Lakers blog profile: Jamie Sweet fondly recalls his first L.A. Times Lakers blog comment
This is the 21st post in a weekly series that helps you get to know members of the L.A. Times Lakers Blog community. Feel free to send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Screen name: Jamie Sweet (Demolitions/Linguist, Cunning)
Real name: Benjamin (Jamie, ask my folks) Sweet
Occupation: Media services technician/ technical director of the Garage Theatre/ other duties as assigned
Hometown: Costa Mesa man born and bred but now residing in Long Beach.
Story behind your screen name: It was during the 2007 season when I first started blogging, I had been reading the threads and opinions but hadn't really gotten into the whole blogging thing. Here's what I consider to be my first post. I looked around for the post where I hoped Smush had a breakout game a year earlier but couldn't find it. I might have been a bit toasted. Anyhow, I had thought about various screen names (Laser, boogie-boogie wolverine, Do you like waffles?) but none of them seemed to fit who I saw myself as, virtually. So I figured I would just be me. Here I am, rock you like a hurricane. No link on that one.
How I became a Lakers fan: I was basically raised a Laker fan. My childhood chums like to joke that whenever they came over to stay the night there were three things on TV at the Sweet household: "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Mystery Science Theater 3000" or the Lakers. They weren't around on the weekdays, so they didn't get to see me watch "The A-Team," "Knight Rider" or "Airwolf." But I digress, we were a Lakers/Angels household for my entire life. I have to admit, my sports teams were like a yin and yang of success until 2002. I have been a staunch Laker fan since my earliest memories, many of which are of the Forum, and will continue to be one until my final reckoning.
Favorite Lakers memory of all time and of the 2009-10 season: I have a few. When I was young, before it got too pricey for a family of five to go to a sporting event, the Sweets would go to the Forum and try to sit above where Chick called the game. My dad figured if Chick had a good view of the action, anywhere in that vicinity would be awesome. Once, my Mom walked me up to him and introduced us. Chick was very gracious and shook my hand (I was never into autographs so didn't bring anything to sign). My mom told Chick how we always listened to him on the radio and turned down the volume on the TV, which was absolutely true despite our shaky reception out in Costa Mesa, land of malls. He told us how much he appreciated us coming to visit but that he had a show to do, and so we left.
I can only hope we got some tasty, cheesy nachos afterward.
My first Boys Club b-ball team was having a Meet the Team and Get Your Jersey night at Chucky Cheese on Harbor Boulevard in Costa Mesa. Kurt Rambis was handing out the jerseys and signing autographs of him shooting a layup that would make Luke Walton cringe. That was the only autograph I ever got, and I have it still to this day.
My favorite Laker memory of all time was the first time we beat the Celtics, followed by the 2009-10 season ... where we beat the Celtics. Kobe's 81, of course, as well as Magic's first comeback game against Golden State when he did this. My favorite non-Laker Beating the Celtics Memory is Kareem passing Wilt on the all-time scoring list.
Most heartbreaking Lakers experience: Magic Johnson telling the world he had HIV in the bravest, most honest way possible. Losing to the Celtics in any decade but most especially in 2008. As soon as KG screamed, "Anything is possible!" I changed channels and started watching the Angels. Kobe's rape allegation fiasco gets an honorable mention because we were already a fragmented team, and I knew that it would take some sort of miracle for us to band together as I knew the team would need to. Turns out the miracle wasn't enough, either.
Favorite Lakers player: Kareem Abdul Jabbar, whom I consider to be the best player in NBA history. The complete package as a center and someone that the defense had to focus on, freeing up the rest of the motion offense that Riles loved so he was the rock around which Magic Johnson flowed. They were two different elements working in tandem, sublimating ego in a way GMs wish they could duplicate today.
Greatest all-time Laker: Magic Johnson. He was as great a man as he was a player and continues to be so to this day. Always aware that it's the fans that make the league possible and that at the end of the day the majority of them struggle day to day, he's made it a priority to bring hope to dark places, speak the truth to ignorance and never, ever make any excuse for anything he ever did. But he always learned and grew from his mistakes. If I ever have a kid, he's getting a poster of Magic shooting that baby hook on his wall or in the garage. I could only hope for my progeny to be as great as Earvin Magic Johnson.
Last time you went to a game at Staples Center and at the Forum: I was at the Spurs game some year in February at Staples, and my last Forum game was in 1998 when I got in with an old USC alum buddy and we kicked it with the band during the game.
Opposing team, player you dislike the most: Boston Celtics. Paul Pierce/Larry Bird.
Interactions with Lakers players: Kurt Rambis as a lad, that's it.
Most cherished piece of Lakers memorabilia you have: I have a Laker T-shirt I like to wear.
Memorable stories about being a Lakers fan: Oh man ... so many ... uhm ... I remember being in a bar when Kobe scored 81 and some guy sidled up next to me and said something along the lines of "Kobe's such a selfish ball-hog, he sucks, he's nothing without Shaq" (Kobe was sitting on a measely 40-something points at the time) and as the game progressed that guy basically shut up and eventually left when Kobe got up to the 70s and it was pretty obvious that Kobe didn't, doesn't and won't ever suck.
The 2000 Western Conference Finals. I was at a party where everyone but my buddy Dave was a Laker HATER. All game long as we dug ourselves a hole, they got more and more boisterous, to the point where they went down by major double digits and couldn't stop turning the ball over or missing rebounds. One of my friends started saying, "They're done, look at them, Kobe can't handle the pressure, Shaq's just stupid, who cares about Phil Jackson and his ... . The Lakers are done, they're done." Which went on for the entire break between the third and fourth quarter, to which I replied, "It's not over yet," seeing as how Brian Shaw had just hit those 3s to bring us back from the edge. When the fourth quarter started and Shaw hit another one, she stopped jabbering, and I just kept saying that it's not over. Said it after every Laker bucket. Said it until we won.
In 2002, I was in Cape Town, South Africa, working for an nonprofit called the Amy Biehl Foundation. In order to watch Laker games, I had to stay up until about 5 a.m. as they started at 2, generally. I remember having to silently shout and cheer as we repeated with a team that had struggled mightily during the regular season. I was in my boss' house on her couch because she could afford cable, and though the bars were open, most bars there lack the television sets prevalent in bars here. I did the same thing for the Angels that year and thought that maybe I had to be out of country for them to be able to win the pennant. So far, that has proved true.
-- Mark Medina
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Photos courtesy of Benjamin Sweet