The pathetic pitch that died in the dirt before it reached the batter’s box came off of the arm of Paul Pierce. Pierce let out a big grin after his baseball failure, his teeth glistened in the twilight and the boo’s began raining down. It’s local tradition for Clippers players who drive down I-5 and come to the stadium to feel the wrath of the locals. It doesn’ t matter if it is a ceremonial first pitch that can’t reach the plate or if they are sitting in the crowd. It’s happened to Chris Paul mulitple times and even little Chris has been booed.
Beloved by their small cache of fans and pretty much ignored elsewhere is the Clippers Los Angeles story. The Clippers were a curiousity when Donald Sterling owned the team, and a train wreck simultaneously. But now that the tide has turned and they have the best professional basketball team in the city, their cool factor has risen maybe 1%. To the locals they are and will always be the Clippers- meaning not to be trusted. That Paul Pierce came back to join them in the last year of his career, the manchild raised in Inglewood, star at Inglewood High School, changes very little about the pro-Lakers crowd that fills Dodger Stadium. Pierce was a Celtic in his prime. He is a Clipper in his last year. In Los Angeles that means he’s dirt.
Before Magic Johnson owned the Dodgers, the baseball team’s fans seemed to take a certain pleasure out of booing everything Clippers. It’s been noted that Dodgers fans and Lakers fans are the same person, season tickets are mailed to the same address. In the 1980’s, then Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda was a fixture at Lakers games. Then, the Lakers were the second favorite team in town and the Clippers were still in San Diego. Tommy Lasorda’s presence courtside was a validation of Lakers basketball and it didn’t hurt that the team had Pat Riley as a coach, Magic Johnson as a star and Kareem Abdul-Jabaar. That started an alliance among Los Angeles sports fans that the Clippers have not been able to penetrate, even when they have the better team. It doesn’t seem to matter though. It’s a Lakers ride or die town.
Pierce made note of the fact that he could never have signed with the Lakers as a free agent. His Boston Celtic blood runs too green and too thick. The rivalry is embedded into his blood and to play for the Lakers would be to play for the team that stole championship number two in 2010. It was Paul Pierce that watched Ron Artest sink a three point shot with 64 seconds left giving the Lakers a six point lead and championship number 16. It was a loss so devastating (the Celtics had a 13 point lead) that Doc Rivers had to have the championship banners covered up.
The Clippers have never achieved anything, never been to the Western Conference Finals so there is no local rivalry that Pierce can get ramped up about nor are the Lakers good enough for the Clippers to even care. But the fans still do, still look at the Clippers as if nothing has ever changed. They are the Clippers. They will flame out in the playoffs. They will find a way to choke. They need to be booed.
photo via Wikimedia.org