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Column: Oh, what a night to be an L.A. sports fan

The Lakers celebrate after beating the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference finals.
The Lakers celebrate after beating the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference finals on Saturday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The coffee tastes fresher than usual, as if the beans were roasted hours before brew. The rich aroma of frying bacon permeates the air, while the birds singing in the backyard trees sound like a feathered church choir.

For the most part, 2020 has been straight trash — beginning with Kobe Bryant’s death, then the pandemic and into the graphic video of George Floyd’s death. But this morning my mind is not fixated on the troubles of the world. This morning, my senses are heightened and everything feels more alive than usual, like it’s Christmas and I’m running down the stairs to see what Santa has left underneath the tree.

It’s been 32 years since the Lakers and Dodgers both won championships in the same season. And though other cities have had multiple championships won in the same year — and Miami could do it this year with the Heat and the Marlins — no other municipality has had its baseball and basketball teams begin their quest as favorites on the same day. And not just the same day, but damn near starting at the same time.

For all of the garbage this year has handed out, the Dodgers and Lakers can be the Poo-pourri we’ve all been yearning for.

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The Lakers and Miami Heat have been interconnected over the years with Pat Riley, who has won NBA championships coaching both teams.

It is really quite remarkable that we’re even able to talk about playoffs when you think about where we were in April, May, June. Even now, as the NCAA and the NFL are dealing with coronavirus breakouts, to have our two preeminent franchises make it this far despite all of the obstacles is the balm this city’s raw nerve needed.

Some of our favorite businesses are shuttered, acres have been burned, thousand of lives lost and there is so much pain enveloping us from nearly every corner. The possibility to come out on the other side with not one but two sports championships is something I wasn’t even considering in March. But today, it’s all I can think about. After all, sports are a good distraction.

Good for unity too.

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When wearing a mask to protect people from a deadly virus doubles as a political statement, finding common ground has not been easy. But the Lakers and Dodgers can do just that, provide us with a place where we all can stand together.

COVID-19 has kept us isolated for so along perhaps some of us have forgotten what it’s like to exchange a smile with a stranger. Racial tension has been so high we’ve lost sight of the fact that purple, gold and Dodger blue are important colors in Los Angeles too.

I’m not trying to downplay real issues but rather highlight the power of sports, no matter how fleeting it may be. I woke up this morning feeling like it was a holiday, and trust the presidential debate had nothing to do with it. It was because I gave myself permission to enjoy — this moment, this quirk in the schedule, the greatness of the athletes involved.

LeBron James and Mookie Betts have been fantastic vocal leaders during this time of racial reconciliation. But they’ve also performed at an MVP-type level and their teams have been dominant. If two athletes can do both, certainly we as fans should be able to appreciate both. And in that appreciation of our favorite teams’ accomplishments, hopefully we learn to appreciate each other just a little more again.

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On paper the Dodgers should have no trouble with the Milwaukee Brewers in the wild-card round, but anything can happen in a best-of-three series.

I think both teams are going to win championships, but in a lot of ways that’s secondary. For the first time since Kobe died, the city will be together. The Lakers and Dodgers will be playing at the same time — one in the Finals, the other in the first game of the postseason. That never happens because the world doesn’t make a habit of shutting down and blowing up the schedule. That never happens because, over the last 30 years, it’s rare for both teams to be excellent simultaneously. That never happens because it’s not supposed to. But a lot of things are not supposed to be this way in 2020.

We’ve had to adjust, sacrifice, and march. This year has been hard on all of us. But through the grace of God we’ve been given this day where the Lakers and Dodgers set out to end the drought. Maybe it’s a reward for our collective resilience, or maybe it’s pure serendipity. Who knows, and honestly, who cares?

It’s Christmas in September, the coffee smells good, the bacon is crispy and I just want to enjoy. No — I need to.


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