I claim almost everything LA. It’s where I grew and continue to still grow up. Went through private and public schools here from Pico Elementary to Our Mother Good Counsel to Loyola High School to UCLA to Cal State Long Beach. I’ve got ties to all parts of Los Angeles, from Long Beach to the San Fernando Valley from Monterey Park to Santa Monica.
Chicago I barely know anything about other than what I saw in Family Matters, Home Alone, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I only revisited Chicago once back in ’09 via road trip, which I wrote about on this very website while in transit. I even dropped a poem.
However, I have a deep dark secret: I like all sports teams that are Chicago. Chicago Bears, Chicago Cubs, Chicago Blackhawks, and most notably, the Chicago Bulls. The team whom I still follow, somewhat unwillingly, and nowadays see my fandom as an addiction rather than some kind of badge of honor.
I was made aware that June 12th marked 20 years ago that the Chicago Bulls won their first NBA championship.
I could’ve just as easily been a Lakers and all things Los Angeles fan, but here’s why it didn’t happen.
20 years ago around this time of the year. Los Angeles, CA. In the neighborhood known as Los Feliz.
7 years old.
Life consisted of video games, television, and my attendance at the church and Catholic school down the street from us.
I only remember really interacting with a few friends from school, my “cousin” Cheryl and her family (who’d also moved from Chicago), and my parents.
The Ninja Turtles Arcade game for the Nintendo was a guide for my love of pizza and first-hand experience of what New York City looked like during Winter. Super Mario Bros 3 I felt was unconquerable without the help of the San Diego kid video game genius, Mikey, also known as a Bugle Boy according to my mom. I so badly wanted to be a motherfuckin’ Bugle Boy.
The TV life was dominated by whatever I wanted to watch, and usually that meant Nickelodeon. We didn’t know what Cable TV was back then, but somehow the last renters of the apartment we lived in left the cable. We plugged it in and it was a whole other world that we would not be able to live without through each of the 3 other places we would move.
Suddenly, we had all these channels and Nickelodeon, the kids channel was one of them. Had shows mostly of real people like Wild N Crazy Kids with Annette Chavez, Donnie Jeffcoat, and Omar Gooding and did lots of stuff that I wish I could do. They had this show called “Welcome Freshman.” Particular to that show was a “historian” who would become my referent for what a “historian” was for years — white, British-English, proper, smug.
They also had this one show called “Hey Dude”, about some kids on a ranch, playing cowboy. For some reason I liked Brad, a brown-haired girl, and Melody, some blonde. Ted, the main protagonist young guy seemed like douchebag. I was always wondering where the hell they picked up the dark guy, “Danny” or Joe Torres” or whatever cause he looked nothing like any of the other characters — for “some reason”, I don’t know what, he was the one I related to.
I remember waiting for the premiere of the “Nicktoons”, that is Doug, Rugrats, and Ren & Stimpy — that was the first time the TV network for kids, Nickelodeon would have their “own” cartoons.
So I wasn’t really watching sports at all as a 7-year old. Tabula rasa so to speak. That is a blank slate, open to anything anyone told me.
School was where I spent most of my time.
However, everything about the school year just kinda whirred by. I can only recall traces of things.
Ridiculously tall teacher. She reminded me of Big Bird. I remember her mentioning that she was 6 feet tall. She even had ridiculously gigantic children, especially her son, who said that he was 20 years old. The girl sang an Amy Grant song. I know I had an art class. I remember in daycare this kid named Matthew threw a marker my way; his way of saying we should be buddies. I remember this kid named Erik tying my shoe; I didn’t know how to tie it, while I rubbed his head. I remember that I couldn’t wait to get the Filipino teacher in 2nd grade.
I also remember that my parents invited a bunch of my lil friends to my house for my birthday. We went to Disneyland the next day, May 11th. Mighta been with Cheryl too.
One of the last things I remember about that year though recycles and resonates as if it happened yesterday.
Especially in a time when NBA basketball and sports following has exploded, Michael Jordan is still relevant as ever, I’m still in Los Angeles, the Chicago Bulls have another MVP, the Lakers are in the decline.
I was sitting in front of a class after a restroom break. Everyone was just talking.
Behind me a girl named Kat with chubby cheeks and gold teeth.
Prior to this interaction, there’d been a bit of a fissure at home. My placid, calm home life of Nickelodeon, Ninja Turtles, and Pac-Man had suddenly been overcome with Chicago Bulls fever. I didn’t get it.
But somehow they were pitted against each other, Chicago vs. Los Angeles.
Eh, well, I guess I’d root for the hometown Los Angeles Lakers. That’s where we were now and I couldn’t remember much from my time in Chicago. Or so I thought.
My mom though intervened, “I was in Chicago since 1978, that’s where you were born!”
“So?!” This was unexpectedly offensive to me. It felt as if she didn’t like where we were now. By going for Chicago, it was like she didn’t like the placid life we were living now: she hated my little friends, she hated my school, she hated our apartment. Most appallingly, she hated Cheryl!
I cried when my mom and dad were cheering and laughing off my reaction, this was some serious shit! They were declaring their hate for LA so loudly and proudly!
So back to this moment in the classroom with Kat.
There was some a mini-discussion about “who we thought was going to win the Finals?” There were at least 2 or 3 other people subtly in the discussion and there was a mass of consensus that thought the Lakers were going to win.
Kat declared with a smile and a clinging of her gold teeth, “I think the Lakers are going to win.”
Ewww, she liked the Lakers? Her?
Disgusted by the ease with which she declared victory, I knew something that she didn’t. I felt like she was dissing my family who happened to like Chicago. I’d show her.
“No, the Bulls are going to win.”
“The Lakers have Magic!”
“So? The Bulls are going to win, they got Michael!” I clung onto that until whenever the argument ended.
I raised my head a little bit higher that day. I guess I could finally side with my mom and dad.