My dad is one of those guys who inherently knows sports. He grew up playing football, basketball and baseball, but he now gets his competitive kicks from watching games—USC vs. UCLA, Lakers vs. Celtics, Chargers vs. Raiders, Angels vs. Dodgers, etc. I don’t know if I’ve met anyone who lives for a rivalry the way my dad does. So when the Anaheim Ducks played the Los Angeles Kings at the Honda Center on Nov. 7, I knew exactly who my date was going to be.
The entrances to the center were swarmed with fans, people trying to find one another and scalpers. A man wearing a gray baseball hat stood with his hand up against his face as if he were on the phone. Right as we passed him, he lunged towards my pops and said, “Whoaaaa, that was like a hallucinogenic, Ronald.” Turns out the guy wasn’t on the phone; he was just on drugs.
My dad’s a litigator with degrees from both UCLA and Harvard; he wears a suit, tie and shiny black loafers to work every day. He’s the quintessential image of professionalism, but he also kind of looks like he could be in the mafia. So for him to get semi-harassed by someone in a hallucinatory haze was priceless.
After being sent all around the building in search of press check-in, we were finally inside. As the teams were taking the ice, we hopped on the elevator and went to the Club Level Lounge to get beer. But we were stopped by a security guard before we got to our seats; he told us that alcohol wasn’t allowed in the press box. How is alcohol prohibited from a space that’s dedicated to writers? I was shocked. But I complied. On the way back down to the third floor, I asked the woman working the elevator why people weren’t allowed to drink in the press box. “Maybe because you’re supposed to be working,” she replied, “and if you’re drinking you’re not working.”
Obviously, the Honda Center people haven’t met a real writer before. [Sips beer.]
Jared Boll scored the first goal of the game for the Ducks as I was layering on my beer coat. Ducks fans jumped up and down, hugged, and began to quack as they high-fived one another—even total strangers.
Back in the press box, it was a total sausage fest. I was one of only four women—and there were 64 men, including my dad. And they all looked like him too: Suits, ties, fancy black shoes and styled hair. My dad knows the nuances of hockey, so between the two of us, he seemed like the reporter, and I resembled his crazy, semi-buzzed, incessant-note-taking daughter.
Prohibiting alcohol as though it were 1925 gave the room a “vintage” vibe at best, but it wasn’t the best place to watch the game. Yes, the view of the ice is great; you’re surrounded by sports-media mavens (I was sitting beside the LA Sports AM 570 radio dude); and there’s free pizza, delicious chocolate-chip cookies, coffee, tea, pretzels, popcorn and all kinds of foods to snack on. But in the stands, it felt like Mardi Gras!
The Ducks held the lead for most of the game until Anze Kopitar of the Kings tied it up in the third period. Emotions were the highest they’d been all game, and the fans were reveling in this freeway rivalry. But no one was as caught-up in the energy of the match as the 14-year-old boy featured on the jumbotron. Just after Ducks goalie John Gibson got his mask knocked off and took a stick to the face, the Ducks switched Gibson out for Ryan Miller. While the new goalie was warming up, the young Ducks fan was on the large screen, entertaining the crowd with hip-thrusts and a Gene Simmons-esque tongue-dance. At no point did he break the serious expression on his face.
As soon as the puck was back in play, the Kings peppered the net. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick could’ve invited Alice and the Mad Hatter for a psychedelic tea party, and it wouldn’t have mattered because the puck stayed in the Ducks’ domain for the rest of the game.
It was still tied at the end of the third period, leading the game into overtime. The Honda Center was going berserk. The 14-year-old boy was back on the jumbotron hip-thrusting with fervor, which made other young fans begin thrusting away in hopes to get their few minutes of fame.
The game was now in sudden death, with 1:09 left on the clock. Nick Shore slammed in the game winner for the Kings, and everyone in the stadium was screaming their lungs out—my dad included.
I’ve never been to a regular-season game like that before. The emotional intensity felt as if I’d just seen Led Zeppelin perform Physical Graffiti or something. It was a fucking stellar game, and my dad was the most stoked I’ve seen him in years.
While walking back to the car, we passed a guy rocking the saxophone and asking for change, which sparked an argument between my dad and I about which instrument Kenny G plays. It was the perfect end to a competitive evening.