March 17, 2011
There are lots of much-maligned fans in the NBA, from the regular no-shows in Atlanta to the indifferent in Miami. But none draw others' ire quite like attendees at Lakers games, both for their Hollywood star power and a perceived sense of being fair-weather. In the common view, most of these fans have never heard of Sedale Threatt, or even Elden Campbell.
So it should not come as much of a surprise that Lakers fans came in at No. 15 (and No. 1 in the NBA) on a recent GQ list of the worst fans in sports (via TBJ, plus one instance of NSFW language at GQ.com). Take it away, Adam Winer:
Congratulations, Angelenos! You are the fairest of America's fair-weather fans! The Lakers unfaithful abandoned their team en masse when Magic retired in 1991, then reconfirmed their fickleness by sending local TV ratings plummeting 30 percent after Shaq departed in 2004. Meanwhile, in these championship days, the Staples Center is more bar scene than sports complex, where fans can't be bothered to clap -- their hands are too busy texting. "The focus is sometimes not on the court," coach Phil Jackson has said. "It's on the people in the crowd." Which explains why eight box suites were recently combined into an offshoot of an abominable nightclub, the Hyde Lounge. After VIPs pass a clipboard gauntlet -- at a sports stadium -- they can eat $21 nachos at a crocodile-skin bar while waiting for the space to transform into a postbuzzer dance club. When it's time to leave, a valet will even bring around their bandwagon.
Look, far be it from me to stick up for celebrity fans like will.i.am and Jeremy Piven, who seem to care more about the scene than whatever's happening on the court. But, as noted by Lakers fan Kurt Helin at ProBasketballTalk, there are plenty of real, passionate, legitimate Lakers fans in the upper levels at Staples Center and even more who watch on TV at home. In truth, the percentage breakdowns of good Lakers fans to bad ones is about the same as for any team -- there are just lots of people in L.A., some of whom are very famous and high-profile.
On top of that, Lakers fans occasionally appear a bit crazy because they root for Kobe Bryant(notes), the most polarizing athlete of his generation. All fans stick up for their stars when they're criticized -- it just happens to be the case that Kobe receives more criticism than anyone. Lakers fans are only doing their sworn duty when they defend the man from all possible criticism. It's really not much different than what Blazers fans do for Brandon Roy(notes), except people in Portland always do whatever possible not to offend anyone too much (via political correctness).
So the next time you want to talk smack about Lakers fans, think for a minute about the obsessives in Tarzana who watch every game on KCAL and FOX Sports West. They may not have fake boobs and publicists, but they count, too.
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