LA Daily News – May 9, 2011 – Jill Painter – 05/09/11 – We are not a proud sports town today.
How bad is the L.A. sports scene? Let us count the ways.
The Dodgers and Lakers, our two most storied and prideful franchises, are in turmoil.
The Lakers were embarrassed Sunday after being swept by the Dallas Mavericks. More disgusting than the Lakers’ pathetic defense was the cheap shots that caused the ejections of Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum.
Frank McCourt bought the Dodgers in a highly leveraged deal in 2004. His pockets are so empty he can’t pay his employees at the end of the month and Major League Baseball, already having taken control of the team, might force a sale.
Los Angeles once was one of the best sports cities in the country, even without an NFL team.
“Let’s call a spade a spade. You shouldn’t be proud of the Dodgers and Lakers right now,” said John F. Murray, a Florida-based sports psychologist and author of “The Mental Performance Index.”
“They need to make changes so this happens less frequently …”
It’s a good lesson learned, for those who considered our sports successes and championships to be more than just entertainment and fun. If you’re taking these teams too seriously, you shouldn’t.
Bostonians and New Yorkers and even Clevelanders surely think we’re a joke. The joke once was how
Hollywood and fickle fans were, arriving late and leaving early. Now, it’s that we’re no longer competent and have no sportsmanship. In October, “The Sporting News” named Los Angeles the third-best sports city behind No. 1 Chicago and Boston.
In 2003, Los Angeles was named the top sports city.
At this rate, Los Angeles will be on the worst sports cities list, alongside Detroit, in 2011.
The Lakers were at an all-time low Sunday after losing in the Western Conference semifinals in their quest for a third consecutive NBA title. Bynum gave a forearm shiver to guard J.J. Barea, who already was in the air and in a vulnerable position, and was ejected. It was dirty and ugly.
Odom had been ejected earlier for a cheap shot against Dirk Nowitzki.
It was a classless display for a once classy organization. Where was the sportsmanship? Imagine the poor parents who had to explain why the Lakers were such poor losers.
Bynum shred his Lakers jersey as he walked off the floor. With all of his antics, including postponing knee surgery so he could attend the World Cup, injury-prone ligaments and bones, there’s no need to ever see him put on the purple and gold anymore. Trade him. It is the same scenario for those thinking about throwing on their Kings hockey jersey.
“These people are role models, and they set examples for society,” Murray said. “We need to keep sports as healthy and clean as possible. Kids need ideals to look up to. It keeps them focused on being the best they can be.
“It seems ridiculous that sports have to hold some moral standard, but they do. Kids look up to them. Even adult kids. Everyone loves sports.”
The Clippers should be a better ticket than the Lakers. After the Lakers showed their true, ugly colors Sunday, perhaps we should get behind the other NBA team in L.A. They have cheaper tickets and Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin, who’s also known as the human dunk machine. He’s exciting to watch.
The Dodgers are not. McCourt’s sordid divorce and revelations that he was using team money for his personal gain was upsetting. He’s so broke – reportedly $500 million or so in debt – he had to take out a personal $30 million loan last month to pay his employees.
This storied franchise, that flourished under the ownership of the O’Malley family for nearly five decades, has come unglued.
Angelenos are so downtrodden that everywhere Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban went here in town last week, fans were begging him to buy the Dodgers … while the Lakers were playing his team.
And on Opening Day, there was the brutal beating of San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow, who’s still in a medically induced coma.
That’s much worse than any divorce drama or McCourt bank statement.
The Angels have Jered Weaver, who’s from Simi Valley and won his first six games, and former Dodger Mike Scioscia managing. But what a drag to have to drive to Orange County to witness a good team with a credible owner. I know they’re called the Los Angeles Angels, but that’s only a name.
The fun even has been taken out of our college sports. USC football was on probation and ineligible for a bowl game.
USC basketball coach Kevin O’Neill ruined a solid season with a public tirade against an Arizona booster in a hotel across from the Pacific-10 Conference Tournament at Staples Center. As if USC wasn’t in enough trouble.
UCLA isn’t doing anything to brag about, either. Rick Neuheisel had another pedestrian football season at 4-8 in his fourth year. He ran out Norm Chow, but hired a new offensive coordinator while Chow still was on staff. Neuheisel then took an eternity to hire a defensive coordinator.
Bruins basketball is trying to get back to the glory days and made progress this season, but then lost two players to the NBA. UCLA even has to play at the Sports Arena, on USC’s campus, while Pauley Pavilion is being renovated.
Everything is turned upside down.
The best thing going at UCLA was women’s basketball coach Nikki Caldwell, and the Bruins couldn’t keep her. She left for LSU, where she’s making $700,000 a year over five years. She’s bright, articulate, a philanthropist, a fashionista and a brilliant coach and recruiter.
And after three years, she’s gone.
It was understandable as she’s closer to her family in Tennessee and is making a much better living in a place that adores women’s basketball. But this one hurts UCLA.
Let’s not forget hockey. The Kings had one of the best starts in franchise history and stumbled late but managed to make the playoffs.
Then they squandered a 4-0 lead at home in Game 3 against the San Jose Sharks and lost three home playoff games and the series, 4-2.
What’s up with that?
We couldn’t even get back on the horse in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. Of the entrants with Southern California connections, the highest finish was Twice the Appeal, in 10th place.
Guess there’s always the Galaxy and the return of Candace Parker to the Sparks.
“Sports are a great diversion and great entertainment,” Murray said. “There’s a lot worse things we could be doing. They are a healthy pursuit physically and a challenge. When things go bad there, like they are now, there needs to be change in order to make improvements and realize what they have is delicate and precious.
“They better improve their management or they’re going to lose it.”
L.A. fans might lose it if we don’t get our sports teams back in shape.
I hope you enjoyed these insights from the world of sports psychology.