Los Angeles Laker fans have embarrassed themselves, their town, and their team. Again.
Game Seven of the NBA Finals was an ugly mess. The celebration afterward was far worse.
What started as a gathering of Laker fans basking in the glow of their teams' 16th title quickly turned turned into a senseless mess, complete with all the trappings of a full-blown riot.
First it was small fires in the middle of intersections, then it progressed to tossing traffic cones across streets, and finally the mob devolved into jumping on top of moving cars and brutally attacking other fans in the crowd.
Several people were loaded into ambulances on stretchers. One was beaten unconscious.
Remember, the world was watching tonight. This was the final game, the championship matchup in a storied rivalry between historically great franchises. International stars played crucial roles in this deciding moment.
Millions of eyes were on us. And the best we could show them was a great game, followed by a pitiful group of drunks, degenerates, and low-lifes.
What's worse is that this type of behavior is expected of, even accepted by, the people of Los Angeles.
Something tells me it wasn't to match Kobe Bryant's pursuit of a fifth championship ring.
People on the streets who were interviewed for local news broadcasts gave nearly identical answers when asked to comment on the disturbing behavior of their fellow Laker fans.
They shrugged. They said, “It's the Lakers.” They waited for the next question without a second thought.
They were too wrapped up in the joy of hard-fought victory to appear concerned or embarrassed by what was going on around them. And they should have been.
It is unthinkable that such a proud franchise in such a proud city could produce fans without any personal pride to speak of. Their awful behavior puts a blight on their team, on the championship, and on the city as a whole.
Fortunately, not all Laker fans subject themselves to running around like third-graders on a sugar high. Some even helped clear pathways for cars blocked by more unruly folk. Some did their part to coax angry drivers back into their cars.
But their positive efforts will be overshadowed by the impulsive actions they worked to prevent, a sad fact that remains all too true. Class is not a word we hear too often in the southland.
Since when did burning cars become an acceptable form of celebration? What is the point of this wanton violence, this public display of disreputable behavior?
Certainly, alcohol is a factor. Sports fans of every ilk are no strangers to the drink, and when their teams do well, glasses and bottles are emptied faster than they can be refilled.
But that is no excuse for Angelinos to attack cars on the street.
Fans in other cities drink and shout and revel in their teams' success when they win the big game. Yet somehow they're able to keep from throwing school-yard tantrums and rampaging through the streets.
Case in point: New Orleans. Home to one of the NFL's worst franchises and one of the world's most infamous city-wide drinking parties. When the Saints won the Super Bowl, Hell should have simultaneously frozen over and broken loose. And rightly so.
It didn't. Instead, the streets were filled with music, cheering, flag-waving, and joy the likes of which the town had never seen.
Where was the gang-like violence? Did we even see a cop car flipped, for goodness sake?
How about New Yorkers smashing store windows and beating shopkeepers after the Yankees' World Series victory?
No. They drank, sure, and a few probably got into some trouble. Still, no team—perhaps outside of the notorious Oakland Raider hooligans—has fans as shameful as jubilant Laker lovers.
Here in Southern California, there is a general feeling that it's not a true championship celebration unless the criminal element is present and accounted for.
Tonight, those of us who love our corner of the country should be embarrassed to call ourselves Californians. Those who love the Lakers should feel even worse.