Unclassified Info: How to be a SoCal sports fan

Before last weekend began, I was all set to write about our domination of professional sports. The Kings were looking like royalty on ice. The Lakers were back in their series against Timbucktu City, or whoever they were playing.

And despite still being owned by Donald Sterling, even the Clippers were still playing ball in late May. All in all, it was a great time to be a sports fan in Southern California.

That was the state of competition when I left Saturday for a motorcycle ride up to San Francisco. As of this morning, the Lakers and Clippers are now on vacation — like me.

I had planned my itinerary around the Kings schedule — this is how rabid a hockey fan I am. Instead of winding up the coast for a couple of days, I powered up Interstate 5 so that on Sunday I would be safely entrenched in San Francisco, where I'd have no problem securing a seat for the game at a local drinking establishment.

Had I taken the slower route up Highway 1, I would have been somewhere in Big Sur. No TV. No way of watching the Kings eat the loathsome Phoenix Prairie Dogs for lunch. Clearly, I have my priorities in order.

I arrived in plenty of time to find the Burger Bar in Union Square — a cool little spot tucked six floors up inside Macy's. I tried Lefty O'Doul's just up the street, but for reasons I could not fathom, none of the 20 flat-screens there had the Lakers on them. I'd soon understand why.

A couple of Burger Bar martinis into the game, I noticed a disturbing trend: People around me were rooting for Dustbowl City. Every time Michael Westbrook would score, they'd cheer. And every time Kobe Bryant would miss, they'd cheer even louder.

For me, this seemed truly bizarre. The Lakers were from California. It seemed to me the purple and gold should be considered the home team.

I'm an avid UCLA fan, but I'm also a Southern California native. So if it turns out that USC represents the Pac 12 in the Rose Bowl, I cheer them on in favor of whatever team comes from that part of the country east of Riverside. I do so because I want my city to win.

For me, sports loyalty goes like this: team, then city, then state, then time zone, and after that, if none of my teams are still playing, I might cheer for Chicago because I love that town.

By halftime, the “Beat L.A.” chant had finally worn me down, so I began to cheer for every Pau Gasol rebound and Metta World Peace basket. And when the Lakers had the lead with a couple of minutes left, I was the one at the bar whooping it up like a frat boy.

But then, as fate would have it, Tumbleweed City came storming back to win the game, leaving me all alone, buried in an avalanche of finger pointing and “in your face” cat calls.

Of course, I did remind a few of the more vocal Laker haters that we have a whole lot of banners flying in Staples Center and were still alive.

“So how are the Golden State Warriors doing in their playoff series?” I asked.

GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is currently working on his second novel and the second half of his life. Gary may be reached at gh@garyhuerta.com.

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