There were a number of things you were told not to do as a kid: play with matches, throw food, imitate a teppanyaki chef by horsing around with the Ginsu, shoving burnt sienna and periwinkle crayons up your nose, and most of all,… cheer for the Clippers. It’s the team that time and, for that matter, wins forgot. The Los Angeles Clippers, the unlovable losers of the NBA. There are certainties in life. Among them are death, taxes, and a lottery spot for that other team in LA (ranked in order from most productive to least).
The Lakers get the plaudits, the penthouse suite, the best looking starlets, and the biggest names in Hollywood. The Clippers get a newspaper recap smaller than an obituary write-up for someone’s pet gerbil. They have the keys to the Staples Center tool shed, while Billy Crystal may make a once-a-decade appearance and something called a Penny Marshall wanders into the arena sometimes when the Clippers are playing, looking confused, presumably because of a schedule mix-up. Luminaries who wore the purple and gold like Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Magic Johnson are given iconic status by basketball fans and are bronzed. If they ever make a statue of Michael Olowokandi in downtown LA, the caption should read, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses who can’t afford Lakers tickets.”
But that’s just the thing about the Clippers. Either they have the most humble marketing department known to man, or they believe that Al-Farouq Aminu would cause too much of an alphabet soup of an advertisement. Regardless, for the last decade their promotional campaign has centered on the other teams that are playing the Clip Show. “Come see Deron Williams, Chris Paul, and Dwyane Wade take on 12 guys in basketball jerseys who are above average in height.” Or, “Don’t forget fans, LeBron James is playing the Clippers this season. And you thought he would never take his talents to LA.”
Over 25 years in Los Angeles’ basketball purgatory (to say nothing about the Sports Arena) and nearly 600 games under .500 later, still not a whiff of a title for a team trying to stay above rec-league status. Susan Lucci eventually won an Emmy, so is it too much to ask for the Clippers to eventually win the Larry O’Brien Trophy without having to view it from behind a velvet rope or to photoshop the picture next to a smiling visage of Donald Sterling (sans parka)? Ralph Lawler’s seat belt has been tightened so much the poor guy is losing oxygen. Lawler’s Law has been broken by the opposition more times than Prohibition.
At least you have to appreciate the fans (read: winners of a consolation prize) for continuing to show up for a team that has all of two winning seasons since crashing on Los Angeles’ proverbial couch. The few, the proud, the self-proclaimed Clipper Nation. Believe me, if the Clippers formed a nation, it would probably be a mediocre, under-sized piece of land, rife with problems, containing very little, if anything, of value, and it probably would sink below the water mark pretty quickly (sound familiar?). If you believe Elgin Baylor, this nation probably would have a plantation-based economy.
At a recent game, there was a sizable fellow spotted dancing around and screaming, but it wasn’t Clipper Darrell (apparently he was on strike or just thought a nap would be more productive). No, this fellow wasn’t wearing red, but his face was turning that color hue. It wasn’t necessarily spirit that was driving his incoherent screaming and mispronunciations of the player’s names and dancing that would have caused Fred Astaire to vomit, but I am sure that spirits had a lot to do with it. No one seemed to care; it was secondary, much like the numbers on the scoreboard at these games on most nights. Final Score: other team, A LOT, Clippers much less.
Lest I forget, another sight to be seen at a Clippers fest is the team’s cheerleaders, the affectionately, and optimistically, named “Clippers Spirit.” If you’re looking for choreography, well — wait a minute, if you ARE, perhaps basketball is not for you. I must say these are classy, upstanding, bright ladies. But, for some reason when I show up, I always have an urge to break a twenty into singles … just in case.
Next time you happen to venture into Staples Center for a basketball game, on a night when the Lakers aren’t playing and Gallagher isn’t smashing watermelons (not necessarily a show, he just does this for fun on the concourse), don’t be dismayed by the 16 titles hanging in the rafters won by that Other Team, or the legions of greats that have worn Lakers uniforms. Just try to keep in mind guys like Lancaster Gordon, Randy Woods, Joe Wolf, Ken Norman, LeRon Ellis, and Matt Fish… Or just say “hi” to them as they show you to your seats.Google+