June 22, 2010
It would seem from the vibrations currently in circulation, especially rabid following the manner in which the recent NBA Finals unfolded, that, hereabouts, Los Angeles Laker fans have become even more persona non grata than previously if that’s possible.
And although I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed trading barbs with those on the other side of the allegiance aisle in these matters, most often Utah Jazz and, of course, Boston Celtic fans, it appears, through a couple of recent displays of partisanship, that the bar governing such banter has been significantly raised.
The first of these occurred up at Soldier Hollow this past weekend during this year’s rendition of the annual Heber Valley Powwow and Mountain Man Rendezvous. As in other cultures, the bluegrass music and rodeo scenes come to mind, Powwow humor dances to a beat singularly its own. Groaning often serves as applause following many of these verbal slapstick routines.
Take the case of powwow Master of Ceremonies Dennis Bowen, a member of the Seneca tribe who calls Tuba City, Arizona, on the Navajo Reservation, home. After gathering the tribal dancing contestants into the center of the arena, he invited the rest of us to participate in a "social dance," to end the program.
As is usually the case, the bleachers mostly emptied and, with a drum beat friendly even to the non-indigenous in the crowd, the circle ceremony ensued. Before long, those improvisational aspects that make intra-culture dancing so enjoyable and unique began to surface and a general sense of togetherness settled over the land.
Not satisfied that a full quorum had yet been met, however, Bowen continued his entreaties to the gathered flock. First came the tone deaf and rhythmically challenged followed by the two-left-footed and the hopelessly inept. As more dancers trickled in, the circle widened and, in a serpentine fashion, began to fold in upon itself.
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It was then that the master of ceremonies showed his hand. "All Utah Jazz fans come on down!" he intoned. "All you Celtic fans, come join our circle." And finally, while perfectly pausing for effect, he dropped the other moccasin. "And all you Laker fans go home!" It brought the house down! They’re probably still cheering!
It was hilarious, actually. Both his timing and delivery were perfect. And coming on the heels of the infamous "Game 7," it couldn’t have been more timely. So, sheepishly taking my lumps as all Laker fans must under such circumstances, I grabbed my forked tongue and moseyed back to the bleachers.
Admittedly, for whatever reason, being identified as "the enemy" in these sporting matters has always brought comfort. Informing people who think they know me that I’m most always on the other side of the equation is reward in itself. As are the slings and arrows of a Tuba City Seneca with an ever-so-dry- sense of humor.
Laker hating has become a cottage industry in these parts. People who disagree on most anything else come together to cast stones at Kobe and his tribe. Fascists and radicals find common ground on this issue, as do monks and infidels. As it is often explained to me, they’re just not a likable bunch. Well, you’ll have that.
Be that as it may, I try to explain that my allegiance to specific Los Angeles teams (Dodgers, Trojans, Lakers) is unconditional. It matters not if they are unscrupulous and underhanded in their dealings with recruits and their peers or that their players have the social skills of Charles Manson. So it goes.
After bidding adieu to the voice from Tuba City and slipping out of the powwow, there was another gathering of the tribes to attend to at the other end of town. Embodying dancing to a different drummer and the quite-legitimate marriage of honky-tonk and hardwood, this gathering also found salvation in bashing that very same bunch of L.A. hoopsters.
I couldn’t find another Laker fan in the joint. Not that I wanted to. This was contrary turf and it fit me like a glove. Later on, making my way home in the back seat of my tipsy-taxi of choice, I decided that since the evening was drawing to a close that it might be a good time to disrupt the vibe.
Brazenly, I began singing the praises of the Lakers to my cab mates. Not having any tar or feathers within reach, they decided to just pull over and kick me out. I was lucky to escape with my scalp. I’m getting to think me and my Lakers might just have a karma problem.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and a free-lance writer with a background in commercial and community radio, among other pursuits. He has been a columnist and feature writer for various Park City publications going back to 1973.