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Here and Now

Just win and get it over with

May 08, 2003|Paul Brownfield | Times Staff Writer

I have a number of friends who are less despondent than usual right now because this is the season-in-which-the-Lakers-win-the-championship, otherwise known as April, May and June.

My friends aren't impressionable, car-flag-owning Laker fans. They are a more jaded sort. They don't freak out, for instance, when the Lakers lose back-to-back February road games to Phoenix and Utah. They watch the NBA and read the box scores regularly, and they understand two important things: One, the regular season is meaningless; and two, until somebody can figure out how to stop Kobe and Shaq (or Kobe is tragically maimed and Shaq actually decides to become a sheriff), the Lakers will remain the team to beat. So what if San Antonio or Sacramento knocks them off this year.

My friends are better Laker fans than I. I feel toward the Lakers lately the way I felt about the war in Iraq: Unable to root for or against, vacillating between confusion and paranoia and meanwhile just wanting the thing -- regime change or liberation or making democracy, whatever it was they said they were doing -- to end.

So too then should the Lakers just go ahead and win another championship, if that's what they're going to do. They are a great team that is boring to watch. I suppose this wouldn't matter if the Lakers played in some cold, dull NBA city like Indianapolis. But since this is Hollywood, the Lakers oughtta be more entertaining, from a Hollywood point of view.

In fact, if the Lakers were a movie, they would be one of those grandiose, dull-as-dirt period epics that I guess make money, like "The Patriot" starring Mel Gibson or "Braveheart" which, come to think of it, also starred Mel Gibson. So maybe that's what I'm saying: The Lakers are a bad movie starring Mel Gibson that I guess made a lot of money.

What is funny is that the Lakers are a cinematically boring team that plays in front of a rather large audience of Hollywood moviemakers and actors, many of whom have done their own boring movies that I guess made a lot of money, like Dustin Hoffman ("Outbreak," "Mad City") and Penny Marshall ("Renaissance Man," "The Preacher's Wife").

People wonder if the celebrities are true fans or are just on hand to soak up the residual glory.

But what if it's even more conspiratorial. What if the filmmaker Steven Spielberg or actors like Hoffman and Andy Garcia know that the Lakers are boring, and that the cameras will inevitably wander over to them sitting courtside, which comes in handy when you've got a movie to push. Come to think of it, I learned about "Confidence," Hoffman and Garcia's new, probably boring movie that I guess will make a lot of money, when I saw them interviewed ... on a Laker telecast.

At this point a few words need to be said about the Showtime years, when the Lakers played at the Forum. The Forum was great. During Showtime, the undertones of sleaze and the overtones of glitz mingled to create a kind of sports-themed Studio 54.

Those Lakers, led by Magic, were a great movie with a great cast: Magic's brilliance mixed with Kareem's alienation mixed with Worthy's grace mixed with Rambis' effectiveness mixed with Cooper's insufferable defense. Off in the wings there was the gelled tyrant Pat Riley as coach and the architect of it all, the tightly wound legend Jerry West, as general manager.

Times change, people change. Chick Hearn is dead. The Forum has given way to Staples Center, with its three tiers of corporate suites and its carpeted hallways, where waiters push dessert carts like it's a cruise ship. Yeah, Robert Horry is clutch, and there's Fisher, but Shaq and Kobe are so nonchalant in their dominance, so measured as public figures, that they've turned success into a boring inevitability.

Nor do the Lakers have the characters who make other NBA teams fascinating. I'm thinking of the Portland Trailblazers with their "39-year-old," Lithuanian 7-footer Arvydas Sabonis, who makes these crazy passes and has some oral fixation thing going with his mouth guard, or the Philadelphia 76ers' voluble, 6-foot guard Allen "The Answer" Iverson, who I think scores so many points because he takes so many shots, although I've heard he has a posse so I wouldn't presume to question his talent.

The only interesting character on these Lakers is the coach, Phil Jackson. It's problematic, because he won all those rings with Michael Jordan in Chicago, which makes it seem like we bought the president of a successful foreign country.

And yet, in an homage to Showtime, Jackson has gone Hollywood, getting involved with the owner's daughter and modeling an array of cerebral designer glasses. Jackson is supposed to be this Eastern religion-infused, somewhat suave, ex-jock philosopher-king, and every time the camera finds him he does look existentially bothered: Is it the triangle that plagues Phil's soul? Or the whole triangulated nature of competitive sport? ... Anyone?


Paul Brownfield can be contacted at

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