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Photo Credit: Trendsmap

WWJD #27: Dodgers and Lakers Recreate ’88

www.FranchiseSportsMedia.com

 

In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened. – Vin Scully

 

2020 has been the worst for many people, myself included. From the death of Kobe Bryant to COVID-19 to the unexpected death of my 19-year old son Joey and four other friends passing away, it has been one that I will not forget, no matter how hard I want to or try to. But I believe in the power of positivity, and no matter what, God doesn’t put things in your life that you can’t handle. So on that note, from a sports team standpoint, I am having a GREAT year! The Lakers and Dodgers are both world champions, and the Packers are off to a great start.

What the Lakers and Dodgers did was take me back to 1988, when both teams won titles, and Los Angeles was “Titletwon USA.” I was 11-years old in 1988. My family and I had just moved from the house I lived in since I was 4-years old to an apartment complex on the other side of Upland, California. I played winter baseball, basketball, and football and spent my nights watching the Lakers and Dodgers. My weekends were spent watching games if I wasn’t playing in them.

 

Let’s flashback to 1988.

 

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Photo Credit: LA Times

On Tuesday night, the Los Angeles Dodgers captured their seventh World Series after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays. This happened sixteen days after the Lakers won their NBA record-tying seventeenth title. For me, this is a recreation of 1988, the last time both teams won titles in the same year.

Truth be told, growing up, I wasn’t a “die-hard” Dodgers fan. I was actually a bigger fan of players, especially the Reds’ Eric Davis, but I still rooted for L.A. since I had the pleasure of listening to Vin Scully daily on T.V., and I hated the Angels. But watching them as often as I did, I started to really dig the Dodgers. Kirk Gibson was a badass who played the game like a football player, and Orel Hershiser had one of the most dominant pitching seasons I have ever seen.

But that year, the Oakland A’s were baseball’s bad boys led by the Bash Brothers, Jose Canseco, and Mark McGwire. They also happened to be the best team in baseball while the Dodgers came into the year without the A’s expectations. I did really like that team, though. They were a cast of misfits who were a blue-collar group and just wanted to play ball for Tommy Lasorda, who I loved. I secretly wished Eric Davis was on that Dodgers’ team to go completely “all in” as a Dodgers fan, but that didn’t change how I felt; I wanted them to win the World Series. Los Angeles was home.

 

But the Lakers were another story. I loved the Showtime Lakers led by Magic, Kareem, and Big Game James!

 

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Photo Credit: LA Times

I couldn’t wait for the Lakers to play on KCAL, Channel 9! Hearing Chick Hearn’s voice, watching Magic dribble drive with a no-look pass to Big Games James for the “SLAAAAMM DUNK” (in my Chick Hearn voice), or Kareem with the sky-hook. They were the returning NBA Champions and were the heartbeat of Southern California.

The Lakers have always been the heartbeat of L.A. They actually embody everything that Los Angeles is. They are superstars that get all the love and spotlight, but they also work hard behind the scenes to put out the best possible product on the court. This started at the top with Dr. Jerry Buss and carried over to Chick Hearn, GM Jerry West, head coach Pat Riley, and Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and the rest of the Lakers players and staff.

Damn near every night they were must-see T.V., and I didn’t miss a minute of it.

 

But the Dodgers and Lakers teams of 2020 had more to deal with than those teams and actually have more in common with each other then what the casual fan may realize.

 

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Photo Credit: Archysport

The Lakers needed a superstar, and LeBron James came to L.A. two years ago. Since they landed him, they wanted to add another superstar, and they finally acquired Anthony Davis in a trade last June. The Dodgers had a superstar in Clayton Kershaw, but they needed his counterpart to lead the offense. They tried Manny Machado, who didn’t work, and they tried to get others to no avail. Finally, in January, the Dodgers acquired Mookie Betts from the Boston Red Sox, in what may go down as the deal of the century for L.A.

