I spent some quality time with the grocery store bagger the other day.
He was in one room and I was in another.
We were yelling to each other about the Lakers, because right now in the L.A. area when any two people come together and they don't quite know what to say to each other, someone's gonna ask, "How 'bout those Lakers?"
If the Lakers had generated this kind of excitement earlier this season, maybe that's the question the grocery store bagger would have popped to my daughter instead of the one that made him my future son-in-law. I blame Isaiah Rider for that.
RIGHT NOW most everyone's true love is the Lakers. Here at the newspaper we have something like five or six people assigned to write them love letters on a regular basis. I caught myself almost sending flowers to Jeanie Buss, but that's another story.
"You know," hollered the grocery store bagger, "I've been a Laker fan for as long as I can remember." This from a guy who told my daughter the other day he couldn't remember if he had ever been to a strip club.
"You should see the parking lot at Ralphs," he said, and before I could tell him I had that on my list of must places to visit right behind the Eiffel Tower and the Vatican, he kept right on gushing: "It's like every car has a Laker flag and I can't wait to get mine."
I know who pays when they go out on a date, so if he wants one, my daughter will buy it--with my money.
In the meantime, I've noticed he's wearing a Laker jersey with No. 34 on his back wherever he goes as if someone might give him a free meal thinking they're serving Shaq. By the way, I've seen hundreds of people walking around in Shaq's jersey, and the only one who looks good dressed like that is Shaq.
Now I'd buy my daughter a jersey with Kobe's number if I thought I could get her bickering with the Shaq wannabe, but they'd probably kiss and make up and be tighter than ever. I thought about putting on Kobe's jersey and just not giving him my daughter, but my wife says I should be more mature than that. She seems to say that a lot.
She also said, "Go Lakers," which is a lot better than hearing her say, "Go Sparks," but hearing her also repeat it in her sleep, I think she's really into this championship fling. The last time I saw her this excited was the first time I took her to Hometown Buffet and she realized she could eat all she wanted.
I know she's real enamored with Derek Fisher and she said somebody should write something real nice about him. I offered, but she suggested Plaschke.
NOW THAT everyone knows the Lakers are going to win the NBA title--everyone is a Laker fan here and just going bonkers. If you don't, you will be asked to leave town. I know--I have a file of requests from readers, including one who provided the phone number for a moving van.
The Lakers are like a John Wayne movie now--everyone knows who the good guy is and how the whole thing is going to end--it's only a matter of how many bad guys the Duke's going to beat up.
Some people are pulling for the 76ers so the Lakers can wipe the tattoos right off Allen Iverson. By the way, the grocery store bagger has a couple of tattoos--I believe one is an arrow allowing him to turn and point to the frozen food section without saying a word.
Some people are pulling for the Bucks so the Lakers can wipe the smug smile right off of the face of Coach George Karl. By the way, the grocery store bagger has a smug smile--I believe you would too, if your girlfriend paid for everything, including a Laker flag for your wreck.
No matter who opposes the Lakers, it's understood they have no chance. You ask anyone now and they will tell you they never had a doubt the Lakers were going to repeat, never once second-guessed the coach for doing nothing when Kobe and Shaq were thinking about filing for divorce, never for a moment thought the team would do anything but win every playoff game.
If Phil Jackson came out right now and said he was running for mayor of L.A., Jim Hahn and Antonio Villaraigosa would probably vote for him. I'd like to see one of them step to the microphone and say they wouldn't.
I think Phil would make a great mayor, by the way, promising the people of L.A. he would run the city the same way he coaches and do nothing--someone finally making a promise they'd keep.
There is no question these are the best of times for L.A. because our Lakers are reminding the rest of the world how great we have it. And this should explain to you why I write the way I do--why I get so upset with the Dodgers, Angels, USC, UCLA, Avengers, Curtis Crayon, Clippers, Kings and Mighty Ducks when they make us look so bad.
Now maybe you're wondering why I'm not as tough on the grocery store bagger as I am on the Dodgers, Angels, USC, UCLA, Avengers, Curtis Crayon, Kings and Mighty Ducks. It's like I told my daughter--what more can I say--she picked a real winner.
IF THE Bucks or 76ers defeat the Lakers in the NBA finals, that's when I'll believe all this business about the NBA putting the fix in.
THIS MONTH'S issue of Travel + Leisure--page 226--gives us a look at Coach Jackson during a stay at the Golden Door spa in Escondido in which he tells us the highlight of his stay was the "candlelight labyrinth walk: the concentric circles have a hypnotic effect."
Jackson is pictured in the magazine standing in his white and purple kimono--pointing at a little pool of fishies at his feet--and if you or I talked like this, dressed like this and communed with little fishies, we wouldn't be getting a ride to the Golden Door spa in Escondido.
TODAY'S LAST word comes in an e-mail from Raul:
"I let myself be fooled by you once again. I didn't see your name on top of the article and I thought I might get some insight, but shoot, two minutes of my life lost forever. I'm an idiot. I'm a freakin' idiot!"
I have a policy that I never disagree with the readers.