Laura Meets the Lakers

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I was sitting on the front steps petting Spencer and chatting with Debbie when my cell rang.

“Hey.” Jamie’s voice crackled in my ear. “What are you doing?”

“Nothing much. Why?”

“Do you want to go to a Lakers game tonight?”

“Really? Yes! I have never seen a pro basketball game!”

Jamie was silent for a beat. “You do? You do want to go?”

“Sure. Didn’t you think I would?”

“Truthfully, no.”

“Why?”

“You hate sports.”

“I hate sports on tv.”

“We went to Giants games and you spent an hour in the ladies’ room.”

“That was because it was December and the ladies’ room had heat. I won’t be cold at a basketball game; they’re inside.”

“Okay, I will tell Nick that I want his tickets.”

I turned to Debbie. “Guess what. We are going to a Lakers game.”

“Have you ever been?”

“No, I haven’t.”

“Oh, you’ll have fun. They are playing really well this year and the crowds are a hoot.”

“Okay, good. Usually I don’t attend sporting events.”

Debbie rose and descended the steps. “No, you really will enjoy this,” she said over her shoulder as she headed toward her house.

I showered and fed Spencer then waited for Jamie to call from the driveway. I was really excited about this. I know nothing about basketball but Debbie said I would enjoy it and besides, the Lakers were my friend Midge’s son’s favorite team so they must be good. And anyway if the game sucked, there were always the other spectators to observe.

After Jamie arrived and I hopped into his car we drove across Fourth Street to Pico and got on the 10 heading East. Jamie glanced over at me as he merged into the traffic.

“I can’t believe you really want to do this.”

“Why?”

“Because when it is up to you to choose the evening’s entertainment we end up at the ballet or Shakespeare.”

I laughed. “And if there is no Shakespeare?”

“A movie with subtitles.”

“Hey, I was talking to my dad and he reminded me that he took me to see the Harlem Globetrotters at Madison Square Garden when I was twelve.”

“I think this will be different.”

“Where do they play?”

“The Staples Center.”

“Staples? Isn’t that where the Democratic National Convention was? Remember we were walking in to hear Al Gore’s acceptance speech and the police had the picketers fenced into one area like a dog pound? Remember one said to me ‘Don’t vote for Gore!” and I said “I won’t” and he was so shocked he dropped his picket sign?”

We both laughed at the memory, then Jamie’s phone rang and he started a long conversation with a client, so long that we were pulling into a lot on South Figueroa before he said, “Okay, I am at Staples so I have to go. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

After the valet took the car, we joined the throng waiting to enter the venue. The crowd was raucous and the atmosphere was so festive it felt like New Year’s Eve only everyone (uh, except Jamie and me) was wearing purple.

When we entered the arena I realized that it looked completely different from the convention. I poked Jamie as he stood in line to buy popcorn. “Has this place been remodeled ?”

“From when?”

“The Democratic convention.”

“No, just at the convention most of it was blocked off. Remember we were herded like rodeo animals to the arena?”

We wandered around a bit, window-shopping through the merchandise and observing the fans. When we finally found our seats I was amazed: They were in the second row, just behind the floor seats. Emilio Estevez and Andy Garcia were already seated in the row behind ours.

“Hey, this is really cool!” I exclaimed digging my right hand into the popcorn bag.

“Watch the Jumbotron,” Jamie said as he folded his blazer. “They find all the celebrities.”

I looked up. The two people pictured weren’t celebrated for any achievement that I knew of but there were their faces and electronic hearts burst around them with the words “Kiss Cam.” Realizing they were being projected in hi def on a fourteen by twenty-two foot screen they leaned toward each other and kissed.

“Look, how cool!” I poked Jamie again. He grunted in response. “That reminds me of once I went to a Mets game with my dad. He was friends with someone in the broadcast booth and they spelled out ‘Welcome to Shea Stadium Larry Koster’ on the scoreboard.” Jamie nodded then looked away as the Lakers and the Knicks ran into the court.

The game was great – loud, colorful, and incredibly fast-paced. I was really enjoying it. Halftime came and a Cirque du Soleil troupe appeared before I noticed time had passed. As Jamie rose to get sodas the Laker Girls came onto the floor with a little boy whose ticket stub had been chosen to allow him to win a prize if he made a free throw. As if the kid weren’t nervous enough just standing on a pro ball court in front of 20,000 people, the Jumbotron showed every twitch in great detail to the folks at home. He missed – hardly a surprise since he was only about four feet tall – but the crowd cheered anyway.

Jamie had just settled back into his seat before cheering began again. I looked at the court; no one was doing anything. I felt a tap on my shoulder: I turned. Andy Garcia was poking me. “It’s you!” he exclaimed pointing at the Jumbotron. “You are on the Kiss Cam!”

“Oh? Oh!” My head snapped around and I saw our images on the screen. Blushing, Jamie and I kissed.

I turned around again. “Thanks. I hadn’t noticed it was us.”

Andy Garcia laughed. “I know. You nearly missed your chance at immortality!”

I think of that night every time I hear anyone talk about basketball or the Lakers; heck, I think of it every time I see the color purple. It remains a perfect moment captured in . . . well, not amber, exactly . . . but in my memory.

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