Countdown to 60 starts this week
My twitter profile simply says “Baseball, Clippers, movies, life over 50.”. In a few days, I’ll update that to life over 60. As far as sports go, the first 30 years have been nothing like the last 30 years.
By the time I was thirty in 1988, the Dodgers had won World Championships in 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981, and finally 1988. They haven’t won one since. I wasn’t in Los Angeles for the first three World Championships but was fully vested in the 1981 World Championship after watching them lose the World Series to Oakland in 1974, and the NYY in 1977 and 1978. The 1988 World Championship was simply dessert.
The Lakers had won Championships in 1972, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1988. They would also win championships in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, and finally 2010. I was here for all of them. The 1972 team had the last sighting of Elgin Baylor, the defensive dominance of Wilt, the leadership of West, and the sharpshooting of Goodrich. Four HOF played on that team even though Baylor was gone by the time the Championship was hoisted. Actually, five if you count Pat Riley who was inducted as a coach. As much as I loved the West/Goodrich era, it was the Magic era that most defined my Laker fandom. From the moment he arrived in 1979 and delivered a Championship in his first year and the greatest Championship game in the same year, nothing beat the Los Angeles Sports beat from 1979 – 1988. Magic won his last World Championship in 1988 the year I turned 30.
I already mentioned it but let’s take a look. From 1979 – 1988 those two franchises won seven World Championships. Talk about being spoiled.
The next 30 years have had many successes, but not a single Dodger World Championship. The Lakers won three in a row on the backs of Shaq and Kobe followed by two more with Gasol/Kobe but when you give me a list of Laker players who I enjoyed watching, they would not rank very high. The Lakers won, but it didn’t give me any satisfaction. Well, that is not exactly true. I truly enjoyed the first Shaq/Kobe World Championship in 2000. I could even say with a straight face the greatest sporting event I saw live, was the 2000 Game Six against Portland.
It is doubtful I have another thirty years in me, but I do hope the Dodgers can deliver another World Championship for a generation that has never enjoyed one. Many people don’t believe me, but the 1981 Dodger World Championship was all I needed in my lifetime. I won’t’ say I knew that at the time, but I know it now.
The Lakers, on the other hand, are on the back burner. I already mentioned how I’ve moved on from what was once my favorite franchise. Seems logical to me that going forward, the Clippers will probably be the most successful franchise in Los Angeles since they have the richest owner in sports who is dedicated to bringing a winning formula to his franchise. LeBron will make things interesting, but I don’t think an old King can add any banners to the franchise.
Yet, even though the last thirty years have had no Dodger World Championships and my basketball fandom switched from the most successful NBA franchise in Los Angeles to the least successful NBA franchise, I have enjoyed these past thirty years just as much but for different reasons. The first 30 years gave me my World Championships but they were always enjoyed via TV. I couldn’t afford good Laker tickets and even sitting in the rafters at the forum was a stiff price for a cheap bugger like myself. For a good percent of these last thirty years, I’ve had season tickets for all of my favorite franchises. I got my Clipper Season Tickets in 1990 and held them until Magic got aids and the Laker STH left the team in waves, leaving tickets available in the lower bowl at the Forum for the first time since Magic had joined the team. I quickly got Laker Season Tickets and have held them ever since even after they screwed me when they moved to Staples. I double dipped and got Clipper Season Tickets again in 1999 and have held them ever since. When Frank McCourt bought the Dodgers and brought in Paul DePodesta I tripled down and got Dodger Season Tickets in 2004. I held those for about six years and then was a partner in Season tickets for a few more years. It has only been in the past two years I haven’t had any share of season tickets for the Dodgers since 2004. Which is a long way of saying, that unlike my first thirty years of being a TV sports fan, the last thirty have been spent going to as many events as I could.
The Dodgers may not have won a World Championship but they have given me hundreds of thrills as Piazza, Kershaw, Puig, Turner, Seager, Bellinger, Mondesi, Green, Sheffield, Ethier, Saito, Kuo, Broxton, Greinke, Brown, Gagne, Hill, Buehler, Urias, Uribe gave me plenty to cheer about over the past thirty years. I really don’t care if the journey does not end in a World Championship, I just want the journey to be enjoyable and for the most part that has been the case. Not completely the case but that is another column and doesn’t involve the Dodgers as much as it involves the evolution of baseball that is leaving me behind.
You wouldn’t think the Clippers have given me much to cheer about but you’d be wrong. I’ve had as much fun rooting for the Clippers as I ever did the Lakers because of one reason. Since 2000 I’ve been to probably 500 Clippers games at Staples and it isn’t because I enjoy watching a team lose. I really enjoyed something in every Clipper team since 1999. I actually watched fewer games when they were winning with Paul/Griffin/Jordan than I did when they were losing. I’ve been to almost every game this year, and I look forward to watching this franchise continue to be the best NBA franchise in Los Angeles.
Besides the World Champions in this century, I really enjoyed the teams of Van Excel, Eddie Jones, Elden Campbell, Vlade, Sedale Threat, A.C. Green, and of course the half season comeback of Magic.
The next thirty years (ok, 20) will probably be much like the first thirty in that it gets harder and harder to attend sporting events the older you get. There is a reason that when you look at crowds you don’t see many folks over the age of 70. Self-driving cars could mitigate that, but navigating between seats will always be a struggle for people of a certain age. I’m sure stadium designers feel it is more important for every fan to trip over all the other fans as they try to get to their seats as they try to cram as many rows into a stadium that they can instead of making it a more pleasant experience for the fans shelling out the money to see their team.
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