Game 7 Lakers: Downtown Los Angeles during NBA Finals win

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LOS ANGELES _ I spent Thursday night in downtown Los Angeles watching the Lakers’ game seven win over the Boston Celtics. It was a memorable night filled with joy, celebration, BBQ mango chicken wings, banana pudding, inept government officials and Boston Celtics haters. This is my report.

– To avoid the worst traffic snarl in LA ever – game 7, E3 and the Los Angeles Film Festival all happened today, in addition to the Mexico World Cup game that had trucks all over the city flying the Mexican flag – I took Los Angeles’s subway for the first time. I went from Hollywood and Vine to Metro Center on the red line. Did you know that you don’t have to purchase tickets to ride Los Angeles’s subway? This might be why it’s hemorrhaging money. I paid $1.25 for a ticket and then walked through an open ticket gate. No person or machine looked at my ticket upon entry or exit. If you need to travel somewhere in Los Angeles for free, take the metro train. It was fast, relatively clean and the transvestite who sat behind us was in good spirits. She wore purple. She was fired up about the Lakers. Like the rest of Los Angeles.

– We (I took a girl) went to a downtown bar called the Golden Gopher. We were there for one reason – the Nana Queen’s Puddin’ and Wings truck. I have been wanting to go to this truck for weeks. I found out it would be downtown during game 7 parked in front of a bar. That bar was the Golden Gopher on 8th and Olive. The Golden Gopher was showing the game. My plans were sealed for the night.

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The Nana Queen’s Truck was a must for me because I love wings and I am not opposed to pudding. The truck did not disappoint. I had the BBQ mango wings. The wings were normal-sized, but the mini-drums were, as my buddy Matt back in Cleveland likes to say, pterodactyl-sized. They were fantastic. You know a wing is good when you barely touch the ranch. I barely touched the ranch. My lady friend got banana pudding with NILLA Wafers and Oreos, which she kept offering to me in secret hope I would decline. For some reason, food tastes better when it’s cooked in a brightly-colored truck.

– I had never been to the Golden Gopher, but if I had to guess, the regular crowd is not a sports-loving crowd. I guess this because the bar only has two televisions. The average sports bar in Los Angeles has as many screens as the Pentagon’s situation room. On an average weekday afternoon, Barney’s Beanery in Westwood might have a 1:1 person to TV ratio, if, say, there are 50 people in the bar. The Gopher caters to a different clientele — tattooed freaks who live downtown and young professionals who happy hour. I didn’t exactly blend in. Then again, I’m a stocky bald guy who drives cars that were made in the previous decade. The only place I blend in is wherever two or more undersized bouncers are gathered.

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The Gopher was solid. The drinks were reasonably priced. The bartenders actually noticed me. (Bartenders tend to ignore dudes in Los Angeles.) And we were able to stand at the bar just five feet from the television.

– Watching game 7 in the heart of the city where that game 7 is being played is an awesome experience. The hundred-plus people in the bar hung on every shot from the beginning of the game to the end. Even though the Celtics led for three quarters, it never felt like the Lakers were out of it. When the Lakers mounted their comeback, the room was electric. The vibe could best be summed up as, “This is going to happen. We are going to win.”golden gopher, bar, los angeles Derek Fisher hits a rainbow three-pointer – the room explodes. Kobe Bryant makes big free throws – deafening roars. Ron Artest hits a three-pointer – the walls shake. Standing in the midst of such exultant joy I kept thinking of one thing how great it would be to experience this in Cleveland, rooting for a Cleveland sports team. It would probably go down as one of the best days of my life. When the Lakers clinched it, I high-fived complete strangers. I talked to dudes in the bathroom line like we had known each other for years. I am a Cleveland Cavs fan, but for one night, with the city pulsating around me, I was a Los Angeles Lakers fan.

– Pretty much the first thing we saw when we left the bar was five cop cars speeding down Hope Street. Where we were, though, a few blocks from Staples Center, we saw no rioting. In fact, we saw a group of seven or eight young guys dancing with each other on a street corner. No music. Just dancing and hugging and being happy. One dude, who looked pretty hammered, high-fived us. He high-fived us like it was a very important thing to do. Like he would have been offended if we did not. We obliged. He let out a whoop.

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LA's finest at the Metro Center subway stop following the Lakers' game 7 win. I did not bring my riot gear.

– Like an idiot, I purchased another $1.25 ticket that no one would ever check or collect. We waited down at the Metro Center platform for a good 15 minutes. When a train finally arrived, well, it kept right on going, bypassing our station. A minute later a Metro employee walked by and told everyone that we needed to settle down with our behavior or the trains would not stop. “If you all quiet down,” she said, “maybe I can get you a train.” This was interesting, because the quietest place in Los Angeles (outside of the Celtics’ locker room) was that subway platform. With the exception of a few, “Yeah, Lakers!” no one was being rowdy. Considering how stuffy it was down there, and how much everyone had had to drink, the crowd behaved quite well. After a second train passed, law enforcement descended on the platform to, I guess, control a situation that was already under control. The male officers were visibly tense. The lone female officer cracked jokes and smiled at everyone. She got it. We were the crowd that wanted to be home by 11. The real troublemakers were elsewhere. A burly policeman announced, in military staccato, that service to the station had been suspended and that we would have to walk down to Pershing Square (about eight blocks away) to catch the train. So we walked up the stairs. Just before we left the station, a Metro employee came on the loudspeaker and informed everyone that there would, indeed, be service to this station. Everyone groaned. There was a clear lack of coordination between law enforcement and the Metro. They were confusing what they already perceived to be a tense situation. We went back down the stairs. A train eventually did come. Ironically, the only thing out of control was law enforcement and the Metro. They had no idea what they were doing. The mobs of people – they were fine. Unless you were wearing Boston gear. Even then, all that happened was people chanted “Boston sucks” at you. And if you’re from Boston, you already know you suck. It’s not news.

– Back at the Hollywood and Vine station a young woman approached us and asked us if we were Lakers fans. We told her we were Cleveland fans, but tonight, we were Lakers fans. This seemed to make her happy. “I fucking hate Boston,” she said. “I hate the harbor. I hate the history. Boston sucks.” She added, “When Boston plays Sacramento, and loses to Sacramento, it makes me happy.” Tonight was a big night for Boston haters.

– Just read an LA Times report that there was rioting on the 10 freeway. This is a road motorists drive 70 to 80 mph on. Yes, clearly Boston has the market cornered on suck.

– I consider tonight a practice run for the day when Cleveland wins a sports championship. That day will come. It will. I swear it will. (I am just going to keep repeating this until it comes true.)

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