Foam Finger: The Sport of People Watching at a Basketball Game

L.A. sports from the fan stands

Photograph courtesy Chloe Stepney

I had near-courtside tickets to a Toronto Raptors-Los Angeles Clippers game, but, knowing the match-up wouldn’t get heated, I couldn’t stay focused on the court. Why? I was watching the real Staples Center entertainment:

1. Babies With Jordans
I’d be willing to bet that there is at least one die-hard basketball baby in the front rows at every basketball game. What’s a die-hard basketball baby? They’re the tots whose parents bought an even cuter (see “swag”), miniature pair of Air Jordans instead of Chuck Taylors. A couple rows ahead of me Sunday was a baby girl in white-and-purple Jordans. Yes, they make them that small, and yes, they still look really cool. Don’t let the materialistic nature of this sketch consume you.

2. Canadian Superstars
Not all Canadians have gold-studded leather jackets—I know this because I am one—but there was a very courtside-sitting, leathery-jacket-studded gentleman at the game. He was standing next to the Raptors bench during halftime, shamelessly wearing a black cowboy hat, tight black pants, and dark sunglasses. Normally I would say such a get-up would compliment a gold-studded, black leather jacket quite nicely, but from the side, this man looked like an emaciated ex-member of ZZ Top (visualize and realize).

3. Lone Raptor
Behind me was another fellow Canadian but he was bravely sporting a Raptors T-shirt. Clippers fans aren’t as intense as, say, USC fans, so he wasn’t in any grave danger, but he was making some pretty poor decisions for someone not wanting to be taunted. Toronto has the most losses of any team in the NBA thus far (holding strong at 19), so it was painfully ironic to hear: “Let’s go Raptors, let’s go!” (Side note: It was also painful to see this guy’s socks, which were essentially psychedelic checker boards—I’m assuming they were his lucky away game socks. But they didn’t work, and it took everything inside me to not turn around and tell him that he was making Canadians look bad. Can I get an Amen?)

4. Clipper Darrell
Last but definitely not least, there are always the super fans that stand out—even at the most anticlimactic of games. These are the must-see spectacles of any sporting event, and for this outing, the Clippers’ number one, off-court must-see was just a couple rows behind me. Clad in a half-red, half-blue funny suit, Darrell is a living legend, a Clipper fixture. According to his Web site, his total consecutive home game attendance is 386 games (yes, he has a Web site), and his specialty is hyping up the home crowd. He starts Clippers chants, he taunts opposing players during free throws, he dances… kind of. On the day I was there he had lost his voice—so the Clippers chants were at a minimum. The team didn’t need chants, however; it trounced Toronto 102-83. As for Darrell, he had no problem making a fool out of the Lone Raptor after the game clock hit zero.