I like to say I was born into royalty. Growing up in Los Angeles, it was a given that my friends and I would all become Laker fans. To this day, I distrust anyone who willingly chooses to become a Clipper fan as an Angeleno. It's as though someone said, "I'll grant you years and years of happiness, riches and glory OR you can needlessly suffer in poverty, shame and failure" and you willingly chose the latter.
Life at the top is pretty good. Laker fans are so used to winning that we're worried more about who's going to take Jack Nicholson's legendary courtside seat than who will bring us our next championship (I vote Leo). The Lakers manage to entertain as much off the court as on it (witness our coach dating the owner's daughter; the sideshow that is/was Ron Artest aka Metta World Peace; and the team putting up billboards begging Dwight Howard to stay in LA).
The problem with sports, much like royalty, is that one day you're on top of the world and the next, you're looking out your palatial windows at a mob of people ready to overthrow your dynasty.
Laker fans today are like a recently captured and imprisoned royal family. Three years ago we were on top of the world – today we're one of the five worst teams in the NBA.
We're fielding a roster of players better suited for the U of C team than the NBA. We just paid Kobe Bryant, our 35-year-old "superstar", $48.5 million dollars to rest his injured Achilles/knee/"old ailing joints"; our best player, Pau Gasol, is about to get traded; and our coach has an incurable allergy to defense (giving up 106 points/game).
It takes discipline, heart and love to watch my Lakers today. And yes, I still refer to them in the possessive. When you give decades of your life to a team, the least they can do in return is to let you call them your own.
I find myself watching them to prove my fandom. To whom, I'm not so sure. It could be for my friends back home; it could be just to punish myself; or maybe it's because the Lakers are the one thing I've never been afraid to fully commit to in my life. In any event, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Kansas City – I feel your pain and respect you more now than ever.
We had it so good, we took it for granted. Now that we're so ordinary, we don't even know how to act. Our stands are half-empty; our players are whining and our city's attention has rapidly shifted elsewhere.
And the worst part of it all? The Clippers are now one of the best teams in the league. Their present and future are far brighter than the Lakers. Maybe the lesson, after all, is that the world is better off without royalty.