It’s Sunday night. I’ve spent the last 14 hours in some state of sweat, aching pain, or hunched over position in front of the toilet (may or may not be an exaggeration) as the refreshing, shrill, uninhibited laughs and cries of children assault my sensitive, migraine-afflicted eardrums with teeth-gritting friction. Even my physical discomfort can’t hold it back: the elated, hysterical, uncomfortable rush of joy as MY Clippers completed the biggest comeback in playoff history.
Well, at least that matters enough for me to research whether or not that statement is true. I know it tied the biggest playoff-4th-quarter comeback of 21 points (as in the start of the fourth quarter, but these Clippers were down by as much as 27 in the game and as many as 24 in that last quarter). THEY DID IT! Vinny Del Negro has earned himself a temporary reprieve from my disgust. This wasn’t just any team making this comeback. It was the disaster-plagued Clippers franchise. Before this season, this didn’t — no, couldn’t — happen to us. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin had combined for merely three first-half points. “The Young Guns,” as I like to call them, Nick Young and Eric Bledsoe, and the rest of the team came up huge down the stretch in a big 35-14 fourth quarter that gave the Clips a well-deserved 99-98 win in Memphis to take Game 1.
I had spent much of my recent time carefully constructing a reverse jynx that would topple Memphis, the media’s trendy pick to come out of the West. Who wasn’t nervous about Blake Griffin coming to the free throw line in a close game as a Clippers fan? He’s got that hitch at the end of his shot from the line because he tries to repeat his late-release jump shot from it. The Clippers weren’t supposed to be able to defend inside according to the talking heads, nor would they be able to win without a huge early lead with that poor free-throw shooting from him and Deandre. They turned all those dumb media expectations on their heads, though Blake did go 4-6 (it was really 4-7 thanks to a line violation by the Grizzlies… but that’s irrelevant…). They did it. The Clippers did it.
“You brutal, brutal bitch,” I murmur aloud to no one in particular, but to an intended target. This time-release hangover was the result of very little alcohol. At least of the hard variety. I lost count of the Budweisers… and certain memories of the previous evening are “hazy,” to be nice to my professional profile.
“Quick, Paul! Blame it on the January head injury and resulting retrograde amnesia you suffer(ed?) in that Monrovia hit-and-run on your bicycle!” I thought just now as I wrote that.
Done. I did literally say that aloud at some point to someone that night, though. Less beer during the day game the next time we do the “Man Day”-sports-double-header, Cousin Rob. I know you were on my level on Sunday-recovery-day. Maybe pizza (Pizza Hut pizza, especially) was not the best selection for Sunday-recovery-no-fun-day grub.
My cousins and my cousins once removed (“once removed” sucks as a term for those family members, by the way, English) retired to sleep at some point in the second or third quarter when my Clippers trailed by nearly thirty nearly unequalable NBA playoff basketball points. I despise myself as a formerly tortured (Fuck you, Sterling!), die-hard Clippers fan for not breaking bad in my good guest ways to celebrate with loud, triumphant, unbridled, belligerent, selfish glee. I did let out some, yet oh-too-few, unmuted, Daniel Bryan-esque YES!’s, which might or might not have disturbed the rest of this lovely family of four who, on short notice, took me in with incredible hospitality and generosity for this oh-too-short, personally 4-day, weekend.
I’m in St. freaking Louis. “The” S-T-fucking-L. Apparently, it’s “the” only St. Louis in the world worth visiting (and Wikipedia tells me there are many). At least that’s what calling it “the” STL signifies to me. No, it’s not just slang. Why did the Missourians call it Saint Louis? Have you ever visited a place called President Lincoln or Señor Gringo in America? I can’t think of any other city I’ve been to (thinking) or heard of named after someone where its name includes the person’s title. Ah, yes. St. Paul, as well, but that almost doesn’t count because Minneapolis-St. Paul is just the “Twin Cities,” which is actually just one city, not two mirrored nor identical cities somewhere. Why does this just happen with Catholic Saints? Is there a place in the world called Mahatma Gandhi or Malcolm X? This question is the only one I had about Missouri that wasn’t answered in my too-brief, 3-hour visit to the Museum of Missouri History.
If you get a chance, spend a couple days checking out Forest Park when you visit “the” STL. I was a bit rushed and I’ve promised myself to return. It’s beautiful and there’s a lot to do. I spent too long in the Museum of Missouri History and at the St. Louis Zoo, both of which I easily could’ve spent most of a day in, to be able to see the St. Louis Science Center, Arch museum (whatever it is or is called) or James S. McDonnell Planetarium (or play either of the two golf courses, plus the Museum of Art is closed on Mondays, so I didn’t even get inside of it, though I did snap a few smartphone photos outside). The public transportation system in St. Louis is limited, but both adequate and efficient. The Forest Park system, in particular, is great and it’s only $2 to ride around all day to the various sites and sights. Walking through downtown reminds me a bit of Denver, but hotter and nicer. There are parks full of statues, monuments, sculptures, gardens, fountains, trees and very green grass. A lot of the buildings are old, guarded by gargoyles, flanked with columns and/or built with brick. Walking from the Gateway Arch down Market Street to the Scottrade Center and Union Station was unforgettable.
I love it here. I hate the humidity in my black, official-NBA-slogan shirt (“BIG things ARE coming” — I capitalized the “ARE” for emphasis here) and jeans. Hey, I have an excuse! It was raining when I left the house and I even left my sweatshirt upon cousin-suggestion. It’s a love-hate relationship. I hate myself for writing that, but I couldn’t help myself and refuse to change it now. Okay, it just gave me a bad taste in my mouth: I wouldn’t want to offend the lovers of “hate.” Yes, that is pertinent information. Stop rushing me.
There’s something about traveling and exploring new places alone that is very refreshing. I suppose it’s rather easy to define and not as nebulously ambiguous as “something.” No compromise about how long I spend in a particular place, on a particular exhibit, at a particular bar nor no waiting for someone else when I no longer feel like spending any more time talking to a particular person, ogling a particular stripper… errr…. girl (for the record and my professional profile, I was not alone and I was exremely inebriated… errrrr), writing a particular column. I’m no stranger to self-reliance, but it’s a distinctly different experience on the road, away from home, even in America.
Perhaps I just got the feeling I was basically overseas because I was here to cover the Kings vs. Blues conference semi-final series. I make no illusions as to my biased reporting, nor do I keep it secret on the road: I’m an LA fan (and a Clippers fan at that). I am the enemy here, especially after the Kings won not once, but twice on the road. They are some nice people any other time, but these are some passionate fans. On Saturday, it went from a genuine (albeit under-the-influence) buzz around town after the Blues had won four-in-a-row against the Sharks and the Cardinals had handily whooped the National League Central rival Brewers following Yadier Molina’s gold and platinum trophies presentation and an admittedly cool montage of fan celebrations and big World Series moments from the Cardinals championship victory in 2011 earlier in the afternoon to a tangible discomfort that hung in the air like LA smog.
Thousands of fans had left Scottrade Center either in silence, bitching or looking for trouble, at least on my personal joyous parking lot stroll that made me a tad fearful on Monday night while leaving Scottrade sober, unlike the first time through, with my Kings gear on. They were more quiet and defeated on Monday. The Blues resemble their fans, by the way, which is just flat-out disappointing if you know, like I do now, how much support that city gives their teams. There were “Go, Blues!” signs (minus the grammar, for the most part) all over the city, even out in St. Ann by the international airport I flew into about twenty minutes outside of downtown.
