Thank you, Los Angeles--I love you all," Isaac Flores bellows into the chasm of the Great Western Forum during a sold-out Lakers-Knicks game. Flores and his cohorts in the Laker band have just finished a brassy version of the "Rocky" theme to desultory applause. Flores seems not to care. He puts down his trombone, picks up nachos smothered in orange-colored cheese substitute, and bellows some more. "You suuuuccccckkkk, ref!"
The Laker band, a 10-piece trumpets-trombones-bass-and-drummer ensemble, performs at the 41 regular season home games. Current and former USC marching band players, they sport nicknames like Butt Cheese, Pokey, Scooby and Squirrel, and the sort of superfan duende that can only be described as nerdy. In exchange for playing 10 or so songs per game and the inevitable "Charge" and "Defense" ditties, members get season tickets for themselves and a date, 10 bucks and free parking.
Jerry Buss commissioned the Laker band when he purchased the team in 1979. ("He wanted to spiff things up," says Arthur C. Bartner, director of the Trojan Marching Band). And today, when Buss arrives in the owner's box accompanied by a waif in a mini, the band pays its respects. "Box, box," Flores mutters, and before long all manner of frat-boy hooting and clapping is wafting down from Section 2 as the band pays homage to the guy who keeps them in business and the girl-du-jour who keeps things interesting.