By Bob Lefsetz
I watched a lot of basketball in my lost decade, from the day my ex moved out until the Internet came along and rescued me.
You’ve got to understand, the Lakers are L.A. religion. Till he blew himself up, both literally and figuratively, Kobe Bryant was the most powerful and popular person in Los Angeles. The movers and shakers came to him, not vice versa.
But I stopped paying attention.
It wasn’t the move to Staples Center so much as the retirement of Michael Jordan. I’d seen the best, did I really have to waste so much time thereafter?
It’s really about the playoffs. You start watching sometime in April and you don’t emerge from the darkness until June. And sure, there’s a bunch of garbage time during the regular season, but the closer you get to the end, the harder it is to tune out, you never know when Reggie Miller will be a thorn in your side.
But that was years ago. I’m aware of LeBron, but I wanted my life back. I stopped paying attention.
Last Friday night I went to my first game…in Staples Center. I pulled my car up to valet parking, for $200 a pop, and ran into a new friend on the way in. I never pegged him as a roundball fan, but he revealed he had courtside seats!
And on Saturday, he e-mailed me, did I want them?
But let’s get back to Friday. Sitting in the box of a household name entertainer, I was so far from the action that I stayed engaged in conversation, getting details, as to the six figure cost of this space.
Yes, major league sporting events are not for the poor. Not in person. That’s why they’re televised. In truth, it’s just like the days of yore, the Roman Colosseum, it’s entertainment for the rich.
And last night I experienced it.
Turns out if you buy a floor seat, you get a discount on valet parking, it’s $130 a pop.
But the people sitting alongside me can afford it. People like Jeffrey Katzenberg, Joel Silver…
As for the TV stars, I doubt they own their seats. I figure the studio gave Christopher Meloni his. And Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis theirs.
And they weren’t as good as ours.
You’re immediately separated from the riff-raff. You take an elevator into the bowels of the arena where your ticket is checked numerous times, the security is as tight as the White House, and then…
You emerge onto the floor.
That’s the most amazing thing about it. Your feet are right on the wood. Your chair is on the rubber covering the ice, you can feel the cold.
So, these giants are pushing the ball around, warming up. And that’s what they are, so tall you realize the barrier to entry is height, and no mere mortal is gonna make it.
And then there’s the infrastructure. The scout sitting nearby, a woman with a Spalding notebook featuring the same skin as the ball. And the TV commentator with heels higher than she. And Stu Lantz in his suit… I’ve been around famous people, but sports are different. It’s more…everybody.
So the game begins. And the Lakers fall behind almost instantly. After all, they’re in last place.
But the Pelicans are not much better. Still, they pull ahead by double digits.
So I’m studying the Laker Girls, all of whom appear to be illegal. And in perfect shape. Not ultra-skinny, like the movie stars, but healthy, athletic. All smiling with too much makeup I couldn’t help but wonder if this was the peak of their life, where they went from here.
And we were so close you couldn’t read the scoreboard. That’s right, we were part of the set, we were on TV.
So we hit halftime and Guy Oseary gets up to talk to Ashton and Mila, like they’re all friends, like they all went to high school together.
And then Mila comes over to make nice with Jeffrey, who’s finished his McDonald’s and is yet to delve into his candied apple.
And I’m eating chicken tenders, taking it all in.
And then the game heats up. The Lakers come within four after being down by five times that number.
It’s palpable. The vibe in the building has changed. People are standing. The guy behind us is trash-talking. The game has tightened up.
And it’s then that I think of Bob Costas’s quote, that sports are a metaphor for life.
This is not ski racing, or car racing, or so many other sports wherein equipment is key. This is just about sneakers and socks, basketball is pure.
And I’m thinking how most of these players will be done long before forty, their glory behind them, as well as the lease payments on their fancy cars, with no ring to evidence a championship.
But for this one extended moment, we’re all in it together. We don’t know how it turns out. We’ve got no edge. We’re subject to the vagaries of life, the bounce of the ball, the traction of our shoes…
And you could say it was disappointing.
But not really. The thrill was more palpable than any amusement park ride. Because this wasn’t manufactured, but life.
Was it worth $2,750 a ticket?
You can decide.
Meanwhile, I’m waiting for Frank Robinson to clear the way so they can pull up my car and I can jet away before most people have located their rides.
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