Basketball Column

COLUMN: JJ Tries To Make His Father-In-Law A Lakers Fan

Every married man hopes for at least one shared interest with their father-in-law, and I got lucky with a basketball fan.

I’ve been trying to turn my father-in-law Ray into a Los Angeles Lakers fan since the family moved from New York to Long Beach. He’s been a Knicks fan, so the recent player movement and front office shambles have made it a lot easier to at least convince him to consider officially switching sides to the best coast.

Obviously it was my idea to give each other Christmas presents in the form of tickets to the Jan. 7 game between the Lakers and Knicks at Staples Center. My plan was to just let the experience speak for itself and slowly pour the LakeShow honey into his ear throughout the night.

I knew I’d end up writing about this family fandom, so here are the bullet points from the night:

• In an effort to get into the mood for the night I put together a playlist of the best West Coast/East Coast hip hop. Everything from 2-Pac, Biggie, Dr. Dre, Beastie Boys and more. I asked my wife Vanessa if she noticed a pattern to the playlist and she said, “Yeah, it’s just JJ music.” That’s the best compliment I’ve ever gotten from my wife. Great start to the night.

• Ray and I got dropped off at Tom’s Urban across the street from Staples Center for a pregame meal and beer. The upstairs section full of long tables and self-serve beers on tap is the perfect spot to fill your belly for a relatively reasonable price. That said, Ray and I would pretty much go anywhere for self-serve beers on tap.

• We got into Staples Center in time to hit the concession stand and get to our perfect seats. I mean, they were perfect. We were the last row of the first section so we were close to the court, the exit, the bathroom and the beer stand. Couldn’t ask for better. Thanks, SeatGeek.

• The Lakers pregame show at Staples Center is a massive production with video being played on a giant center court bedsheet, but Ray and I were more interested in how the Lakers players seemed to be having a really fun time warming up together. Ray really liked that. Score one for the good guys.

• Unfortunately, the Knicks opened the game with some nice plays and hung with the Lakers for most of the first quarter. This only hardened Ray’s resolve, but he was still sheepish when pumping his fist after New York points.

• Ray sounded even more like a New York sports fan when a flagrant foul was called on the visitors, and Ray joked, “The old Knicks woulda loved that play.”

• When the jumbotron scanned the courtside seats for celebrities and showed Metta World Peace (AKA Ron Artest) and Jack Nicholson, Ray cheered and said, “Well there are two of the craziest people in the world.” I felt like he was really getting it.

• During halftime we lamented about how quiet Staples Center really is during games. No one even stands up or makes noise. It’s eerie. I told Ray, “If Madison Square Garden is the Mecca of basketball, Staples Center is the Museum.” He liked that one, but I immediately realized I was arguing against myself, so I just started reading stats from the first half to change the subject.

• Things got dicey in the third quarter when Ray spilled his beer and Anthony Davis hurt himself in the span of five minutes. Because he was embarrassed or just felt bad, Ray disappeared during the next stoppage of play and returned with a Lakers shirt and “Davis” on the back. It was a real father/son moment.

• Just watching a basketball game at home with Ray is a thrill because, well, he’s thrilled by the game. Everything that happens gets a reaction from him, and I love it. It’s also how I watch sports. So, I’m sure the entire section could hear our reactions as the Lakers were pulling away for a blowout victory. You’re welcome, quiet LA fans.

• As the Lakers win was winding down, the Knicks broke away for a meaningless dunk, and Ray cheered. He looked at me sheepishly and said, “I know you want me to be a Lakers fan, but when I see ’New York’ on the scoreboard I just have to root for them.”

Honestly, I’ve never respected my father-in-law more than in that moment. Obviously I want him to just root for the Lakers with me, but as a hometown fan myself, I completely understand and respect that decision.

• We walked down a few rows to take a picture in front of the floor and as I snapped the selfie I told Ray that the Knicks could be his regular season team, and the Lakers could be his playoffs team. He smiled and said, “Cool, we can buy each other tickets to that as well.”

I smiled. I love my father-in-law, no matter who he roots for.

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.