Thursday, February 21, 2019

Red, White & New

by Glenn T (writer), Las Vegas, NV, November 02, 2006

Pre-season. Just the mention of the word usually brings a collective groan to the minds of sports fans everywhere. Like a TGI Friday's appetizer with only 5 cheese sticks, it's not only disappointing, it leaves you even hungrier than you were before. Talk of the preseason fills our hearts with dread: of obligatory attendance to earn one's status as a "true fan", of watching back-up players trying clumsily to make the roster, and of a half-filled arenas or stadiums of only mildly amused patrons. The NBA's preseason is no exception. In a sport with so few players on each team, and even fewer superstars to go around, injuries are as much a part of the game as balls and hoops. And as a result, no one's going to risk a thing for games that "don't count". So with every team trotting out their "Darkos" to start games, the freshly completed NBA preseason arrived with all the anticipation of a second Kevin Federline album.

But there is one place in the NBA where the arrival of a new season is greater cause for celebration than most. Because, there is one NBA town where, last year, the fans collectively won the "fan lottery" after years of what can only best be described as abject "fan poverty"; a place where fans showed up to pinch themselves, as a group, on the eve of their first preseason game, just to be sure they hadn't dreamed it all, just a few months ago. Because when you're a fan of what has often been described as one of the worst franchises in sports history and last year you were one win away from the conference finals, you've got good reason to think the other shoe is on its way down. There is no sweeter joy than well-earned victory for the hard-working but perennially underestimated, and having just wiped the taste from their lips, these fans are hungry for it again. Welcome to Los Angeles.

For this team's three preseason games, the Staples center averaged over 14,000 fans. 14,000 fans who screamed and waved their arms at opposing free-throw shooters, 14,000 fans who cheered from the cheap seats, loud enough to be heard on the court, and 14,000 fans who didn't leave early. The only contract talks were of the one being offered to one of the league's most promising young big men, and the only injuries, a small calf strain on a guy so seasoned and tough that the only leg injury that would keep him from starting the regular season would be an amputation. The gaps in the action normally filled with the awkward silence left by a dearth of preseason sponsors was instead filled with the music, dancing, and stunts most other teams reserve for prime-time games in mid-season. And the beauty of it all? Not a purple and gold jersey in sight.

The lights seemed brighter; the dancers, prettier; the stunts and tosses, higher; the crowd, louder. And the talk? Championship. And even with all the hype and expectation (in a town accustomed to such) the team didn't disappoint. As I heard one excited season ticket-holder exclaim, "they didn't come back just-as-good, they came back better!" And they did. Staples was a winner's arena again, a place full of fans who swelled in a cacophony of joy after each spectacular move, and fell silent with each visitor's score. An unfamiliar confidence permeated the building; for even when the team would fall behind, no one hung their head, and instead everyone watched to see just how they'd pull it out. And with each meaningless victory, the fans hailed the team as if it were the Finals themselves.

As the crowd filed out of the last game before the regular season begins, I looked around one last time after the game, and I noticed there is still a lot of purple in the Center: seats, lights, and ushers' jackets, etc., but something has changed and that night it was clear. Staples is finally Clippers country; Red, White and True.

About the Writer

Glenn T is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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