Out of Bounds with Jason Riley

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.

  • http://www.visionofthefans.com Chris Manning

    Completely agree.

    I didn’t like two things.

    1) “Utah sucks” chants – we’re BETTER than that Lakers Nation.
    2) Taco chants

  • Jason

    I have to completely agree with you man, hearing we want tacos in a freakin playoff game are you kidding me???????

    Absolutely pathetic and I’m ashamed that it happened.

  • JC

    Ya, the chant was Lame & Embarassing. – Even the announcers picked up on it… Jeanie Buss better hold a Marketing Meeting ASAP to brainstorm better chants & crowd participation. — Also, have you ever noticed the cool sound effects, music, & hip-hop beats they play in other arenas? (not just at timeouts but during offensive & defensive posessions…) – I think Staples center needs to get “Hip” and add some more flavor to the game… :)

  • mvpsug

    unbelievable. tacos? really?

    we have a 36-5 home record. but opposing teams arent afraid to come to staples. we need to work on this lakers fans.

  • http://thelakersnation.com Kam Pashai

    I loved the Taco chants.

  • ed

    The quality of Laker fans have truly diminished thru the years.

  • Mitch4Pres

    the taco chants are fine stop complaining. however i agree with you 100% that we need to be way louder. i think it has to do with ticket prices in the playoffs. rich people buy the tickets even though they aren’t really passionate fans just because the playoffs is the place to be seen.

  • XXL

    sheople will chant whatever they see in big lights.

  • http://www.visionofthefans.com Chris Manning

    [Comment ID #68506 Will Be Quoted Here]
    Not me. It was disrespectful to the Jazz and our own Lakers even.

    Regular season – fine.

    Playoff game – not cool. Perhaps the fans should’ve started chanting it during game 4 of the 08 finals… yeah, that would’ve worked out well. Respect the opponent. This isn’t “fun time” with the Lakers, this is WAR.

  • Chris Brown

    WOW

    Us passionate Laker fans need to get some free tickets and kick the quiet ones out of Staples

    I cant wait for HCA during the finals…most of the passionate fans will show up there, because the ticket is $15 haha I’m going for sure

    HCA IS THE PLACE TO BE, even if the team is on a big screen

  • LJ

    The tacos are from jack-in-the-box, get your facts straight.

    -signed Gordo Lakers fan

  • rhianna

    whats wrong with taco chants? isn’t it a goal to get the other team to score under 100? if the lakers played D and we got free mamograms if the opposing team scored under 90, id be chanting “we want mamograms” too dammit!

  • tmac

    i thought it was funny..it just shows you how good the team is..that they had the opportunity to hold a playoff contending team to under 100 pts. the crowd can’t be chanting “hold them under 100 pts!” “hold them under 100 pts!”.

  • http://www.j-ri.com Jason Riley

    To clarify, I’m not entirely against “We Want Tacos” chants, although I’m not particularly excited about them either. I do, however, have a problem when that’s the loudest crowd noise the entire game. All that says is that we CAN be loud, but we choose not to be, … unless it’s for some $.99 Tacos from Jack in the Box.

  • JC

    Ok, ok, Taco Chants are Fun & Funny, but we need that type of Energy and Crowd participation throughout the game! – We need an MC to hype up the crowd more… :)

  • AJ

    yeah that’s true maybe we should be like portland and put up videos of rudy fernandez getting fouled by trevor ariza or maybe we can be like sacramento with cow bells (so cool!) or like dallas for calling shaq fat or maybe like utah with the jumbo screen promoting boos for derek fisher who moved to la to get better care for his daughter…every team does something stupid to make fun of the other team… don’t hate because we’re just passing time until we get a real series going…go blame david stern for placing a 2 month long 7 game saga!

  • FLUKE

    ARE THE PEOPLE GOING TO THET GAMES KIDDING ME? Did you notice everyone was WEARING THE FREE SHIRTS THEY HANDED OUT? YOUR SUPPOSED TO WAVE IT AROUND AND GET LOUD NOT WEAR AND CLAP EVER COUPLE POSSESSIONS!

