“The secret to this job is personal relationships.”

Everyone should recognise the quote above as part of Jerry Maguire’s Mission Statement.  Possibly the best film every produced in my humble opinion, and one that made me re-assess what was important in my life.  I see myself in those opening scenes when Jerry agonises about what to write at 1am in the morning in his hotel room.  In fact I am sitting here tonight suffering from chronic jetlag after flying 12 hours west to Los Angeles and then thinking it was a great idea to go to watch the basketball.

Ah yes, the basketball.  I’d love to say that I have just been to see the mighty Lakers play, but I would be lying.  I screwed up my dates and as opposed to sitting in the Staples Center in Downtown LA watching one of the most expensive sporting teams ever put together alongside Jack Nicholson and Wesley Snipes play the Houston Rockets, I watched the LA Clippers play Milwaukee Bucks alongside Jack Osborne and Wesley from Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Not the first time such an incident has happened in my US sports spectating – I mean what is all this xyz @ abc business.  Home team go first in every country and every sport apart from the US.

So why am I in LA, you may ask.  Well as you will know from reading my musings that I am rarely in the UK during the week, spending my time normally in snowy Scandinavia.  This week I had been asked to attend a conference in Santa Monica on domain name speculation, cybersquatting and essentially how other people make millions of dollars by infringing on other people’s brands.  And what else is in LA?  The Galaxy, Universal, Hollywood and the Playboy Mansion…all on the agenda during the four days of meetings, presentations and auctions.  And there could even be an opportunity to meet Sophie Dee, the darling of the Inbetweeners.

So anyway back to this basketball thing.

The LA Clippers, of course didn’t start life as the LA Clippers.  Rather the Buffalo Braves back in 1970.  Support for the team was poor so they set the tone for the farce that is “expanding their support base” by playing games not only in a different city, but a different country as they went on the road to Toronto for home games. Then 8 years later it got a bit too chilly for them so they headed west to San Diego and became adopted by the local bus conductors and were renamed as the San Diego Clippers.  But again all was not well and attendances that would have made Leyton Orient fans wince saw them sold to some bloke in LA (this was in the days before eBay of course) for $20million.

The move hasn’t exactly brought much success, playing second fiddle to the Lakers from most of the past twenty odd years.  In fact the Clippers have only six times finished with a positive record over a season (82 games) in their history, including in one season a record breaking 12-70 record (i.e they won 12 and lost 70 games in a season).  This season things are looking up a bit.  They have a new set of cheerleaders apparently which was surely one reason to visit, but they also had a decent recent record at home, winning their last eight consecutive games and giving them hope of both a positive season (i.e winning more than they lose) as well as a slim shot of the playoffs with around 40% of the regular season still to go.

As I said earlier this seemed like a good idea.  On the map Santa Monica beach to Downtown LA looked no more than a mile or so.  In fact almost walkable.  But then this is America and I was reliably informed by the Concierge in the hotel that such a journey would be akin to trying to climb Everest in a nice pair of flipflops.

I enquired about a cab to take me the 8 miles that it was in reality but because of the rush hour, a term I am sure us Brits invented, I was quoted about $80 with a journey time of around 70 minutes.  “There is of course the local option” My man said, realising that he wasn’t going to get a tip out of booking me a cab “You could always get the bus”. He said the final part with a menacing laugh, the kind you used to hear all the time of Scooby Doo.  But when he realised I was serious he started to back track.  But I was convinced.  What better way to see some of the “back street” areas of LA than by local bus.  I mean I could always sit there with my map open, checking my emails on my Blackberry and listening to my iPod right?

I went back to my room, got as much info from the internet on how, where and when, put anything vaguely valuable in my pocket and headed off to get the Big Blue Bus to Downtown LA.

LA Clippers 105 Milwaulke Bucks 98 – The Staples Center – Monday 31st January 2011
Well, by writing this I am sure you can see I survived.  Instead of $80 I paid $2 and the journey time was no longer than that predicted by the hotel.  Sure we went through some “interesting” areas but on the whole it was no worse than the 161 from Woolwich Arsenal to Chislehurst on a Friday night.  Pretend to be asleep and if you do open your eyes do not make eye contact.

It is amazing, just like areas in London such as Notting Hill where the border between nice and not nice is often one street, who the neighbourhood changed quite quickly.  But this was an express route and so most of the way was on the freeway.  The buildings of Downtown LA loomed large as I hopped off the bus at Pico, just around the corner from the Staples Center and with only 30 minutes to go until “tip off” I was surprised that there were so few fans around.  Fast forward 24 hours when the Lakers would be at home and it would be a different story.

The game itself wasn’t bad.  The Clippers started well and raced into a 26-16 lead after the first period.  There were a few “slam dunks” that sent the 60% full arena wild, and of course as with most other US sports, the event production was faultless.  Music blared out and I even indulged in a Bud Lite (got to watch those calories as I ate my foot long hot dog), after of course proving I was indeed over 21.  The second and third periods were more even, with the Bucks trailing 73-77 after three quarters of the game.  And then it went seriously wrong for them as the Clippers scored eleven unanswered points and never really looked back.

The crowd went home happy as the Clippers set a record for the “best home win streak at the Staples” which apparently dates back nearly 20 years.  Next up for them would be a visit from the Chicago Bulls, once the most feared team in Basketball, on Wednesday night.  My evening was far from over.  I had to somehow get back to Santa Monica.  I had already been warned that hailing a cab around the Staples Center is tough, and with no more buses running back to the beach I had to head up towards Union Station for a taxi.  That involved crossing a couple of “intersections”.  They don’t say the Car is King in LA for nothing.  These intersections are wider than the M25 and at one I stood and waited for the crossing sign to change for 7 minutes!

Fortunately just as I was walking towards the Disney copy of the Guggenheim in Bilbao I saw a cab and jumped in.  Twenty minutes later I was sitting poolside at the hotel sipping a Blue Moon and catching up on the Deadline Day moves back in England.  Did I miss anything?

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