A Post from Our Devoted Copy Editor on Booing and L.A. Sports Fans

Anze Kopitar high fives Kings fans

I’m sorry. I have to say this.

Los Angeles has the worst sports fan base ever.

I mean, it really isn’t a shocking statement. Especially to all the LA Kings fans out there.

Los Angeles is a city about efficiency. We focus our efforts in areas where we will receive the most ‘return’. We seem to make more time for networking and business associates than we do for our family. If we invest time in something, we expect an analogous reward.

So how can it be expected that we will put any time, energy, and effort into a “losing” team? Not “losing” like the 92-93 season played by the San Jose Sharks. I mean losing as in…a couple losses. We fans can’t stand that. All of a sudden, our favorite team sucks and is not worth our precious time.

Alright, fine. It’s definitely not rewarding to spend $100 + on food, drinks and tickets and three hours of a night only to leave the game feeling disappointed and ready to fight someone. It only makes economic sense that we are fickle fans…ready to support throughout the winning streaks, but turning our backs during the bad times.

This tirade is a result of a frustrating couple weeks as a Kings fan.

After a devastating loss to the Red Wings and a defensive win over the Coyotes, I headed to the Canucks game last Saturday….where the view from my seats was as follows:

Ugh. Talk about adding insult to injury. The Kings were outplayed, as was my eyesight. And we both lost.

But more importantly, where were the beautiful southern California fans who could have at least blocked the sight of such a beastly creature, and (possibly) made the taste of a loss not so…hairy?

Apparently, there are better things to do. Of course there are! We live in sunny California. We have beaches, mountains, museums, (lots of) bars, umm… wine tasting, rock climbing, dansar fuldans, garage sales, sign postings, Groupons, house cleaning, jobs. Whatever the lame excuse is, the tenant is the same:

We have better things to do than waste time on a team that disappoints. We don’t want to sit through another 60 minutes of power play embarrassment and offensive frailty.

This Thursday, an eager Staples Center crowd welcomed the Kings home after a successful 4-0 road trip. However, as the game progressed, the mood of the crowd shifted from appreciation to frustration to anger, as the Kings were booed off of the ice at the closing of the 2nd period when they were being outshot 30-6 after a lackluster effort.

Booing the home team? In LA? I’ve heard of that in New York or Philadelphia, but not Los Angeles. Is it OK to boo your favorite team?

One side of the argument suggests that a paying customer, short of using profanity or potentially harming others (throwing objects, fighting, etc.), should be able to do or say pretty much whatever they want. The other suggests that a true fan would never kick their beloved heroes when they are down, but instead lift them back up.

Booing is a bit excessive, but the coach and players are not going to quell the animosity by dishing it back to the fans. This argument regarding whether or not the team deserved the booing will persist for a while; but certainly the fans of this team deserved more than excuses of a road trip and cliched ‘we give it our all every night’ statements.

Especially the fans of this team.

This team, who has been without a cup for 42 years and came close once, in 1993. After the Kings went 1-1 in the first two games in Montreal, LA fans were titillated with the notion of having a legitimate shot of winning a Stanley Cup, the first time any California team could say that, only to have all hope ripped away from them, losing both of the next two games against Montreal on home ice.

This team, who’s teenage next-door neighbor has already lifted the Stanley Cup.

This team, who should know by now that they have a lot of competition in the city for what fans will spend their time and money on.

Losses can’t be avoided…despite that extraordinarily awesome Verizon commercial, there is no perfect season.  The best record out there is held by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings, and that record even boasted 13 losses and 7 ties.  And the Red Wings that year were beaten in the Western Conference finals- not even a contender for the Stanley Cup.

So, then, what is the answer? What does LA need to get bodies at games, even throughout the rough patches? How can these fickle fans be appeased?

We need a worthwhile product (=team) that will provide us with a return (=quality hockey, measured by Wins) to justify spending money (beer, nachos, tickets, parking, beer) and our time.

We see the Kings as a team that should do all they can to win. However, the Kings are a business. Kings management uses the same metrics that we do to define where they devote their resources. Will the capital they invest in the team pay off in a return? Will every dollar they spend on player and coach salary  and other areas of team management, payoff through ticket, concession and merchandise sales?

It is obviously in an organization’s best interest to have a winning team. The playoffs are a cash cow- the organization’s costs are fixed; salaries and operations won’t change significantly; but the revenue from ticket and concession sales to a sold-out crowd brings tears made of dollar signs to management’s eyes.

Sooo…it’s all a game of numbers. Pretty easy to figure out. You get a team that is pleasant to watch, win or loss, we will be there. If we’re there, we will spend money. Money that you can invest in a team. That is pleasant to watch.

What came first- winning hockey or a fan base?

In this case, I think its obvious that the product has to drive the demand. McDonalds didn’t invent the Big Mac because someone asked for it. They invented the BigMac, and it invaded American culture. The Kings need to make a product that we can’t live without. Sprinkle some crack on it. Super-size it. Whatever you do…just do something. Pride=Passion=Power? Eh. Maybe something a little more.

It will take much more than acknowledgment by the management that the “product” needs to be better. Fans are sick of acknowledgment and recognition of problems and weaknesses. It will take action on the part of the Kings’ management to make the changes necessary to ensure that the Kings will be a team that excels during the season so they can propel themselves deep into the playoffs.

But then again, those types of moves may just require some more offensive strength.

The Los Angeles sports fan base is fickle. The select loyalists who consistently permeate through this prevalent attitude, however, are perhaps some of the best fans anywhere in the world.

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