Staples Center Melee?

 —  November 22, 2004

Would it happen at the Staples Center? Could it?

Through the avalanche of coverage of the stupidity and lack of self control on display in Auburn Hills the other night, those and similar questions were the ones I kept asking myself. Could things get out of control like that Staples Center? Would fans near the court throw beer (or whatever) on players here in Los Angeles? Would fans run on the court here? Is there enough security at Staples?

My gut reaction is that it couldn’t happen here, but I’m not completely sold that is the case.

First off, I wouldn’t try to predict how Laker or other players would react at Staples if the situation arose, I don’t know them. The question we can probe more is would the players have been provoked in the same way here in L.A.?

I’d like to think that Laker fans wouldn’t act in the atrocious manner a handful of Piston fans did, but that’s based in part on me not being able to picture myself acting that way. There are plenty of liquored-up people sitting near the floor at Staples who possibly could lose it and throw the $8 Coors Light (of course, if those people get a drop of beer on Jack Nicholson they’ll never work in this town again).

I want to convince myself there are other reasons that Laker fans wouldn’t act that way. That starts with the overall perception that fans here in Los Angeles are a little more mellow than other parts of the nation. We love our teams, we fill the buildings, but we are not the “fanatics” that you see in other parts of the nation. And with that mellowness would come fans that are less likely to be as boorish as what we saw in Michigan.

Thing is, Los Angeles fans can act poorly. There were small riots after the Laker championships. And lest you think Los Angeles fans wouldn’t act that way during a game, remember the 1995 incident at Dodger Stadium where the Dodgers had to forfeit after fans pelted the field with baseballs following a disputed call.

Another factor is that it costs so much to sit near the floor at Staples (at least $130 to be close, $200 in the really good seats, and if you have to ask the price of court-side…) that people wouldn’t risk being tossed. People that pay that much are less likely to react physically, is my assumption underlying that thought. Problem is there is no proof to back that up — rich people are just as likely to be violent as any other people (just look at domestic violence numbers). Plus it isn’t cheap to sit near the floor for a Piston game ($115 to be on or near the floor, $85 in the next level up), and those people clearly can act like buffoons.

Another issue is security — there appears to be plenty at Staples near the court during games. (Laker officials said they did not add security for the Bulls game, insert your own joke here about nobody caring to show up for the Bulls game.) How good Laker security is in that situation is tough for me to judge, just because I’ve never seen it tested.

So, could it happen here? I’d still like to think it couldn’t, but…..