Tuesday, June 22, 2010

LA Lakers 2010, A Sonata in 3 Movements

Game Seven at the Golden Gopher
Thursday 6/17/10. With Lindsey and Anthony.

In the beginning we were not happy, and we stayed that way for most of the game. We did eventually find beers at the Golden Gopher after hours of trekking around downtown searching for a place to watch the game with other fans. 

We had given up on saving money, given up on meeting the other four people we were supposed to see that night, and were resigned to waiting in line and paying thirty dollars a head at Trader Vic’s. Once seated, we were informed that no, actually, we would be paying a minimum of fifteen dollars per hour per person. It was four PM--we’d be paying nearly seventy-five each. We left. This hurt a bit, as the mix of Lakers and Tiki was deeply appealing.

However. The Golden Gopher is beautiful. Dark fabric, big bar, big screen, lamps made out of golden gophers. It is my new favorite downtown bar. I drank tangerine wheat beer and watched Kobe play the worst game of his career. We screamed and moaned and had occasional triumphant hollerings as the low-scoring, ridiculously sloppy game unfolded, and when Sasha made those two free-throws, the entire bar erupted in the whoops of people who are getting freed. We watched Kobe lift the trophy, we cried, and then we ran out onto the street!

The scene downtown was postmodern, fast, and strange. Exultant fans from every area of Los Angeles in various levels of confrontation with stern police. Extremely stern. I watched two undercover cops wrestle a man to the ground (he wasn’t resisting) and push his face into the pavement while they cuffed him. When the crowd around protested this behavior, police in full riot gear (rifles, femur-length black billy clubs, helmets, cans of tear gas) made a perimeter around the arrest and started screaming at us to get away. We had just been screamed at to get out of the street, and now we were getting screamed at to get off the sidewalk, back into the street. It was frustratingly chaotic. When I read the paper the next day, I hated how the reports did not mention the attitude of the cops. I realize they were embarrassed by the riots last year. I do not think this excuses behaving as if everyone in a Lakers jersey is about to kick them in the shins. The truth is, we were too happy to get angry that night, running down Broadway with our fists in the air, giving high-fives to all the jubilant revelers stuck in their cars.

Pau Gasol on Jay Leno
Friday 6/18/10. With Ted Chen.

My friend Ted Chen, an anchor at NBC, was kind enough to bring me along to a taping of the Tonight Show when his out-of-town friend couldn’t make it. Pau Gasol, one of my favorite Lakers, wore a pink shirt and spoke humbly about how sweet the win was. He’s going to go watch a spinal surgery get performed next week, because he is curious. He said his mother is a doctor, his father is a nurse, and all three of their children are ridiculously tall. Jay Leno is an expert at reading cue cards, if that wasn’t already obvious.

During the show taping, the Tonight Show Band played “American Idiot,” originally by Green Day. I couldn’t hear how they dealt with the words “fuck” and “faggot,” but just knowing that The Tonight Show Band was playing a song with these lyrics:

Don’t want to be an American idiot
One nation controlled by the media
Information age of hysteria
It’s going out to Idiot America

Let’s just say I felt very, very uncomfortable. Isn’t the “Idiot America” of this song exactly the same people who come to a Jay Leno taping on a Friday afternoon from a small town somewhere outside of California (where the Hollywood dreams still seem so fancy)? Isn’t “Idiot America” the large swath of people who think David Spade’s jokes about “feeding the people” with his leftover hamburgers are funny? Isn’t it “Idiot America” who assumes that the guy getting arrested after Game Seven deserved to get his face smashed into the pavement? The us-and-them divide came perilously close to collapsing as I clapped along when the “Applause” sign lit up.
I found out in the Green room that Leno didn’t even watch the game. Ted asked him casually about it, and Leno said, “I was working.” Then we took a picture.
This is a weird town, I thought. This Leno is a weird person, to care so little about what’s happening in his own weird town, the town where his show is King of NBC. Or maybe he cares a great deal about something else important, and his breezy on-screen personality belies it. That's the optimist in me. I admit to suspecting otherwise.

The Laker Parade
Monday 6/21/10. Alone in a crowd. Then with Anthony and Lindsey.

I got up and put on the gear: purple shoes, Lindsey’s Rodman jersey, gold glitter. I packed a bag: water bottle, journal, Lakers jacket, trail mix, a copy of Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenriech. In the fifteen minutes it took me to research the train route, I read at least five hateful comments online about how hoodlum Laker fans who “don’t work” were going to ruin “my city.” I saw a post that read “come on, who can actually get downtown at 11am on a Monday? People who don't work.” In other words: lazy people? Poor people. Blacks. Hispanics. Teenagers. Alcoholics, hoodlums, asshole un-Americans who should be trying to get goddamn jobs!!!! Au contraire, mon ennemi. So many of us have odd work schedules, and so many others took that day or hour off far in advance. And if, after reading Nickel and Dimed, you still think it appropriate to condemn the under- or unemployed, you may simply suck it.
Today it’s impossible to find those pieces of virtual vitriol to share with you.

I read Nickel and Dimed on the train, and got even more mad, at how little the American middle class seems to understand American poverty. I got mad at myself for how little I understand. I followed a huge group of Laker fans out of the train. I was the only blonde white girl among them, it’s true--I'm one of the few in my neighborhood. I wasn’t the only blonde white girl at the parade. However, I am unnerved by the divide: the Laker games are packed with white people who can afford tickets. The parade was not. (Although I did see quite a few guys in suits wearing gold ties, whooping it up with the rest of us!) But at the parade, for a few raucous minutes, no one cared about these things. We were all screaming together when Kobe rode by. I took some frantic iPhone pictures. I made friends with two adorably short girls in purple sneakers, dodged a few blasting horns, and found Anthony and Lindsey at the corner of Pico and 11th. We walked through the detritus and ate lunch in the fashion district. It was glorious, except for the long line of more police in riot gear who kept their hands on their tear gas canisters. “We’re just walking!” I wanted to shout. But then, would that have been provocation enough to get gassed? The eternal Machiavellian conundrum. I wonder how much money taxpayers shelled out for those police, and if the damages of the “riots” cost more or less.

What I loved was how everyone continued to scream “Go Lakers!” to each other, whenever they saw anyone wearing Laker gear. The chant has changed meanings! It no longer is a piece of encouragement for a team that is scrabbling its way through the Finals. It is piece of metropolitan glue that keeps us hoping, with and for each other, for more to be proud of.

1 comment:

  1. Love that last line. Love how you brought four moments together to manifest how the Lakers momentarily brought our city together.

    And N.W.A. were articulating a mature, effective, post-prison industrial complex strategy: