I’m not in the sports prediction business, but I think there’s pretty good chance the Lakers will win tonight’s Game 7 of the NBA Finals, and be crowned champions of the basketball world. A much easier prediction to make is that if the first one comes true, a large number of people will be rioting in the streets outside Staples Center, with one or more being crowned Dumbass of the Day.
I’ve never completely understood why it is that people riot when they win. I get the whole righteous indignation leading to urban violence – Rodney King or Watts or May Day or any number of other injustices leave people angry and frustrated, and that rock at their feet seems like a pretty good release. But how exactly is it that what ought to be a joyous celebration - wisely monitored by the authorities – becomes a reason to smash and loot?
Back in the day, Staples Center stood out among the blighted region immediately south of Downtown LA. There were abandoned buildings surrounding the place, and a huge parking lot on the north side. People could still get onery, but they had to walk a pretty good distance before they ran into anything of substance, and one hoped that the frustration level was mitigated by the exercise. In spite of that, when the Lakers won the title in 2000, looters destroyed a pair of police cars and damaged 70 other vehicles.
Now, however, Staples is the centerpiece of the “LA Live” complex. New restaurants and upscale businesses surround the place, and that parking lot is now the Nokia Theatre – there’s a whole lot to break these days. After last year’s victory, a crowd of knuckleheads got rowdy outside Staples, starting fires and throwing rocks – and that was with the game having been in Orlando.
As you might imagine, the police presence will be pretty significant tonight. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck plans on having 4 to 5 times the number of police on hand this year compared to last, and the LA County Sheriff has several hundred deputies on call should backup be required.
The eyes of the media world will be on LA tonight – for once, let’s not embarass ourselves.