    Seriously I think our fans are the only ones that need deriections on what to do with the free playoff shirts. Back 15-20 years ago when I was going to games as a kid we were the loudest crowd before STAPLES was there. On the screen they should write WAVE THE SHIRT AROUND DON’T WEAR IT!

  • David

    Your right!! no one paints there face or really stands up to cheer on the Lakes , this is pure evidence that most of the fans in attendance are just Band wagon or trend followers!! I was there in December cheering them on like it was june and people were looking at me like I was crazy… YOU people owe it to the Lakes and to the True fans who wish that they had the chance to be at the staples center helping them with there quest for #15. COME ON I hear so many Fans calling radio shows and complaining that the LAKES lost there killer instinct and Don’t blow out there enemy’s anymore , WHAT ABOUT YOU!! lets be the nation that bleeds purple and gold lets make CHICK and the LEGENDS of Lakers past PROUD And let off A ROAR That will send a shiver down the spines of all The teams And FANS in the east… GO LAKERS !!! MVP! MVP! MVP! RIP CHICK!!

  • http://www.j-ri.com Jason Riley

    David – Couldn’t have said it better myself. :)

  • SK

    The alternative way to look at it is that the taco chants have become a part of the Laker’s lore. Yeah, you might think that’s embarrassing thing to have a part of your organization’s identity, but the Steeler’s Terrible Towel, Greenbay Packer’s “Cheesehead,” and other team-specific identities had not too pleasant beginnings.

    I think at this point, the tacos have exceeded what they are in actuality (really bad fast food), and now they signify a decisive victory, good defensive play, and a great finish.

    Phil himself brings up tacos in interviews. Lakers players themselves mention tacos. At regular season games, they’ll post on the jumbotron encouraging fans to chant, “WE WANT TACOS.”

    While any other teams’ fans have to chant “DEFENSE,” the Lakers fans have a organization-specific chant. As Lakers fan, I’ll say this– I’ve never cashed in my free tacos coupon that I got from Staples. But I still do the taco chant because it’s a concise way to express, “HEY! I know we’re winning, but let’s not slack off now!”

    I agree that Staples should be louder. But, as for the tacos… what can I say? I want tacos!

  • PauKobeBynumOdomDynasty

    back in the day the Lakers were the team all the fans liked. Now most people hate them, and most that come to the game are the celebrities who are rich enough to afford the ticket prices.

    BTW Utah sucks isn’t a bad chant. If they can boo fisher, we should retaliate.

  • FreakinCrod

    No offense to anyone here, but I’ve always thought we have the worst fans. Well to be more specific, the ones that actually get to go to the games seem to be the worst fans. I still remember last season in the finals when we were up on the celtics by 21 points, and instead of going absolutely nuts like they should’ve been, all the fans in Staples were dead silent. And then of course they came back. Way to support the team! That pissed me off like no other. I seriously hate most of the “fans” that go to the games.

  • jac

    omg I swear staples center is one of the most DEAD ARENAS. I think it’s partly due to the staff who needs to SPICE IT UP. I mean cmon, play some good music, have some good chants, for pete’s sake when you announce a player’s name put some LIFE INTO IT!

    even kobe said that the music they play at staples is horible in an interview way back in february. this is a time where everyone should be going crazy and cheering but in a way I don’t thikn the organization wants it. You would think they would try to be more exciting and creative with their ideas but they stick to the same old thing..

    As evidence, after I came back from a laker game in january, i personally wrote a freakn email to one of the people in charge to give them some ideas on how to spice it up.

    ahhhhhhhh

    at least that is the problenm of our organization as opposed to us sucking haha

  • lainok

    I was born and raised in l.a. and moved here to oklahoma 3 years ago. Going to a laker game for most people in los angeles has meant the same thing as going to a club, or a movie premier. It’s the cool thing to do. There was a reason it was nicknamed showtime. And people that show up to a sports event because it’s the cool thing to do, are usually people that are to cool to stand up and shout. They are the same ones that go to a system of a down concert because it make them feel political, but only stand up when chop suey! comes on. Out here in Oklahoma, these people are ravenous for all their sports. Up until getting the thunder this year, the most they had was college. But it doesn’t matter if it’s a little leauge game, they will go insane for their team. The Thunder suck, and from the first game of the season, people were already wearing thunder gear and screaming their heads off for their new hometown team. There are those of us laker fans that love our team, because we are in love with the city of los angeles. Then there are those that just think it’s cool to live there, but don’t admire the city the way we do.

    as for the taco chants? I don’t think it was wrong. I see it as the new way that the fans express that it was a game well played. The lakers won, and they played defense. “WE WANT TACO’S!” is just a new way of proclaiming that.

  • Mike Zup

    Okay, please forgive my ignorance, but has LA *ever* had a riotous fanbase? In any sport? Dodgers fans are famous for leaving early, the Clippers fans suffer from battered fans syndrome, Kings (hockey version) fans are known for…something or other, and Lakers fans are known for being: wealthy, famous, glamorous. This is the town that doesn’t want a piece of the biggest game in America, the NFL, because supporting football teams requires die-hard, fanatical, face painting and bare chested in 0 degree weather enthusiasm. Have Lakers fans, even back in the Showtime days, ever blown the roof off of any arena, let alone a modern sound-deadening mausoleum like Staples?

    LA is a great town, from all reports at least, with tons of things to do in great weather, with rich beautiful people all about. Which might be the source of the problem. If you look at the cities that are famous for supporting their pro teams, it’s always places that are cold (Chicago), blue-collar (Green Bay), usually both (Pittsburgh). Places where the sports teams are THE most important thing in town, not getting two more points on your next deal, figuring out where Victoria and David got their matching thongs, or what diet to use this week.

    Face it, bro. LA is a culture of cool people, and cool people don’t rattle the rafters for anything.

  • http://minoroots.wordpress.com minoroots

    @ FreakinCrod

    I was at that Game 4, and I couldn’t agree more–especially those so-called ‘fans’ in the lower tier seats! THEY ARE SUCH WASTERS OF GREAT SEATS!! Gahhhhhh.

    I’m usually up in the 300s, but managed to cop a seat in the 100s for this game. I was so hyped to be close to the court–but honestly, I couldn’t have been more disappointed with the crowd around me. My section mildly clapped, rarely stood, and mostly consisted of suit-wearing businessmen/women without a single article of Laker gear on them.

    To make matters worse, a good chunk of the seats were somehow occupied by Boston fans. WTF?? And THEY were the loud/obnoxious ones! Seriously, aside from me, there were only about 15-20 TRUE Laker fans going crazy through out the run in my entire section, and that really infuriated me…

    You can see the fans in the 300s up there going crazy, but they’re just too far away to make an impact on the game itself. The biggest noise needs to come from court-side–there’s gotta be a way to bring that 300 section atmosphere down to the lower level!!!

    It seems like STAPLES only gets rocking when something miraculous is happening on-court, like big comebacks or buzzer-beaters or Kobe’s 81 game. I’m sick and tired of watching fans at Oracle Arena or the Rose Garden during a REGULAR SEASON game, and wishing that kind of enthusiasm could be replicated at STAPLES at least during the PLAYOFFS… Sad, I know.

    So we gotta BRING IT EVERY GAME, Laker fans!!
    (Too bad those you visiting this forum aren’t the ones that have to hear this…)

  • Ed

    most of you don’t understand, the taco chant is about holding the other team to under 100 points, no one really cares about the tacos

  • http://thelakersnation.com Kam Pashai

    [Comment ID #68528 Will Be Quoted Here]

    I completely agree with this! Very well said!