You don’t get “Go, Kings!” signs plastered all over Pasadena, for example. Baby steps. Los Angeles needs more hockey fans first. The crowd at Staples is growing larger and more hockey-literate — don’t get me wrong. We have a ways to go to rival any of the big, historied hockey towns, though. If you’re legit, you know this to be true. Don’t come hassling me at the games! I’m not hating. I love my Kings and I love my fellow fans, but we’re an underground society of sorts. Half of Los Angeles has no idea the Kings exist. All of St. Louis was watching those two defeats and seemingly no one left nor turned off the television nor left the bar until the last period buzzer sounded, is my point. The Cardinals, Blues and Rams games are the thing to go do (in person or by watching somewhere with a group) in St. Louis after you’ve played tourist enough. Los Angeles is so sprawling with things to do all over; so unfocused, yet when we come together at games or to watch games as a family of fans and cheer a big play, I get a feeling like nothing else in the world and I’m definitely not alone. LA can just make that crowd of thousands feel like such a minority being the huge, disjointed place it is.
Before the Cards game, my cousin and I checked out an open-air bar that’s only open for Cardinals home games and grubbed down famous Pappy’s pulled pork sandwiches (tasty monstrous things –had to have been almost a pound of pulled pork on each one), washing them down with some Budweiser. They should give “Yadi” some kind of award every day: He was 4-for-4 with a 2-run jack and another run scored on top in comparison to the False 2011 National League Most Valuable Player Ryan Braun, who went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
After the Cardinals game, we headed to another open-air bar maybe a hundred yards from the park exit to celebrate with the rest of the town. It wasn’t long before we wanted to checkout the 360 bar that overlooks left field at Busch Stadium (among the best and most beautiful ballparks in existence). We were barely finishing off a quality local draft brew before a thundering hailstorm sent us to the lobby’s bar, where we encountered a couple of women, one a cute blonde in her young twenties and the other an attractive, slender brunette with a snide, seemingly-irritated-but-not-by-us remark for every question. Their age-difference, the blonde’s inability to produce vocal speech and just a strange vibe after questions about their boyfriends had made us a tad curious, but not yet suspicious. We didn’t have time to be suspicious before their shockingly fifty-year-old, playboy “boyfriends” (ahem, “johns”) arrived to totally blow their (poor) cover out of the water. One was as conceited and introductorily-megalomaniacal as they come, bragging about how he “gets the madame tonight.” They went off on their merry way to continue their “dates.” We finished off our umteenth beers and exited to hail a cab, thoroughly entertained by the encounter.
We got a pale pink van. We were beyond caring what this might look like, as we were drunk, well over six-foot-tall cousins with some drunk swagger. We arrived at Scottrade in time to hunt down the possibly-non-existent food stand inside where you might or might not be able to order the most egregiously tasty gargantuan-size nachos I’ve ever laid eyes upon or ingested: three cardboard carry boxes, connected as one, filled over the sides with everything you’d ask nachos to ever include. We finished them off in some seats nowhere near our own and continued on the suite level where we encountered an admittedly-stoned young blonde finding her way back to a luxury suite. I can’t remember why we were following her, what she said or how we succeeded in getting into the suite and subsequently watching the game with a bunch of strangers who wasted little time in informing the ushers that we were not invited by whomever was in charge, but it was awesome while it lasted, which I vaguely recall to be the majority of the second period. After drunkenly trying to pass ourselves off as invited guests for whatever drunken reason, we headed to our seats to watch the Kings continue their beatdown of the Blues. Did I mention I was drunk? It was a full day. A “Man Day.” I propose the last Saturday of every April be declared “Man Day.” Make it a national holiday, though, and I’d rather it be a Friday or Monday. We need more holidays.
And I love it here. I’m back home in the foothills. My soon-to-be-departing roommate’s mess and stench permeate the apartment. I immediately wish I were still in the STL just for another couple of days. At least he’s leaving. I’ll have a place all my own again for the first time in years. I cannot wait to leave it to watch my sports teams flourish.
There’s no denying nor defining how team sports make me feel at any given time. My favorite part of the history museum was its exhibits on former teams and stadiums. So many parallels to the human struggle. Storylines of life as fellow mortals. Sport reflects life. St. Louis is a sportsman’s town. It’s well worth the visit.
Paul is participating in the NHL’s BEARDATHON for the LA Kings. All proceeds go to the Blood Center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Pledge Paul’s beard today! Paul Tetu is an artist and journalist. Follow him on Twitter @PRTetu or subscribe on Facebook.