My brother Bob started working at In-n-Out Burger when he was 18, and over 20 years later he is a big shot regional manager. One of the perks of his job is access to the corporate VIP suite at Staples Center, the home of three LA pro sports teams. Saturday morning he called me and asked if I wanted to join him at the Spurs-Clippers game seven playoff match at Staples that evening. Well yes, I would, and I drove up and met him.
After parking for free in the VIP parking garage right next to the arena, we (three of us total) entered through the shortest line and joined the other In-n-Out people in the suite to watch the game, which turned out, by general consensus, the best game anyone had ever seen personally. After a first quarter Spurs scoring spurt, the Clippers came back and the entire rest of the game neither team could ever lose the other. Back and forth the slim lead switched hands, each basket, each rebound, each turnover taking on immense seemingly game-changing significance. Each three-pointer by the Clippers (and there were many of them, like the one at the half-time buzzer that put the Clippers ahead) was met with an immense roar from the crowd. To top it off, Chris Paul, the star and leader of the Clippers, scored the winning basket with less than a second left in the game. Game, series, mayhem.
Bob had mentioned that some in-laws of his had called earlier in the day offering him two tickets to that night’s Dodgers game. Of course the playoff game took precedence, but he kept an eye on the score of the Dodger game, which started an hour after the Clippers. When the basketball game ended, the Dodgers were losing something like 4-3 in the sixth. In about twenty minutes we pulled into the Dodger Stadium parking lot.
The lady at the parking gate asked us why we were so late. “We were at the Clippers game” and we showed the free red Clipper playoff t-shirts we were wearing. “Oh! That was a great game! I was listening to it on the radio!” My brother told her about the winning shot, then she let us through without paying.
Arriving so late in the game, the parking people barely paid attention to where we went, so my brother pulled right into the season ticket parking right next the left field entrance, finds a space, and parks. We don’t have any tickets, two were inside the stadium and we had to buy another, but we come to the gates, and they are wide open and almost deserted, with only a couple of distracted attendants. With Bob leading the way, we just walked right on in like nothing, Bob talking on his phone to his in-laws describing what was happening, and me saying “did we just do that?” to his friend.
We walked to where the in-laws had the seats. Field level, about a dozen rows back behind first base, and their entire row was empty. Perfect seats. The Dodgers were still losing, but then Joc Pederson, the exciting Dodger rookie centerfielder, hit a home run to tie it up, then they added a couple more on to win the game. As my brother noted, it was the perfect amount of baseball, enough to see the Dodgers come back and win.
As my brother, his friend and I walked through the stadium to leave, people would see our Clippers shirts and cheer us, like we were the Clippers. Both LA teams had won and everyone was happy, but maybe no one more than us three. We started adding everything up. Free Staples parking, free VIP suites at a Clippers series clinching playoff game, free season ticket parking at Dodger Stadium. Free seats at a game the Dodgers won, all in one night. “That was the best free sports day ever!” I said. And they agreed.