One of the strangest phenomena in American sports happened again Tuesday night, exposing even more the darkest depths of a city’s sports soul.
A professional basketball team located in downtown Los Angeles – with Los Angeles in its name, Los Angeles on its jerseys and 37 years of Los Angeles history on its resume – dramatically lost a major playoff game in the last second.
And all over Los Angeles, people celebrated.
The local team Clippers were defeated by the Phoenix Suns in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, but 90% of the city’s basketball fans jumped for joy.
“First I laughed,” said screenwriter Andrew Ungvari. “Then I was happy.”
Amy Nicholson, a film critic and co-host of the popular “Unspooled” podcast, was watching the final seconds on her phone when her boyfriend politely asked her to hide it from him.
“Don’t tell me about the game if the Clippers don’t lose,” director Adam Egypt Mortimer told him.
Shortly after, he told her that the Clippers had lost in a brutal, devastating and chilling way.
“Oh well,” he said.
Maybe not so good?
Those stories are happening every night in every corner of a city that has been divided during what should normally be a unifying city-wide joy.
It’s all because the majority of Lakers fans, even though their team has been eliminated, are still openly against the Clippers.
They are not just ignoring them, which would be completely understandable. They also don’t dismiss them casually, which would also seem reasonable.
No, instead, they are booed and actively booed, which makes much less sense.
There are fans of a 17-ring organization who openly wish for the demise of a franchise that hasn’t even made it to the NBA Finals.
There are fans of the city’s hottest team clamoring for the elimination of a team that barely shows up on Los Angeles’ sports radar.
As there are so many, their disgust fills the air and orders the narrative and further cements one of the strangest truths in the NBA.
Even after overcoming countless deficits to fight to within eight championship wins, the Clippers are more respected nationally than locally.
It can be seen on social media, where Ungvari, whose grandparents were Holocaust survivors, recently wrote: “I would support the Clippers against the Celtics or the Nazis. That’s all. That’s the list ”.
It can be heard on local radio personalities, openly bragging about not loving the Clippers, while haggling over all their hits.
You could have witnessed it at the Staples Center recently, when workers were heard joking about the possibility of the Clippers being eliminated early, as if making fun of them was more important than cheering for another payday.
It would end up being heard at Dodger Stadium, except that the Clippers, even if they won the title, would probably never get anywhere near it. The last time they were there during the Lob City era, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were roundly booed.
As far as most of Los Angeles is concerned, the Clippers could very well be the Sacramento Kings, and with each win it grows more uncomfortable.
“It’s very peculiar … the fans are very loud, frankly disgusting, vulgar, profane,” said former Clippers announcer Ralph Lawler, who deals with haters daily on his Twitter. “Every time I say something positive about the Clippers, I get a flood of people saying, ‘They haven’t done anything! But I never said we did it. “
Alvin Michaelson, a 34-year Clippers season ticket holder and criminal defense attorney, likens the attacks to the constant assault on a suspected invader.
“This is the territory of the Lakers fans, they are like a gang,” he said. “When we’re out, I don’t mind cheering for the Lakers: Who doesn’t like LeBron James, who doesn’t respect him? But Lakers fans will never cheer on the Clippers. ”
The Clippers’ invasion has especially irritated Lakers fans in recent years, both in qualifying and on the street.
The Clippers have won 28 of the last 35 games between the teams since the 2012-2013 season and have not lost a season series against the Lakers in nine years. Under owner Steve Ballmer, the Clippers have also gotten serious about selling their brand to the city, clearly positioning themselves as the anti-Lakers with slogans like “Street lights Over Spotlights,” “We Over Me” and ” LA Our Way ”.
The rivalry intensified when the Clippers covered up Lakers banners and retired jerseys at Staples Center, and then when stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George appeared to be calling the Lakers fools before signing with the Clippers.
“The Clippers started this marketing campaign, they really did some things to get under people’s skin,” Ungvari said. “If you win you are going to grow a fan base, you don’t have to go after someone else’s fans to do it. Don’t come to my house to try to convert my children without my permission ”.
Lakers fans were especially outraged when Clippers coach Tyronn Lue, former Lakers champion, spoke in favor of uniting fans of both teams.
“The Lakers are out and there are a lot of Lakers fans here, and once the Lakers are gone, if we’re not playing them, they should be cheering for the Clippers,” he said recently. “It is the same city.”
The same city? Not here. Not now.
When the Angels won the 2002 World Series, most Dodgers fans either ignored or admired them. They did not openly support them.
When USC football or UCLA basketball go for a national title, the other school often ignores or admires them as well. They are rarely openly encouraged.
This hatred of Lakers fans smacks of an insecurity that should lie beneath them.
“To the Lakers fans who cheat, I say: ‘Come on, how many championships they have, we have nothing but admiration for their successes, we just want to have a banner to accompany their 17 championships,” Lawler said. “If they are so insecure, they have to sit down with a psychiatrist and figure it out.”
The hostility of Lakers fans is making Clippers fans more comfortable.
“It’s a compliment that they hate the Clippers,” Michaelson said. “It means that we are no longer irrelevant.”
Ungvari agreed that Clippers fans should be delighted.
“Wouldn’t you want to be hated by your rival and know that their soul would burn if you win?” He said.
Still, this all seems silly. The Lakers are finished, the Clippers are still alive, they are also part of Los Angeles, and they have had a wonderful couple of weeks that should make this city proud.
If you can’t be in favor of them, why can’t you ignore them? Being in favor of them is like cheering up your city.
You don’t need to applaud the Clippers, or even pay attention to them. But seriously, what harm would it do to give them something they haven’t had in 37 years here?
What harm would it do to give them their moment?
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