197 days ago, the Lakers kicked off the season, and the visiting Portland Trail Blazers, in the same night. 82 games, 65 wins and a few lethargic efforts later, the Lakers have finally arrived at the commencement of their journey. Sunday afternoon, the anticipation of an NBA championship quietly shifted from elusive to tangible, from future goal to present reality.
I spent the entire first half standing with one hand holding a cup of coffee, the other expressively fist pumping and high-fiving at every reasonable opportunity. For the majority of the game, the Lakers were in attendance. Early in the 2nd half, the Jazz checked in as present. And, finally, during the closing minute of the 4th quarter, the comatose Staples Center crowd stood to their feet and released a deafening roar…
MVP! MVP! Actually, no.
Let’s go Lakers! … Um, not that either.
How about, “We want Taco’s!” … There it is.
During Game 1 of the 2009 NBA Playoffs, the loudest roar out of Staples Center on Sunday afternoon was a riotous plea for free Tacos. In what fan-less, mind-numbing world can this be acceptable?
A few weeks ago, I watched a replay of the Lakers unbelievable comeback against the Dallas Mavericks in 2002. Despite being an early regular season home game, the Staples Center crowd sounded a whole lot like the Rose Garden. And when the Lakers made their run in the 2nd half, the fans stood and bellowed almost the entire 4th quarter. At what point did the Staples Center turn into a retirement community?
I find this seriously disturbing.
The Lakers are one of the proudest organizations in all of sports. Aside from a few languid efforts down the stretch, this team sliced and diced their way through what was supposed to be a relatively difficult western conference schedule. We have the privilege of witnessing Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest players of all-time, play for Phil Jackson, one of the greatest coaches of all-time, as they drive for their fourth NBA championship this decade.
… Taco’s, are you serious?
Listening to the roar of the Rose Garden should infuriate us. As a matter of fact, it’s downright embarrassing. What do Portland fans have to cheer about that we don’t? Why should they be louder and more energized than us? Could it be that we have been spoiled by success? That we have seen so many championships and great players over the years that we forgot what it feels like to be hungry? To want our team to win bad enough that we do everything in our power to energize the five guys on the floor?
… We Want Taco’s, really?
Lakers Nation, we have a problem. If you’re lucky enough to land tickets to a playoff game, you have a responsibility to matter. You’re 1 of 18,997 fans representing the millions of people that are the Lakers Nation. You owe it to the rest of the Laker faithful to turn Staples Center into an opposing players’ nightmare. If tacos are more exciting than what’s happening on the court, then by all means, sell your ticket to a real fan and enjoy your afternoon at Taco Bell.
Staples Center should be the loudest arena in the NBA. We should all be offended when we hear the crowds at Boston Garden, at Energy Solutions Arena, at the American Airlines Center, at Phillips Arena, at the Rose Garden, at Quicken Loans Arena, at the AT&T Center, at Oracle Arena, … Because the fans at all of those venues cheer way louder for their inferior team than we do for our championship contending Lakers.
How about we wake up during Game 2? Blow the roof off of Staples Center? Tack on the advantage part to the Lakers home-court-advantage? Let’s make sure every visiting team’s white board has take the crowd out of it listed as an objective. If you’re going to be at the game, you might as well make a difference. You have the whole drive home to sit down and let your voice rest.
And for the record, those tacos are only $.99 anyway. They’re essentially free no matter what happens on the court.
Jason Riley is a columnist for the Lakers Nation. In addition to this column, he writes on an array of topics that you can check out by visiting J-Ri.com. You can email him by clicking here, or look him up on Facebook.