June gloom for L.A. sports fans
This was the city. Los Angeles, California. Tuesday, June 10, 2008. It was a nice day — morning haze clearing to sunshine. The beat guys were working Lakers’ division over at Staples Center.
The coach was Jackson.
The Lakers defeated Boston in Game 3 of the NBA Finals to cut the Celtics’ series lead to 2-1. Everyone looked forward to Game 4.
The playoff-bound Angels and Dodgers both won — with Manny Ramirez only weeks away from providing more juice.
Los Angeles was on its game, the McCourts were married and the Dodgers were solvent.
Pete Carroll’s USC Trojans had won another Rose Bowl and quarterback John David Booty was making a clean handoff to Mark Sanchez.
Trojans basketball was all-net again under Coach Tim Floyd, Ben Howland had marched UCLA to a third consecutive Final Four, Phil Mickelson was the reigning Riviera champion and Rick Neuheisel was perky positive he could end USC’s “football monopoly.”
One of our hockey teams, in 2007, even won the Stanley Cup.
Tiger Woods, our home-grown hero, on June 10, 2008, limped into a news conference at Torrey Pines, in advance of the U.S. Open, and was asked:
“Do you think if you could win here, given the obstacles with your health, that this could be your finest victory, your finest hour?”
Woods: “I have a long way to go before that happens.”
Such optimism. What happened to days like June 10?
Look at us now … we’re a wreck.
“It’s a sick feeling,” Petros Papadakis, former USC running back and radio co-host of “The Petros & Money Show,” said of the city’s virulent vibe. “Young kids like to say, ‘It’s all good.’ No, it’s all bad.”
If there has been a worse stretch on the Southland sports scene, well, it must have been before Facebook.
“When the second-year player on the Clippers [Blake Griffin] and the depth of the UCLA [football] defense are the top stories in L.A., that’s a red flag,” Papadakis said.
The Lakers’ playoff flame put the capper on a horrible half-year that began Baddeley (Aaron, winner of this year’s L.A. Open) and has only gotten worse. TMZ has reported that L.A.'s own Oscar De La Hoya checked into rehab. A spokesman said the facility, at this time, was unable to accommodate an entire city.
David Simon, president of the Los Angeles Sports Council, which tabulates annual lists of the city’s top sporting moments, said this year’s moment so far was probably Griffin’s NBA Dunk Contest slam over a car.
Wow … a jump-over. That’s a long way from Kirk Gibson’s walk-off.
“To be fair, it’s relatively early,” Simon said. “My attitude, as a lifelong resident, is these things do run in cycles. We’ve been blessed over the years with several dynasties. They don’t always last.”
Kobe Bryant moped out of his exit interview and pronounced last season “a wasted year of my life.”
What about our lives?
L.A. angst hovers at threat-level purple and it all starts with the end-all Lakers. Instead of a “Three-peat,” we got “Four-Sweep,” with Phil Jackson taking his titles into retirement and leaving us with “Kobe and the Kardashians.”
The Lakers have a new coach but still need to break ground on a new point guard and, according to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a statue. Magic Johnson, of all our icons, advocates change using the “TNT” not involved with NBA broadcast rights.
We gauge the win currents in town with four weather balloons: Lakers, Dodgers, USC football and UCLA basketball.
All, at the moment, are under intense barometric pressure.
Dodgers: Once the standard for professionalism and Cey-Russell-Lopes-Garvey steadiness, you open the paper these days, not for box scores, but to see who Andre Ethier flipped off — or if the franchise made payroll.
USC football. It lost nine games the last two years after dropping nine the previous seven. And that doesn’t even count the Trojans’ latest loss — now that the school has lost its appeal of NCAA sanctions, the team soon will officially be stripped of its 2004 Bowl Championship Series title.
Lane Kiffin lost five games his first year AP (After Pete) but, as they say at Heritage Hall, “that’s three fewer than Neuheisel’s eight.”
