The Maine Event: Fandom In La La Land

Last week I went to Los Angeles to become a movie star.

Okay, the second part of the above sentence is factually incorrect. But I did go to LA last week.

While in La La Land, I was hoping to go to a Lakers game. But, of course, they were on the road.

So, I figured I would attend the Staples Center version of a consolation game: a Clippers game. And, sure enough, they were at home and playing the Wizards. A marquee matchup it was not. But I figured it would at least be entertaining.

And then the unthinkable happened. The Los Angeles Clippers REJECTED my media request.

Stunned by the news, my boss decided to send a follow-up request which included a sob story of why I should attend. He has a far better title than I do after all. And it was a great story.

Rejected. Again.

My ego deflated, I tried to regroup and figure out a way I could still get the LA basketball fan experience. Finally it dawned on me - a UCLA game. It seemed so obvious.

And, to make it even better, they didn't reject my media credential. They agreed. No questions asked. This was a pleasant relief as I had vowed to quit writing if they too rejected me. My ego and pride were at stake.

So, last Tuesday night, I headed to the Pauley Pavillion to watch UCLA host New Mexico State in a battle of teams with a combined total of five wins.

The following is a true-life account of my evening in Westwood. I'm not clever enough to make any of this stuff up.

5:50 PM: Arrive at Pauley Pavillion in a cab. Am instantly stared at. Remember that no one takes a cab in Los Angeles. Even the cab driver seems confused by my presence.

5:55 PM: Attempt to acquire my media credential but can't seem to figure out where to go. Ask a professor-ish looking man where I should go. He scolds me for arriving so early because "the game doesn't start for a really, really long time".

5:56 PM: Discover that the "LA time" phenomenon is, in fact, real. I forget that everyone is too busy being famous to arrive to anything on time or, gasp, early. I begin to text maniacally in a desperate attempt to fit in with those around me.

6:05 PM: Finally get my media credential. Head inside the Pavillion.

6:07 PM: I was a history major in college so I am going to write the following sentence and not be ashamed. Pauley Pavillion is like a museum. Temporarily in awe when I think of all of the players that have come through this building.

6:12 PM: Notice the concession stands serve Odawalla Juice. Only in California.

6:20 PM: Can't figure out where I am supposed to sit. Seek out some security guards to help me. Writing lesson of the day: In most stories, fiction or otherwise, there is a turning point. This is said moment.

6:20 PM: An apparently high-ranking security guard informs me that I do not have a place to sit and that my credential only gives me access to the building. Because of the weak matchup, I assume there will be some empty media seats and I ask if I could sit there. He tells me he'll get back to me.

6:25 PM: Attempt to kill time while simultaneously looking cool as I wait for my seating assignment. It's a failed mission. I end up eating a stale pretzel and standing by a garbage can alone. This town would eat me alive.

6:50 PM: Another security guard comes over to me and tells me they have figured out my seating situation. I will be sitting in the crowd in the pseudo-VIP area. While I make sure to be appreciative of this, I ask again if I can sit in the media section. He looks at me in total disbelief and says, "don't you want to sit with Jerry Buss' kids?"

6:51 PM: Decide I really don't want to sit with Jerry Buss' kids (although I'm sure they're lovely people) and would really like to sit at a desk where I could use my laptop. Start to explain this but realize I can either sit with the Buss kids or sit outside. I choose the former.

7:10 PM: Take my seat in the crowd. I'm in the fourth row surrounded by middle-aged former players I don't recognize. No sign of Jerry Buss' kids.

7:15 PM: One of the security guards rushes over to me with obvious excitement to point out a HUGE star. That star? Body by Jake. Yes, the workout guy. I'm not sure if I'm supposed to be genuinely impressed or if this is one of those "ironically funny" moments that hipsters laugh about before making t-shirts out of the experience. I'm still not sure.

7:21 PM: A promo comes over the jumbotron for the UCLA women's basketball team. It starts with a question, "Why watch UCLA women's basketball?" and shows a variety of highlights. But, in an actually ironically humorous moment, I notice there is not a single person in the stands for any of the footage. I guess everyone at UCLA really does need to know why they should watch the women's basketball team.

7:28 PM: The Bruins run out onto the court and the student section, which I am about 20 feet from, goes crazy. I have to give credit to these kids. It may be right in the middle of finals but not only did they make it to the game, they all took the necessary time prior to attending to ensure they looked absolutely fabulous. I don't know about you, but I really appreciate a well-put-together fan base. Kudos UCLA students.

7:36 PM: As the game is about to tip-off, the "Body by Jake" security guard asks me to move over. I'm not sure why until he sits next to me and starts talking. He continued to talk for the next hour about life (he's a local high school Latin teacher), basketball (loves the Bruins but can't figure out why they're having such a tough year) and even his childhood (he grew up in Minnesota and while he still roots for the Vikings, he is addicted to the Southern California weather).

7:37 PM: Try and figure out a polite way to tell the chatty security guard that I am trying to do my job. I do not succeed.

7:38 PM: Notice that the UCLA starting lineup includes three white guys. Could explain why this team is 2-6.

7:54 PM: UCLA guard Michael Roll fouls New Mexico State guard Jonathan Gibson. Gibson heads to the line. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, a man pops up from behind the baseline dressed in some sort of UCLA cape and blue wig and starts jumping up and down and screaming some sort of jibberish. He looks an awful lot like Richard Simmons. I develop an elaborate theory that Richard Simmons is jealous of Body by Jake and now is forced to act this way to get attention. Then I realize he is probably just another out-of-work actor in LA. Glad to see broken dreams don't always end up on skid row.

7:57 PM: Notice that there is still a steady stream of fans entering the quarter-filled arena. LA fans coming late? Starting to think every stereotype about this town is true.

