April 13, 2011

Marcos Breton: Keep it Cool at King

Tonight might be the last game in the history of the Sacramento Kings. Emotions are running high. The Los Angeles Lakers are in town, and for good and ill, they have always inspired the most heated reactions from the faithful at Power Balance Pavilion.

Please. Remember what happened at Dodger Stadium on March 31. A Santa Cruz paramedic named Bryan Stow had sent text messages to family that he felt unsafe at the Opening Day game between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers.

After the final out, Stow was assaulted in the parking lot. Police said the attack was unprovoked and Stow may have suffered permanent brain damage from repeated blows to his head.

The backdrop to this heinous crime is a long-standing Northern California-Southern California sports rivalry.

In the context of Kings basketball, this rivalry is fun most of the time. It was thrilling in 2002, when the Kings and Lakers waged a memorable Western Conference Finals series that went the full seven games.

Each game got Super Bowl-like ratings in Sacramento and cemented a rivalry that got so heated, it was not uncommon to see on-court fights between the players and skirmishes in the galleries between fans.

In recent years, as the Kings' fortunes have sagged, a different element has taken root at the former Arco Arena.

Kings-Laker games have often seemed as if they were being played in Los Angeles. As the Kings have grown weaker on the court, Laker fans have become more obnoxious and aggressive in the stands.

It's not uncommon to hear guttural trash talking in the closed quarters of the men's rooms. It's routine to hear Lakers fans shout "Sacramento Queens," a taunting slur popularized by former Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal.

The concern here is that these things will happen tonight and some Sacramento fans, upset at the potential loss of their team, will strike back in anger and frustration.

It's not worth it.

Families will be at tonight's game with little kids in tow. Kings season ticket holders since Day One in 1985 will be there, too, in some cases with adult children who were raised at Arco Arena and on Kings basketball.

If tonight is the last Kings game ever, and I really hope it isn't, let's be respectful of the moment and of each other.

Walk away from stupidity. Enjoy the fellowship and go home safely.

Tonight will mean a lot. There are so many great memories in that old barn in Natomas. But when it's all said and done, it will just be a game to drive home from.

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