Now is the summer of our discontent in Los Angeles.
As the rest of the nation gears up for the resumption of America's real national pastime, whipped into giddy anticipation by sensational headlines out of NFL training camp—dogfighting quarterbacks running the Wildcat! Just when you think Brett Favre is out, he...pulls...you...back...in...again! A coaching altercation in Oakland and Latrell Sprewell wasn't involved!—the closest we come in the City of Angels to paid pigskin players is Yahoo Sports' coverage of the Trojans.
Usually, the Dodgers are our saviors sent from Blue Heaven during these leaner months on the sports calendar, but right now they're playing so poorly that they won't be any match for the Phillies or Cardinals...if they're lucky enough to survive the Rockies' and Giants' push for the NL West title and Wild Card.
Then we remember: Los Angeles, the City of Champions, and more specifically, home of the 2008-09 Larry O'Brien Trophy. Who needs some other city's also-ran pro football team anyway when we're still polishing pro basketball's top prize?
For the last few years, any Laker fan could whet their summer appetites for pro hoops by listening to local radio 570 AM's "Loose Cannons" show. No matter what else was going on in the wide world of sports at that moment—Brett Favre could be driving to Vikings camp in a slow-moving white Ford Bronco with A.C. Cowling (you know who he is, dammit!) riding shotgun—you could be sure that at least three-and-a-half of the show's four hours would be devoted to more royal blue and gold minutiae than even the most diehard Laker fan could usually stomach. However, that show was replaced earlier this year by a national broadcast, though still originating out of Los Angeles, featuring former FOX sideline reporter Chris Myers and previous "Loose Cannon" co-host Steve Hartman.
Now that the "Loose Cannon" dynamic is gone, I actually miss that three-and-a-half hours of Laker talk in the basketball wasteland of July, August and September. It really does feel like the city has lost a real resource befitting a large-market, occasionally obnoxious, bonafide sports dynasty (see: WFAN and WEEI). If the "Loose Cannons" show still existed this year, they'd probably be going on hour 57 of what the loss of Sun Yue is going to mean to the team, and though it might seem like it would be little, there is still some value in that, especially for a city like L.A. that can't get enough of the Lakers no matter what the calendar reads.
Now, Hartman, the only holdover from that old show and previously the resident Laker hater of the old "Loose Cannon" bunch, is paired with national Fox blowhard Myers—who's so dry that the local fire department puts red flags around him before every broadcast—in an arrangement that feels forced and stale.
Blowing up the old show and pairing Hartman with Myers was the kind of move that made perfect sense to a cost-cutting national sports conglomerate like FOX—who must be locked into the worst long-term contract with Myers this side of Barry Zito—but the old "loose cannons" had a chemistry that couldn't be faked.
Meanwhile, Mychal Thompson, who filled the role of token ex-jock on the old "Cannons" program, is now broadcasting from competitor KSPN, and Vic "The Brick" Jacobs—local sports column personality, billboard fixture, and the kind of wacko fan every Laker listener could relate to—is relegated to the ghetto of sports news updates on KLAC.
But just as the average Laker fan must mourn the passing of this particular fan medium, a peculiar one has filled the vaccuum—Twitter (or as your parents might call it, Twatter or Twooter). Twitter has been around for three years now, but it's only attracted real attention from athletes, writers and fans in the last year, just as it has in the general realm of celebrity for its vast and unprecedented powers of self-promotion.
Of course, I'm sure all of you know @THE_REAL_SHAQ, the self-appointed ambassador of "Twitteronia." And who could forget Kevin Love, who used his Twitter to break real news about Kevin McHale's change in job status?
Unfortunately, Lakers fans, Kobe apparently won't be on Twitter anytime soon, maybe fearing he might say (or Tweet) something to hurt Andrew Bynum's feelings again. But, take heart: the team's newest and craziest acquisition, Ron Artest, most definitely is Tweeting. What better way to take the mental temperature of this crucial piece of the next championship puzzle than to check in on what he's thumbing to the world? That sounds like a pretty good way to pass the time until camp breaks in October, eh?
Given the reports about Artest's behavior in Houston last season, it might make more sense than you think.
Much has been made of the story, broken by ESPN's Bill Simmons, that Artest routinely walked around in his underwear in public places last season when he was with the Rockets. In fact, Simmons himself recently took FOX Sports writer Charley Rosen to task on, what else, Twitter for "shamelessly ripping off the story" (one wonders how that statement fit into The Worldwide Leader's recent edict on employee tweets).
I love Simmons, I really do (and I hope you feel I gave you the proper credit due to your story, Bill), but I think he's letting his friendship with Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey impair his evaluation of the Artest-Ariza quasi-trade earlier this summer. He's spinning Ariza as a slam dunk upgrade for the Rockets, and Artest as a potential poison pill for the Lakers, when the truth is that both additions probably make sense for both teams given their respective structures and positions in the league at this time. With how horrible the Rockets look for next season, I only hope Simmons uses his friendship with Morey to introduce a "Daryl, Are You In the Lottery Yet?" segment on his podcast during the next NBA season.
People look back on Dennis Rodman's career through a warm and fuzzy lens these days (well, about as warm and fuzzy as a tattooed, cross-dressing power forward with herpes can get), but forget what he was capable of when he was allowed to run roughshod over weaker personalities like John Lucas and David Robinson (parallels with Rick Adelman and Yao Ming, anyone?).
In 1993, after leaving the Bad Boys, but before helping Chicago to its second three-peat, he was rumored to have attempted suicide (something which he denied). People forget that now and underestimate how quickly the "crazy" can become "eccentric" when they're utilized by strong-willed winners like Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant.
On that note, Lakers fans, care to see what the "eccentric" Artest actually Tweeting about right now? Read for yourself:
—Go check out Chulachola paintings. She is designing me a painting.
So, um, not to change the subject, but how are the Lakers going to replace Sun Yue?