Last night I went to the Lakers home opener against the Houston Rockets. My buddy Daryl's first regular season game as the GM of the Houston Rockets. (What is Steven Wright’s line – I went to a general store but they wouldn’t let me buy anything specifically. Now my own friend Daryl is a guy who manages, but doesn’t manage anything specifically.) He invited us up for dinner and the game and we delightedly accepted.
The waiter said it is a busy night in this part of LA, telling us that there were three big events within just a few blocks. Mind you, this is a Tuesday. But then again, this is Los Angeles, the capital of entertainment. Even on a Tuesday there are a plethora of entertainment options.
At the Staple Center, the LA Lakers home opener. A very big deal. Sold out. RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET is a little concert venue – the Nokia Theater. A couple of guys are playing music there during our game – a couple of guys named Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen. But this is LA. That’s not all. The biggest draw in LA that night, according to our waiter? The Mayan Club. What is the Mayan Club, you ask (sounding just like me)? It’s where, once a year, they feature Mexican Midget Wrestling. MMW. This drama includes not just nasty contests between sweet little men – said men are occasionally thrown out of the ring and then thrown back in by the crowd. This is the hardest ticket in town to get. Suddenly, my excitement about watching the Lakers and Rockets is subdued. Bruce is in town? Neil? I don’t get “Hey, Hey, My, My?” or “Badlands?” And I don’t get to toss midgets? You expect me to have fun watching men in shorts when I know that this is going on so close by?
The game was exciting even though I was suddenly and acutely aware of what I was missing. The Lakers have Kobe Bryant, which is rather like having a stock portfolio made up entirely of Google - high performing, exciting returns, and a frightening lack of diversity. The Lakers are one twisted ankle away from being able to beat any NCAA team in the nation. Meanwhile, Daryl (I know - I'm biased) has already put together a team that has an enormous diversity of talent. The Rockets team continued to score points quite steadily, regardless of who played. (The Rockets had four players score in the double digits - the Lakers only two.)
And then the basketball gods decided to smile on Daryl. At one point, two Lakers were standing alone under the Rockets' rim, unable to get the handle on the ball when it, like an extra in a comedy, unexpectedly looped up into a surprising arc, falling neatly into the hoop, scoring two points for the Rockets. The Rockets' margin of victory? 2 points.
Entertainment seems to be one of the few industries in which we Americans run a trade surplus. As I drove home, coming to a complete stop at midnight (my darling wife looks up and announces, in stark contrast to rush "hour" typical of most places, "Hmm - rush day"), I realized that there is little that we Americans take more seriously than playing.