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Column: Why one of the most noticeable Lakers season-ticket holders is happy with the team missing the playoffs

Jimmy Goldstein sits courtside during the first half of a game between the Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans in 2014 at Staples Center.

The Lakers are going to miss the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season and there is perhaps no one happier about their predicament than longtime Lakers season-ticket holder Jimmy Goldstein.

If you don’t know Goldstein by name, you’ve certainly seen him courtside for years. He’s the older gentleman sitting on the baseline next to the visitor’s bench dressed in a leather jacket, leather pants, leather boots, neck scarf and a custom-made python-skin hat covering his frizzy gray hair.

Goldstein, 79, has been a courtside fixture at Lakers games since moving to Los Angeles in 1962, two years after the Lakers arrived from Minneapolis, and at Clippers game since the team moved to L.A. from San Diego in 1984. He estimates he goes to over 100 games per year, including almost all of the Lakers and Clippers home games at Staples Center. Goldstein has had a front-row seat for most of the biggest moments in Lakers history but doesn’t care if he doesn’t see another one again.

“I am a big Clippers fan and I have always been an anti-Lakers fan,” Goldstein told me before taking in the Clippers’ win over the Pacers on Tuesday. “I’m always rooting for the visiting team. Everywhere I go, all over the world, people walk up to me and say, ‘Go Lakers!’ I tell them, ‘I’m not a Lakers fan.’ They look shocked. They say, ‘But you go to all the games?’ And I say, ‘Yes, to watch basketball, not to root for the Lakers.’ ”

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Goldstein, who credits his wealth to “property investments that have turned out reasonably well,” estimates he spends over $500,000 per season on NBA tickets. During the first and second rounds of the playoffs, he says he travels every day and is courtside at a different postseason game each night. By the time the playoffs are done, he estimates, he’s gone to about 35 games, including every NBA Finals game. He doesn’t mind traveling more now with the Lakers being out of the playoffs in recent years. He would rather travel to see a small-market team win than see the Lakers win another championship.

“I didn’t grow up in Los Angeles so when I came to L.A. I didn’t feel any compulsion to suddenly root for the Lakers when I never had before,” he said. “I also like to root for the underdog and I don’t like to go with the crowd. The Lakers have had it too easy over the years. They’ve had a big advantage over other teams. They’ve always gotten the star players from other teams whether it’s Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal and now LeBron James. They’ve had such a huge advantage over small-town teams. It motivated me to root for the other teams. Plus, the Lakers fans are so biased in favor of the Lakers, it makes me root against them.”

It’s hard to imagine another Lakers season-ticket holder, let alone one for 50 years, getting as much joy in the Lakers’ struggles as Goldstein. A big smile came over his normally stoic face when he was told the Lakers missed the playoffs only five times from 1949 to 2013 before their current drought.

“I have to chuckle over the Lakers’ problems, missing the playoffs six years in a row and not even finishing close to .500,” Goldstein said. “The Lakers fans deserve it.”

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Los Angeles’ XFL team doesn’t have a name, logo or coach yet, but the team will take a huge first step in the right direction on Thursday when they announce Heather Brooks Karatz as the team’s president. Karatz was the executive vice president and general counsel of LAFC until Wednesday when she left for this new opportunity.

What LAFC has been able to do in this city as an expansion franchise is now the blueprint for every other team entering the market and, quite frankly, many teams here that have fallen short of engaging with the community. Karatz will be responsible for the team’s fan engagement and business operations.

“One of the pivotal components to the success of LAFC has been listening to our fans and listening to our supporters, and that’s what I’m going to do with L.A.’s XFL team,” Karatz said Wednesday. “We want to work with them and give them a voice through the process to make sure they feel like this is their team and they’re part of the authentic growth of the team. We are creating a new team, a new league and a new fan experience for the L.A. market.”

The XFL will start play February 2020 and L.A.’s XFL team will play at Dignity Health Sports Park (formerly StubHub Center) shortly after the Chargers play their final game there. I don’t know how successful L.A.’s third pro football team will be but they have a fighting chance with Karatz at the helm.

I wasn’t sold when Jeffrey Pollack was named the XFL’s president and COO. Pollack was the chief marketing and strategy officer for the Chargers during their move to Los Angeles, which could not have been handled worse. From the short-lived knockoff L.A. logo, which was scrapped within 24 hours, to the much-maligned “Fight for L.A.” slogan, it was a mess. But give Pollack credit for picking the right person to lead the next football team to call Carson home.

“Without making this about what any other team has done or not done, I think from our standpoint we appreciate the fact that this team will be born and bred in L.A.,” Pollack said. “It will be totally authentic and original to Los Angeles.”

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After Kyle Busch tied Richard Petty’s NASCAR record with his 200th career win Sunday at the Auto Club 400 in Fontana, he couldn’t help but think about his first win on Sept. 4, 2005, which also took place at the Auto Club Speedway.

“The coolest part about it is this is the same racetrack track that I got win number one at so it’s kind of odd to get my first win here and then get my 200th win here too,” Busch said. “You kind of bookend your first 200 wins at the same race track. That’s kind of unique. It didn’t matter when or where it happen but it’s cool that it happened the way it did. It’s kind of surreal.”

arash.markazi@latimes.com


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