8:01 PM: The Bruins' cheerleaders take the court during an Aggies timeout. I would put money that at least one of them ends up on "Rock Of Love" in the not-so-distant future.

8:03 PM: Nikola Dragovic hits a three-pointer and the crowd - all 4,000 of them - goes wild.

8:09 PM: During a timeout, the announcer offers, with feigned excitement, an all-enclusive travel package to attend the EagleBank Bowl. Golf claps all around. I remember that the EagleBank Bowl is essentially the equivalent of the play-in game during the NCAA tournament and the Bruins only got in because Army lost to Navy. I look around for Rick Neuheisel. He is nowhere to be found.

8:19 PM: The UCLA band starts to play the Bloodhound Gang's notorious, um, ballad, "Bad Touch." Wow. I know I went to a Catholic college and all but the edgiest song our school band got away with was "Jump" by Van Halen. And that was in 2006.

8:23 PM: UCLA's Mustafa Abdul-Hamid misses from outside the arc. I am reminded of one of my favorite basketball phrases - live by the three, die by the three. But then I realize that at least that means the Bruins are trying. The Aggies are playing like corpses.

8:26 PM: New Mexico State is led by Hamidu Rahamn. Finally figure out why every time he touches the ball I get a little hungrier. Man, were Ramen noodles the best dinner in college or what? Wow, I miss college. Almost as much as I miss eating dinner.

8:28 PM: There is an attractive group of female students in front of me dressed in their finest clothes. I ask the security guard about them. Apparently they are paid to schmooze with recruits. I hope Lane Kiffin is reading this. Turns out you just have to call it "schmoozing." Crisis averted. Looks like I just saved the Vols recruiting class.

8:31 PM: With 10 seconds remaining in the half and five seconds left on the shot clock, Bruins PG Malcolm Lee seems to misread the clock and starts to kill time seemingly not realizing the Aggies will regain possession before time expires. The crowd - and coaching staff - try to inform him using various expletives not suitable for this blog to no avail. This seems to be a fitting way to end the half.

8:32 PM: Halftime. UCLA 47, New Mexico State 26.

8:34 PM: The halftime entertainment is the LA Clippers "Chairmen", a wheelchair basketball team. The crowd is far more into this than they are for the actual game. Only a few people leave their seats. Probably because this is the best basketball the crowd will witness tonight.

8:38 PM: Security guard asks me if I recognize an elderly woman across the way. I do not. He insists it's John Wooden's sister and informs me that she is a fixture at most home games. Before I revel at how great she looks for 90+, I remember having read that Wooden's two sisters died during his childhood. I decide not to say anything and let him carry on about how close he is with her.

8:40 PM: Security guard decides to introduce me to his friends, who promptly come and sit with us. If anyone was watching this game on FS West, I was the girl who looked like she was going to pull her hair out while scrambling to take any kind of notes I could.

8:42 PM: Observe UCLA coach Ben Howland on the sidelines during halftime warmups. He has really mastered this LA-cool demeanor. Probably been hanging out with Phil Jackson. But not Jerry Buss. Or his kids. They are still nowhere to be found.

8:49 PM: New Mexico opens the second half with a "Not-Top-Ten" worthy moment as they pass the ball out of bounds and into the stands. Don't let me down, Hannah Storm. This needs to be on TV.

8:55 PM: The Aggies are making every Bruin look like John Wall. This is just getting sad.

8:57 PM: Security guard touches my leg and asks me if I want to go to the museum with him tomorrow. Well, that settles that. This is officially the most unprofessional moment at an event I have ever attended. And I have covered 'Celebrity Boxing.' With Jose Canseco. And Michael Lohan.

8:58 PM: Feel sufficiently awkward enough and decide I have to leave my seat. For the sake of my mental sanity. Politely tell security guard that I'm leaving. He tells me he can't wait to read my blog. Bet he feels differently now.

8:59 PM: Decide to sit in the very back row of the arena for the remaining 15 minutes of the game. Walk by the press area en route. There are approximately 10 empty seats. Wonder again why I wasn't allowed to sit there.

9:05 PM: Settle in the back row of Pauley Pavillion. I've never been so happy to be alone in my entire life.

9:09 PM: Discover I'm much better suited to hang with the working class crowd and realize that sitting by potential relatives of semi-famous people isn't all it is cracked up to be.

9:10 PM: Gotta love LA fans. Show up halfway through the first half and leave halfway through the second. There's probably a big party at Les Deux tonight. Make mental note to check people.com when I get back to my hotel.

9:11 PM: Airball by New Mexico State. Crowd starts obligatory "airball" chant. But the chant is abruptly stopped as the Aggies steal the ball back. New Mexico State may not be very good at basketball but they sure do know how to silence a crowd.

9:12 PM: Camera scans the crowd during a timeout. At most games, people always seem shy when they get on the big screen, but not in LA. In this town, it's more like an audition tape.

9:16 PM: There really isn't a bad seat at Pauley Pavilion. This is potentially the only nice thing I will write about this experience.

9:17 PM: Correction, I have two nice things to say. Notice the concession stands are open until the very end of the game. I respect that.

9:29 PM: Game Over. UCLA 100, New Mexico State 68. Man that game was ugly. UCLA may have won this game but I don't think there were any winners here tonight. Not UCLA. Definitely not New Mexico State. Certainly not me. And most definitely not the woman pretending to be John Wooden's sister.

9:40 PM: Leave Pauley Pavillion with hopes of finding a cab. Ninety minutes later I come to the conclusion that it would be easier to get cast on a VH1 reality show than to catch a cab in LA.

11:15 PM: Realize I'm not suited for Los Angeles. But I bet you figured that out about 15 minutes ago.