Meanwhile, UCLA fans are recommending the downtown hotel bar where USC basketball Coach Kevin O’Neill nearly earned his pink slip after a meet-and-greet mixer with an Arizona fan.
UCLA basketball: Pardon Our Dust. Reconstruction at Pauley Pavilion will force the nomads to play games at a venue — the Sports Arena — where many say the preferred ball should be “wrecking.” Some of the Bruins’ best young players have already left the arena.
Ducks and Kings: Our hockey teams had slushy finishes. The Ducks were seconds from going up 3-2 on Nashville before blowing the lead and the first-round series. The Kings started 12-3 but ultimately, in the playoffs, couldn’t jump the Sharks.
Angels: Relatively stable but irrevocably jinxed, this is the only franchise ever to lose a first baseman for two years on the back end of a walk-off grand slam.
Unbowed, the club recently staged “Kendrys Morales Bobblehead Night” — as if Morales was out with a chest cold. The only thing Morales has added to the Angels since last May is an “s.”
It’s not the mediocrity, though, that hurts most. It’s the disappointment the children have caused us. We’re not Cleveland-after-LeBron miserable because our lakes don’t catch fire (only our stadium), but the totality of the embarrassments has punctured our collective civic psyche.
Three years ago, Tiger Woods heroically won the U.S. Open playing on what turned out to be a ripped-up knee.
It was Woods’ 14th professional major championship — he’s still looking for No. 15. Sex, lies and videotape torpedoed his life and steely nerve game. Woods was last seen pulling out at the Players after shooting a front-nine 42.
If anyone asks now, he is from Windermere, Fla.
Selig-ville has taken over Bailey’s baseball savings and loan while the McCourts sort through affairs. Networks are dropping soap operas left and right even as one thrives here.
It was bad enough that the Giants won the World Series. It would almost be comical had a Giants fan not been savagely beaten on our front lawn.
And getting swept by Dallas wasn’t even the worst part of the Lakers’ season. It was the way they disgracefully exited, whimpering in defeat, Lamar Odom’s cheap shot on a Maverick out-sullied only by Andrew Bynum’s cheaper shot.
Lamar and Khloe’s new perfume couldn’t overcome the noxiousness.
When Bynum ripped his jersey off in Dallas, a lot of us hoped it would be the last time. It was the lowest “This is not who we are” moment since Kermit Washington rearranged Rudy Tomjanovich’s face.
One hopes the basketball brain power established by Elgin, Jerry and Magic can overcome the actions of knuckleheads. Don’t count on West’s counsel, however, because he’s now advising Golden State.
Can we pull out of this funk?
Yes, although the medications require you not operate heavy machinery.
Our madcap diversions are worth saving. Sport is serious business in Southern California, in 2009 providing $4.2 billion in economic impact, according to a study by the Sports Council and L.A. Chamber of Commerce.
We can start by requiring future owners put up more than parking lots for collateral and, if you’re going to speak with an accent, how about “Valley Girl?”
Bottom line: If you can’t act like a Laker, keep your shirt on, or apologize without a teleprompter, it’s time to package you to Orlando for oranges and Dwight Howard.
Slumps run in cycles. We can rebound, even if Pau Gasol sometimes doesn’t.
“I certainly think so,” Simon, of the L.A. Sports Council, said. “There’s no place that’s won the number of championships that we have. You talk sport dynasties over years, we’ve had them — Dodgers, Lakers, UCLA basketball, USC football. I think this is a great sports town.”
Long live our non-revenue collegiate sports — USC’s men’s team has locked down another NCAA tennis title. Cling to the promise of UCLA football’s improved defense and a rising star who can jump the moon (or at least a Kia).
“Blake Griffin is a special thing,” Papadakis said. “It’s like when Reggie [Bush] and [Matt] Leinart were doing their thing at the Coliseum. Or watching Barry Sanders run. It’s that you’re-scared-to-get-up-and-get-a-hot-dog’ feeling. You don’t want to miss it.”
If you weren’t under covers before, consider that prospect:
A Clipper shall lead us out of the darkness.
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