To live and suffer in L.A.

11 09 2010

Last night, I watched Straight Outta L.A., the documentary Ice Cube narrated and directed for ESPN’s 30-for-30 series. While it was a solid effort, it wasn’t on the level of Without Bias, Winning Time or The Two Escobars. It still had a big impact on me, though. I grew up in Los Angeles, from when I was born in early ’83 until I moved to Montana in late ’96. The doc reinforced to me what a weird time it was to live in L.A. during those years.

I didn’t start paying attention to sports until ’89 and not on a full-time basis (watching SportsCenter, reading the L.A. Times sports section, watching Dodgers/Lakers games) until ’90. To think of what a mess the sports scene was in that city from ’90-’96 is pretty disheartening.

The Dodgers did make the playoffs in ’95 and ’96, getting swept on both occasions, but most of the early ’90s were frustrating. Daryl Strawberry returned to his hometown in ’91 with a $25M deal, but he was never the dynamic player he had been with the Mets in the ’80s. Pedro Martinez was traded to the Expos in ’94 for Delino Deshields after spending an impressive rookie year in the bullpen. Sure, we had five straight Rookies of the Year in Eric Karros-Mike Piazza- Raul Mondesi-Hideo Nomo-Todd Hollandsworth from ’92-’96 but the Dodgers were never electrifying like they were the four previous decades.

The Lakers lost the ’91 Finals and it was downhill from there. Magic’s sudden retirement from HIV was as depressing for the L.A. sports base as anything that happened before it. The Lakers won 43, 39 and 33 games in the three seasons following Magic Man’s departure and it wasn’t until the Kobe/Shaq Era began in the summer of ’96 that a new dynasty would form. Of course, I moved in December and could only watch it unfold from afar.

The Kings made the Stanley Cup in ’94 and Wayne Gretzky became the NHL’s all-time points leader, but it was hockey. It was a temporary distraction for a city starved for a championship. And, of course, the Rams and Raiders moved from L.A. by ’95. This isn’t to mention that the USC and UCLA football teams weren’t competing for national championships. Only UCLA’s fantastic run to a men’s basketball title in ’95 gave the city a championship they were dying for.

It was a weird first part of the decade for more than just sports. We had the ’92 Riots in South-Central. I was far away from that living in the Valley but it gripped the whole city. The Northridge earthquake in January ’94, a 6.9er which was NOT fun to be apart of, made us all realize the danger of living in a city constructed over a major fault line. We had a huge number of wildfires that summer in the L.A. basin which cast a cloud of smoke over the Valley. We were advised not to go outside for a couple days at one point. Then, we had the O.J. murder case from’94-’95. It seemed like L.A. was always in the news for something negative. Fortunately, my naivety as a young dude prevented me from realizing how damn weird it was to be an Angelino at that time. Straight Outta L.A. brought back those memories.

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