  • L.G.Fuad411

    [Comment ID #68502 Will Be Quoted Here]

    haha…i was there! and i went allong with the chant. we deserve to say “Utah sucks”. they do, they boo’d fish for no reason.

    and i’m mad that deron ruined the tacos…

  • http://NONE MAMBA24

    I WAS AT THE GAME ON SUNDAY AND THE REASON Y PEOPLE STARTED CHANTING THAT IS CUZ WE KNEW THE GAME WAS OVER WHEN THE FOURTH STARTED……. I UNDERSTNAD WE NEED TO PROVE THAT WE THE FANS HAVE A JOB AS WELL AT THE STAPLES BUT DONT TELL US WE ARE NOT FANS???? HOT THE FAULK U KNOW I SPEND MY FALKING MONEY THE WAY I WANT AND MOST OF THE TIME IM AT THE LAKER GAMES…… IF YOU NEED TO WRITE TO SOME ONE MAYBE IS THE MARKETING TEAM THEY DO FALKEN SUCK, ON SUNDAY L.T ANNOUNCED THE FREE TACO AD LIKE 10 TIMES!!!! MAYBE U SHOULD WRITE TO JENNY……

  • MAMBA24

    KAM PASHAI COULD NOT AGREE WITH YOU MORE!!!! WE WANT TACO BYATCH……..

  • i hate turnovers

    don’t blame the fans, blame the jumbotron!

    i still have my free taco coupon from the march 3rd game

  • Davey

    C’mon. Are you serious here? Tacos mean the Lakers put in a great defensive effort. And if they scored significantly more than a hundred… a crushing defeat. Tacos is shorthand for that. And the fans know it.

    Do you think that the fans would be cheering for Tacos if they were given if the opponent held the LAKERS under a hundred. Hill no. They would rip up those free coupons. They would throw them under their seats. They would boycott Jack in the Box.

    Don’t question the loyalty of the Laker fan. I mean, let’s face it guys, this is LA. We can’t really EAT those tacos. We be fat. YEAH, we aren’t cowbell ringing hicks from the fields. Yeah we have a life. Yeah, we live in one of the most magical cities on the planet and have a team to be unbelievably proud of. Phil won’t be here forever. Even Kobe won’t be here forever.
    This is our moment.

    We love our Lakers. And we want our Dacos!

  • Davey

    ‘We’d be fat.’ We be fat. he he. Yeah, we be fat on our glorious Lakers, mon.

  • Paul

    [Comment ID #68513 Will Be Quoted Here]

    Now that you put it that way.. as in Season vs. Playoffs.. I agree.

  • Bud

    Who cares, people attending Laker games (not using the term “fans” here on purpose) should be able to cheer for and do whatever the hell they want to have a good time. That’s just the reality of attending a sports event at a big club in a major city, no matter what sport it is. They cater to the big spenders rather than the everyday joes like you and I. That helps them put a most competitive product on the floor, pitch, field, anywhere…

    Sure, they can decrease ticket prices but then, are you willing to put up with a lower team payroll and a less competitive team that has to sell/trade players in order to stay under budget? Deal with it Laker fans. You guys have been lucky enough to have a miraculous five year turnaround between championship contenders. You have to take the good with the bad.

  • http://www.heavenlydevils.com/heavenlydevils_ezine Charlie

    I hope everyone who thinks the “We Want Tacos” chant sucks and thinks the organization as a whole has no clue how to get things going understands that it’s Buss who actually created the way the NBA is today! All the excitement and all started here in L.A. and was probably thought of as a dumb idea at one point as well.

    The chant is great! Being loud also doesn’t make you a true fan. The Lakers are a kick ass team who do it with style and confidence.

    I agree with Davey as well!

  • Rinnegato

    Oh Gawd –

    1st of all the “We Want Tacos” chant is great.