Both teams have been trying to get over the hump, although the Lakers were going through the worst seven-year stretch in team history. The Dodgers were seven-time defending NL West Division champions but lost in the World Series three times. Both fan bases had enough and were letting the organizations know that it isn’t cool having the two teams that define L.A. going so long without hardware.

The Lakers and Dodgers embody Hollywood. Mookie and A.D. are just what each team needed. They are charismatic, flashy, and arguably the best at what they do. They both also fit their new teams like a glove. Mookie provided leadership, a fresh approach, and the voice the Dodgers needed to hear and respect. A.D. was the missing piece to the Lakers. His size and skill set are unmatched in the NBA and fit perfectly with LeBron.

 

But on January 26th, the City of Angles lost our icon and gained the biggest angel in Los Angelino’s eyes when Kobe, his daughter GiGi, and seven others tragically passed away.

 

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Photo Credit: Dodgers Blue

It was a gut punch to every person in L.A. Kobe was beloved by all, and the city was hurting. Players and coaches from both organizations felt the pain, and the players felt a new pressure: Los Angeles needed their heritage teams, the two teams that mean the most to the city, to win their sport’s respective titles.

Soon there-after, COVID-19 hit, and the sports world stopped. No one knew if there would be a season in any sport, and early on, many didn’t care, except the players. The players wanted to play under the right conditions, and once those were ironed out, it was go-time for the leagues. The NBA bubble was a success, and, even though many were skeptical (myself included), Major League Baseball had a plan in place. L.A. could finally have its chance to recreate ’88.

The NBA’s season restarted, and the Lakers sputtered into the playoffs. No lie, I was concerned. But once the postseason started, the Lakers showed why they were the best team in the NBA. The purple and gold breezed through the Western Conference and, in six-games, defeated the Miami Heat. LeBron and A.D. showed why they are the NBA’s best duo since Shaq and Kobe, and the NBA’s order was finally back to where it should be.

But the Dodgers were a different story. After eight years of frustration in the postseason, we were less certain despite having the best baseball record. But after the first two rounds of the MLB playoffs, I thought, “this could happen!” Then the Atlanta Braves had a different idea and took a 3-1 series lead, and the thought of another Dodgers’ postseason let down was definitely on my mind.

But the Dodgers showed the heart and fight of champions, led by Mookie and Corey Seager. They pounded the Braves pitching, and Betts made three series changing plays in the NLCS’s final three games to help make the comeback a reality and bring the Dodgers to just four games away from the dream.

 

The Dodgers finished off the Rays in six games and Los Angeles had their two iconic teams back as champions… and it feels great!

 

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Photo Credit: Dodger Blue

In 1988 I watched two of my favorite teams reach the pinnacle of their respective sports. I witnessed iconic players make plays that will forever be remembered as improbable and/or impossible. They overcame their own adversities and made the City of Angles proud. Each team was led by ultimate leaders who put winning titles at the forefront of their teams’ minds. Nothing else would be accepted, and anything less would be considered a failure.

The same can be said for the 2020 versions of the Lakers and Dodgers. They both overcame obstacles that many would not have been able to endure. They showed tremendous mental toughness and sacrifice. Their fans appreciate that, and we are eternally grateful.

My 11-year-old self showed up on Tuesday night. I was sitting on the edge of my seat, just like I did on that Saturday night when Kirk Gibson hit his game-winning home run. But this time, after Julio Urias struck out the Rays final batter, I cried, just like I did 16 days earlier when the Lakers won. I thought of my son Joey and how I wished he could see this since he was such a Dodger fan. I thought of Kobe and GiGi, and lastly, I thought of all of those die-hard Angelino sports fans who didn’t make it to see this moment. I’m left to one statement:

Thank you, Los Angeles Lakers and Dodgers. Thank you for healing a piece of L.A., your fans, and me.

 

I’m here to win some rings and bring some rings back to L.A.,Betts told the media on the day he signed his exension. And just like in the postseason, Mookie delivered.

 

Peace✌

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-Joe Arrigo – Franchise Sports Media

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