Letter from California

An archive of the weekly "Letter from Calfornia", written by Jim McCarthy.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Letter from California-May 16, 2004

Usually when someone uses the expression “fair weather fan,” it has nothing to do with the weather. It means, of course, that the person in question loves his team when they’re winning and wants nothing to do with them when they’re losing. Nobody likes that kind of person. This guy used to wear Dallas Cowboys gear but traded it in for Yankee pinstripes or a Michael Jordan jersey when the fickle winds of fortune changed directions. He may even have found his way into Carolina garnet or Clemson orange for a brief spell.
On the other hand, what would you call a person who pays $15,000 for one ticket to one game? Los Angeles sports fans have a reputation for being soft, and in some ways, it seems pretty undeniable. I’ve talked before about the terror caused by light to moderate rain in this town, and believe me, in a sprinkling, Dodger Stadium would empty out like a church service going too long on Super Bowl Sunday. As a matter of fact, just this weekend, I watched about half of a crowd of 40,000 leave the Dodgers game after the 7th inning when the home team failed to score. Forget about ‘root, root, root for the home team.’ It was ‘beat, beat, beat the bad traffic.’ For me, I’d still rather sit outside in the beautiful weather in Chavez Ravine than almost anything. It was a gorgeous day.
So maybe L.A. fans walk out of baseball games early compared to people in other parts of the country. I have friends in Massachusetts who, when younger, would have built an igloo, if necessary, to survive while waiting to buy Boston Celtics tickets. And if food ran short, cannibalism was not out of the question if going for food meant losing their spot in line.
On the other hand, no one is paying more for tickets these days than L.A. fans are paying to see the Lakers take a run at another championship. I wasn’t joking earlier when I said that one ticket was selling for $15,000. It was for last Saturday night’s game against the San Antonio Spurs. Of course, these were courtside seats, right between Dustin Hoffman and Denzel Washington. That’s some pretty nice real estate, I admit, but for $15,000, you could make a pretty nice deposit on some actual real estate. You wouldn’t have to leave after two hours either.
It wasn’t just the glamour seats. Even getting a spot in the rafters is going for 200 bucks, and it’s not even the championship yet. By then, the only people who’ll be able to afford to go to the games will be all the NBA players whose teams have already been eliminated.
In most cities, home court advantage can make all the difference. In Philadelphia, for example, the opponents of the football Eagles can count on being pelted with bottles for most of the game. It got so bad a few years ago that they had to start selling beer in plastic containers, forcing the fans there to smuggle in debris and foreign objects under their coats to toss. In L.A., we’re a little too mellow generally speaking to assault the other team with the contents of the trash can, but we’re not without our own secret weapon.
Jack Nicholson.
Oh, he can be scary. Maybe not as scary as back in the days when he would hack down doors with an ax and announce, “Heeeeeeree’s Johnny!” but still scary. Just as things were looking bad for the Lakers the other night, Jack turned it around for the local boys. Since his seat is so close to the opposing bench, Jack decided that he should join the Spurs’ huddle. He shared a few choice words with the coaches and players before very politely being asked to return to his seat.
I doubt he told them he wanted to see a good clean game where everyone plays his best and makes friends.
Yes, I doubt that very much.
Whatever he said, it may have caused the Spurs to begin to lose their drive to win, and in fact they ended up losing the series. I mean, how would you like it if Jack Nicholson took the time out of his movie star schedule to berate you on national television? Some might find it flattering, I suppose.
Maybe that’s just it. Perhaps it wasn’t the kind of trash talking that’s supposed to throw your opponent off his game and keep him angry and unfocused. Maybe it was just the opposite.
What’s the one job more glamorous than pro athlete? Even Shaquille O’Neal, gigantic goofball mega-star of the Lakers, can’t stay away from the Biz. It must be even more dazzling to the boys from the small Texas city best known for the Alamo.
I think I know what Nicholson said to the Spurs that put the Lakers over the top.
“Fellas, call me when you’re done with this basketball stuff. We need to get you into the movies!” Enough to break anyone’s concentration.
As a home court advantage, that beats throwing beer bottles any day.


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