The media was flocking to Chavez Ravine to help push Manny’s head under water. This Dodger team would finally get the slap in the face the world wanted to give them. We had gotten off too easy with Gagne, who was long gone by the time we realized his 84 game save streak, his Cy Young award and his Welcome to the Jungle intros were all a tower of horseshit. The Dodgers couldn’t duck this one. Hell, left field had just been renamed Mannywood. There are crews of billboard technicians that have to work this weekend to hide that fact.
Lost in the shuffle was the NBA’s decision not to suspend Laker’s superstar and 2008 MVP Kobe Bryant. Los Angeles was on the verge of cosmic sporting destruction, but we survived. The Dodgers failed to win, but they scored nine runs. The Lakers wait. The Lakers wait deep in the heart Texas and more than ever our collective heart is in their hands.
This city has two teams we all agree on. The Lakers and the Dodgers. There are Trojans and Bruins, but no matter what college you pull for, you are in the company of your brothers and sisters when you enter Staples or the Ravine. Their colors are our colors. They are the very essence of this city, a place where the best from all over collects to stand out from the crowd, to let their freak flags fly and be themselves.
Manny, our second biggest hero, has let us down. We must pick up the pieces, but that process seems like it could take forever. How do we even begin peeling back the shame. We are not a lesser team that is happy for the press. We integrated baseball. We are all that is good in sport. It will take a long while to remind the world of that.
One thought possessed me this morning. I woke up and stumbled through my routine. My communte to work was hazy, something on NPR about cops getting paid for the time they are getting dressed. Can’t be bothered.
All I could think about was Kobe.
Once a fallen prince himself. Here’s a man who has all the talent in the world, but has managed to take the heat for almost everything he does. Despite his “victim” dropping the accusations, he is still referred to as a rapist. He is seen as arrogant. He is the reason Shaq left Los Angeles. His three titles belong to Shaq. He won an MVP for being selfish.
Kobe’s list of digs against him are many, but his talent is matched by none. No one does what he does, but somehow Kobe is always left behind. Has there ever been a more decorated athlete with more to prove? Imagine what it is to be Kobe. Three NBA titles. An MVP. All-Star appearance after All-Star appearance. The man is an artist, but he is the enigmatic competitor who wanted out of this city because he felt he couldn’t win here.
Tonight, he can. Over the next month he can win in a way no one, I mean no one, has ever won in this city. Kobe can take back home court from the Houston Rockets tonight. He can be a warrior and shift our minds away from the pain at the Ravine. He can take our Lakers one step closer to a championship while giving the boys in Blue, the ones who got left behind a chance to regroup and stand up tall. They are connected. You may not think so, but they are.
Tonight at Dodger Stadium, people will line up outside the glass of the Baseline Box Clubs to watch the flat-screens inside. The fans are the same. The scoreboard will show the Lakers score and if we are winning, the crowd will cheer with the same passion they do for the Dodgers.
Kobe can help this city move forward. Kobe, our city’s greatest star can put us all on his shoulders tonight and carry us up the stairs. He is, in so many ways, the same as this city. He is perceived as talented and exciting, but with a dark and messed up side that makes it hard for you to love him. Except just like the city itself, if you are from here, you love Kobe. You can’t get enough.
Kobe must tell LeBron that he is not the King yet. Last I checked, you must kill the King to become him. I would like to believe that Kobe is standing there ready, a smirk on his face and that look in his eyes.
We’ll know tonight. Dodger fans will be watching closely, hoping for a moment of joy they don’t need to feel guilty about. Even though summer has begun, they will dream of a march down Figueroa proclaiming Kobe, even if just for one more year, is still the King of Los Angeles.