend you were there, too. This will have saved you about $10 thousand per-seat in ticket fees, 41 traffic jams, and several jaywalking tickets getting from the parking lot to the arena. Here is your helpful Laker fan cheat-sheet:
Home Game 37: Lakers/Knicks. Sunday, April 1, 2001. Without question the best game of the year to be at the Staples Center. Lots of scoring, with wild passes and stinging rejections. And the basketball was pretty good, too.
BEST LAKER GIRL
The best Laker Girl is the very-perky-yet-beautiful Emily Harper, from St. Louis, Missouri. She is finishing her first year in the troop. Emily can actually dance, and does this cute little spin move while she performs the clapping routine during the Gary Glitter song. She is majoring in dance at Loyola Marymount and is a professional dancer for the film/TV industry. Her hobbies include singing, modeling, aerobics and music. She usually dances at the spot in front of Jack Nicholson, who pretends not to notice because Lara is seated next to him, but we all know what he is thinking. Emily actually makes listening to a 20-year-old Billy Squire song a pleasure, which is a greater accomplishment than any Lakers championship.
Emily: Best Laker Girl
The Bloody Mary. Very spicy. Order a bottle of water with it, or you'll be in trouble. You have to be in a VIP section to get it, though. The best beer is Heineken. Better beers are available in the private bar behind the VIP section, but you can't take those to your seats. The best drink in the private bar is the Apple Martini. Worst drink: The 12th Apple Martini.
The infamous Game 1 loss!
BEST FAN MOMENT #1
Dyan Cannon getting ejected from a game. I wasn't there for this one, so we'll both have to pretend we were there from now on.
BEST FAN MOMENT #2
During a Lakers/Kings game, the big screen on the overhead scoreboard flashed on a group of strippers in a luxury suite just as one of the girls ripped off her top to reveal massively implanted hooters. Nobody left early at that gamewe all just sat there for hours after the game, transfixed, our eyes never leaving the big screen.
WORST FAN MOMENT #1
Warren Beatty brought one of his kids to the Lakers/Knicks game, and sat in Jack Nicholson's seat... until Warren heard that former President Clinton was watching the game in one of the luxury suites. Warren then abandoned his child for at least an hour while gabbing with the ex-prez upstairs. Nice parenting, Warren.
Currently the Lakers are poised for their second straight title. The games in Philadelphia are being broadcast on the overhead scoreboard at the Staples Center to sellout crowds, while the Laker Girls dance at center court. That's right20,000 people watching a TV broadcast! Who says we aren't good fans?
This game sold outa TV BROADCAST! Who says we aren't good fans?
Anyway, at this point the Lakers' season at the Staples Center may be over, as they can clinch the NBA championship in Philadelphia in game five. Sadly, if there's a game six in Los Angeles, I'll be out of town. But hey, even if I'm not there there to cheer, drink, and avoid the annual riot after the title game, I can still pretend to have been there, like everybody else.
The Staples Center is the hottest site in Los Angeles to watch pro basketball - as well as spot celebrities watching pro basketball. Two NBA teams - the Lakers and Clippers - attract a steady clique of the Hollywood elite from December through June. But there are distinctly different crowds following the two teams:
The most famous Laker fan is, of course, the guy sitting near the player benchesJack Nicholson. Ironically as he gloats serenely in the front row, flaunting his oppulent lifestyle, the fact that he's sitting next to all those NBA players makes him the worst-paid man in the immediate area.
Michael Douglas, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kevin Costner, Bruce Willis, Dustin Hoffman, Denzel Washington, Carrot Top (okay, not Carrot TopI was just checking to see how closely you were reading), James L. Brooks, and Dyan Cannon (now known more as a Laker fan than an actress) can always be seen around the complex. Assorted Baldwin brothers litter the rest of the arena like so many discarded greasy cartons of stale nacho chips.
Semi-regulars at the Lakers games include Johnny Carson, Madonna, Whoopi Goldberg, Mike Ovitz, Matthew Perry, Don Johnson, Chevy Chase, Rob Lowe, Arsenio Hall, supermodel Tyra Banks, and Brandy. It isn't unusual to see Tom Cruise, Cindy Crawford, Jim Carrey, Garry Shandling, Sharon Stone, Bill Murray, Dennis Miller, or Jerry Seinfeld at a game, not to mention Spike Lee (especially when the Knicks are in town).
Most of these celebrities' seats are clustered on the Forum's Loge level. Meanwhile, Tom Hanks bought a 12-seat luxury box at the Staples Centerat a price of $257,500 a year. So has "Wheel of Fortune" host Pat Sajak. The luxury boxes include a wet bar, refrigerator and entertainment center with a wide-screen digital television and two monitors with feeds to NHL and NBA games. In other words, they're paying thousands of dollars a game to pretend they're still at home.
But most celebrities prefer to be out in the open - where they can be more easily noticed pretending to try not to be noticed.
Nobody else goes to Clipper games. At all. Ever. Most of the time the Clippers don't even show up.
||Jeffrey C. Hause has written professionally (in a very amateur fashion) for entertainers like Jay Leno, Jim Carrey, Rodney Dangerfield, Gabe Kaplan, Rick Dees and people he'd rather not tell you about. He's also written screenplays at Warner Brothers, Disney, Universal, Columbia, Franchise Pictures, the Samuel Goldwyn Co., and Interscope. Here's his résumé. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.