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Showtime For The First Time - My First Lakers Game

P2050238On Friday, February 5, 2010, at the age of 38, I, Elson Trinidad, a lifelong resident of Los Angeles, attended my very first Lakers game.

And so marks another New Year’s Resolution (for the past several years) achieved. Yeah, it took a while.

Why so long? Well, many reasons. Most of you who know me are already aware I’m a big-time Dodgers fanatic. I went to my first Dodger game sometime in the 1978 season, at the age of six. Since then, I’ve been bleeding blue through two World Series Championships, numerous NL West titles and, well, those mediocre seasons.

The Dodgers’ World Series appearances in the late ’70s were the initial reason, followed by the fact that I grew up – and still live – all but three and a half miles from Chavez Ravine. As a kid, Dodger games were family outings – with the most affordable tickets costing in the single-digit dollar amounts – or activities with friends, all the way up to today where I secure a number of playoff tickets and have some friends join me. I seemed to know baseball better than any other sport, and recently I knew the reason why: it’s the only major team sport that doesn’t involve a clock. For a person who constantly struggles with time management issues, this is a particularly telling revelation.

I’ve loved the Lakers too. The ’80s Showtime Lakers of Kareem, Magic and Worthy were great times, but I never got to see them in the Forum, a sports venue that was located some 10 miles to the southwest in Inglewood, a building I never even laid my eyes upon until some time in the 1990s. Before the Century Freeway opened and everyone in my family took Century Blvd to LAX, The Forum to me was some unseen place in the hinterlands of the Hollywood Park racetrack’s parking lot.

I did partake in the Laker Championship parade celebrations in 2000, 2001 and 2009. Of course, those events were free, and therein lies the biggest stumbling block in me not attending a Laker game after all these years: the ticket prices.

Whereas Dodger tickets can be had for (currently) $12 and up, that amount is only a fraction of the cost of the cheapest Staples Center seat. And where most of my life, the phrase, “I got some extra tix to the Dodger game” is a commonly-heard one for me, and I while was able to go to a couple Kings games at Staples (and for free), I’ve never been given the same offer for Lakers tickets – until now.

Thanks to my high school friend Warunchai, who got a group of his co-workers to go, I was able to get in on the group after hearing about the offer earlier in the week. But the ticket wasn’t cheap: $90. And I was in section 322, in the 12th row – behind my seat was the wall.

So I was determined to enjoy this one as much as I could.

After taking the Metro to Staples Center and navigating Flower St. and Chick Hearn Ct. in the rain, I met my friend at the Magic Johnson statue, and filed into the northwestern entrance, the same place I exited when I was last here – for the Michael Jackson memorial in July of last year.  When We got to our seats, and found a group of people who decided to settle in there. Why? I don’t know. I would have gladly offered to sit in their original seats, but there’s hardly a difference in the view from up there.

P2050249Thankfully, I brought a pair of binoculars, which made the experience a lot better; it’s a little difficult to make out the jersey numbers with the naked eye from up there — white on yellow doesn’t contrast well enough to be seen. The only player I can make out easily was Derek Fisher – only because he was the shorter guy with the bald head.

The game experience wasn’t the huge paradigm shift I thought it would be; for instance, there’s the usual “Let’s Go [2-syllable team name]” cheer, pre-recorded hit song snippets, the “Car Wash” claps, a “Make Some Noise” faux VU meter graphic, candid fan shots, a CGI video display race (this time The Chevron Cars) and games where an entire section of the crowd or a chosen spectator would win prizes.

And unique to the Lakers: The Lakers Band (which I had no idea were a live horn band until they were given the spotlight later in the game),  public address announcer Lawrence Tanter, who  uttered the name of each player who made a scoring shot, and of course, The Laker Girls, who at times during the game, donned costumes and danced routines for Motorola Droid and Carl’s Jr., which I personally thought was kinda odd (but in this product-placement/naming rights/brand-name whoring era, should that be such a shock?).

Tonight they played the Denver Nuggets, a playoff opponent from last season and currently the #2 team in the Western Conference, so this would be a great match. The first half was rather awesome, watching Kobe Bryant make 3-pointers, witnessing new Laker Ron Artest in action, and Pau Gasol do his stuff. It was exciting – I was hoping for either free Jack In The Box tacos or a final-second clutch play by Kobe – or both – at the end of the game.

P2050280The second half – eh, not so much. There were a series of missed shots that raised the ire of the crowd and elicited “Awww come on!”s and various obscenities from me, and a growing point deficit in the 4th quarter that signaled the end of any chance of tacos. Ultimately, the Lakers fell to the Nuggets, 126-113. Blame the Lakers’ lack of defense, Denver’s Chauncey Billups’ 39 points or the Nuggets’ Chis Andersen’s annoying tattoos. Randy Newman will not be making any royalties tonight.

My friend Warunchai, who attends a couple of games each season, said this was the first home loss he’s been to since…the 1999 season. I’d hate to be the proverbial jinx, but hey, that’s how sports goes.

P2050283At the end of the game, we made our way towards the southern end of the arena, as I wanted to pay my respects to the 2008-2009 “World Champions” banner and snap some pics.

I would totally do this again soon, if only ticket prices were more affordable. I encouraged Warunchai to organize a group ticket game (for 20 or more at only $35 each) – I would definitely go for that. But until that happens, or I happen to win some Lakers tix somewhere, or win the Lotto, my next major sporting event will likely be at good ol’ Dodger Stadium sometime in April.

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