    I don’t personally want tacos, but its a way for us to congratulate our team for shutting the opponent down. The whole NBA knows of this chant and the teams probably fear getting embarrassed when they step into Staples.

    All the other fans have the “Beat LA” chants… This is our way of getting back at their teams, by saying we get tacos because you guys sucked extra bad tonight haha.

    If it wasn’t for this chant, then all we would have left is the “____ sucks” chants and “Lets go Lakers” chants, and M-V-P chants.

    Heck even last year the bumper stickers TLN was selling had the line “and free tacos for all” or something like that.

  • http://www.j-ri.com Jason Riley

    Good comments & points by all. :)

    Although, the original intent of the article I wrote wasn’t to bash the “We Want Tacos” chant. If fans want to chant for tacos, like Bud mentioned, they are certainly entitled to.

    My point was that (1) The ‘Taco’ chant at the end of the game was the loudest the Staples Center crowd had been all game, and (2) it would be nice if our crowd did a better job at creating a loud & intimidating atmosphere for visiting teams coming in, like we used to back in the early part of this decade.

    That is all. :)

  • lyk13

    Actually I think the taco chants as defense chants, limit opponents to below 100pts is akin to playing defense.

    I’m not wrong here anyway I think? Tacos WILL come if the team hold opponents to below 100 and score over 100, that’s defense to say the least, so why not?

  • David

    We certainly have touched on a subject that has awakened our emotions as fans and for the love of The Lakers. I hope that someone in the organization will see this and help bring some life into staples .. I think Lawrence Tanner does an outstanding job, But we as fans need to be louder I want it to feel like the Forum! Since the crowd is filled with actors or aspiring actors maybe they need some direction , maybe the jumbotron needs to flash GET LOUD! or MAKE MORE NOISE! Maybe WAIVE YOUR FREE T-SHIRT!! hmm I Don’t know it worked for WE WANT TACOS!

  • dson

    hate the taco chants!! wish Dr. Buss would end the free taco promo

  • farmabrick

    Staples was WAY loud back in 2000-2001: check out the noise for either the alley-oop to Shaq from Kobe against Portland. When they team is less good, the Bandwagon crowd is absent, so the seats go to True Fans. But when the team gets good, the Bandwagon is out in full force.

    This is the price you pay for being good for almost a decade (the first two Post-Shaq Years excepted).

    And the only valid “Sucks” chant is, of course, “Boston Sucks”.

  • AgentSEVO

    Albeit the theme of free tacos is tacky to unite a Staples Center crowd, it’s one of the few things that gets the crowd together…it’s sad to see that the majority of fans with good seats are more concerned with food/drink and cellphone calls than paying homage to the premier basketball team in the NBA, hands down…I remember way back Nike had a commercial where there was a basketball game where the “real” fans got to sit courtside/midcourt while the “bandwagoners, etc.” sat up in the bleeders…wouldn’t that be nice…I hate to point fingers, but I’ve had the chance to go to many games and sit courtside to rooftop…and consistently the cheering fans progressively get more energetic and intense the farther you go up…they’re there, you just can’t hear them…maybe we can transplant the pavilion at Dodger Stadium and start blowing up beach balls…bring some Raider fans and go buck wild…I dunno, something to show that there are many people in this Laker Nation that bleed purple and gold…

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  • FatAddict62

    No problem with the Taco Chant.

    Hell, we’ve found a substitute (though it will never live up to) for the eggs, butter, and jello in Chick’s refrigerator.

  • Dead Auerbach

    They need to turn the lights back on in the crowd. A dark crowd is a quiet crowd

  • 15cmngsoon

    Love the ‘We Want Tacos’ chant!!! I heard Phil Jackson wrote ‘Way Taco’ on the on the locker room board for all the players to see after a stellar defensive game. I think chanting ‘We Want Tacos’ is Laker fans version a saying ‘Play Tough Defense’.

  • Vibe

    I can agree one thing you said in this article…why cant they be loud for the whole game rather than the last 2 min of the game.