Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Episode I: The Fandom Menace - The Militant's Thoughts On The Post-Championship Melee

On Sunday night, hundreds of rowdy Laker fans took to the streets, and wreaked havoc on vehicles and property near the Staples Center.

And oh yeah, the Lakers won the championship.

Meanwhile, lots of smug transplants walk around town with huge smiles on their faces, going, "I told ya so!" and texting their friends and family back home how retarded Los Angelenos really are (yet they still won't leave because they like the weather).

Okay, historical perspective folks.

The Militant was there in 1992 and saw the You-Know-What happen in front of his eyes. More recently, nine years ago, the Militant wanted to celebrate, in the most sincere and joyous way, the Lakers' defeat of the Indiana Pacers, and took the (M) Red Line to Downtown and walked to the Staples Center.

There, he saw some Laker fans honk their horns, screaming with joy. But then he was ready to join one crowd, and then heard police fire rubber bullets.

The Militant fears very little in this world, but nevertheless, he got his ass out of there ASAP.

Naturally, the Militant will point out that these sorts of sports riots happen in other cities as well; In Chicago, back in 1992, over 1,000 were arrested in riots that erupted after the Michael Jordan-era Bulls won their championship (Hmm, Phil Jackson coached that team too...maybe the Zen Master is to blame? lol...) And in 2003, for one sports team up north that some of us used to know, the fact that they didn't win the championship one year didn't stop them from going crazy destructo nucking futs in the streets.

People like to pole fun, or point shameful fingers at this City and its citizens for riotous behavior, but no one wants to talk about WHY these things happen.

Case in point: The Lakers won the NBA Championship in 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988.

Nobody caused a riot back then.

So what is it about contemporary society that drives people to act like assholes and burn shit (the Militant normally refrains from excessive swearing, but when he's this pissed, he's wired the censor button shut)?

The Militant has three possible explanations:

1. The Media. People do stupid shit in front of cameras. Ever see a high-speed chase on TV? Don't say you don't watch those things, because you know you do. Well, drivers in those chases know the chopper following is shining the spotlight on them - in more than one way. The Militant remembered watching TV one afternoon in 1998 when a man drove his car onto the northbound 105-110 interchange, parked his car, unfurled a blanket that read, "HMOs Are Only In It For The Money" and, as TV live cameras were watching, he pulled out a gun and shot himself dead.

There is a gross disparity of the "haves" (who have a lot) and the "have nots" (who inversely have very little). For many of the "have nots," the apparent privilege of the "haves" is justified by their celebrity status. So by being in front of a camera, whether they make money from it or not, creates an instant ego trip.

The Militant blames the media on Sunday night for expecting the melee and egging on the rioteers by their presence. The helicopters and news vans were there. So the "knuckleheads" wanted to do some "Showtime" of their own. There were even news vans deployed to East Los Angeles and the Crenshaw district. Gee, wonder why? (Eventually they reported very little).

Most of the "action" in Downtown died out by 1 a..m.; the cameras had already left. Coincidence?

2. Some Real Fucked up People Out There. No, not necessarily talking about their alcohol- or drug- induced states, but the fact that a lot of the rioteers have pretty fucked up lives to begin with. The Militant doesn't justify their behavior by any means, and doesn't want you to feel sorry for them, but let's face it, a lot of them never really experienced any genuine joy in their lives. Whether it's through poverty, faulty education, or abusive upbringing, when they do feel the joy and elation brought on by a Laker championship, they're gonna celebrate the only way they know how - by destroying shit.

Point is, there's some real social problems that we need to work on as a society, and the Laker riots are an obvious symptom of that.

3. Midwestern Mentality. Los Angeles, was once part of Mexico, a country known for tis fiestas and public celebrations. So much so, that a plaza was built in what was then the middle of town for such festivities. In the next century, the influx of white rural Midwesterners transformed the old Mexican village into a re-creation of the farmlands they knew, spreading its people out (yes, Midwesterners are to blame for our sprawl), and changing forever the way the city conducted itself with regard to public space, gatherings and social conduct. In the Mexican-era Los Angeles, gringo and Indio walked side by side. In the early 1900s Indiana-By-The-Sea, Midwesterners only socialized among their own kind and shunned others out. Even before the automobile isolated people from human interaction, the wide-open spaces created by our agricultural landscape created divisions among people. From then on, people are to be feared, and not interacted with.

Flash-forward to a century later. With the influence of Pacific Rim cultures, along with those of other parts of the world, we are supposed to be a global, cosmopolitan urban center, but the Midwestern Mentality still sticks around.

So what's the Militant's point?

The Midwestern Mentality frowns on public gatherings, especially spontaneous ones. It closes our parks and beaches at 10 p.m., it makes people want to instinctively dial 9-1-1 when over a dozen people are gathered somewhere.

Many people correctly state that Sunday night's melee is "The wrong way to celebrate." Sure, but what is the right way then? Other cities have sports victory traditions where they gather around a certain public space, and possibly engage in traditional celebratory rituals. Our public space (L.A. Live, right? Wait, "public?" It's privately-owned!) is still too new. So why can't people organize spontaneous victory celebrations "the right way?"

Unfortunately, any sort of spontaneous victory celebration is either "bad," or "potentially bad."
So let's be creative, claim public space and teach each other through tradition "the right way" to celebrate, from now on.

Failing that, let's just give an ultimatum to any future would-be rioters: You riot, you loot, and there will be no victory parade for anybody.

There's another professional athletic team in town that happens to have the best record in its sport at the moment. They may or may not bring home a championship of their own come October. So let's start to get our act together right now or else we'll never learn from experience.

6 comments:

John said...

Actually, I thought the celebration was a little tame. I can think of many other US cities that would burn down (relatively) if their team won a championship.

Anonymous said...

I'm from the midwest. Public gatherings are a big part of the culture. Sorry Militant, but that part of your story/explanation just isn't true.

Militant Angeleno said...

Anonymous: Did you travel in time from the year 1900 (If so, the Militant can only wonder what kind of learning curve does the Internet pose to you)? If not, then NOTHING you said is relevant to the Militant's historical observation!

If the Militant's posts make you feel uncomfortable, then good -- YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE!

Anonymous said...

Militant, I agree with you on counts 1 and 2. But on count 3 you're way off base. Midwesterners did not create the city's sprawl.

Developers who bought up farmland and built tract housing on it created the sprawl. Among them were Lankershim (who was from Germany), Van Nuys (New York), Leimert (San Francisco), Kinney (New Jersey), and Whitley (Toronto). None of these guys were from the midwest.

Anonymous said...

Not at all uncomfortable Militant.
Are you? Ha ha.

I'm from the present 100% and what I say is true. I know b/c I've lived it. Spread your militant wings and check it out for yourself.

chicanaskies said...

Yeah, and all the comments about the "riots" are so racialized (at least on LATimes.com), talking about all the Mexicans and gangs this, whatever. Man, when the Phillies won the World Series in October, kids were rioting in the streets too, burning cars, etc. AND they were mostly all white. Yet when LA does it its so "oooooooooo!!". So annoying. People just about anywhere would do the same thing. Not that I approve of it- just saying.