Angelenos like to be outside. We hike, shop, attend sporting events and concerts, and often just drive or walk around the city. All this had to be set aside for the greater good in 2020 and the year became one we will tell future generations about for years. But in the last months three events made Angelenos ignore the rules and take to the streets.
Lakers Win 17th Championship, October 11
The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat inside the NBA quarantine bubble to collect their 17th NBA Finals trophy. The Lakers are now once again tied for the most NBA championships with their heated rivals, the Boston Celtics.
The series lasted six games, and the fifth was the most intense of the matchup. Lebron James was having a monster game. He seemed determined to win that game for the purple and gold. At the other end of the court, Jimmy Butler was equally determined to do the same for his squad. In the fourth quarter, the two fatigued stars were trading shots like two boxers in the later rounds of a title match. Unafraid to attack the basket, Butler was fouled on a drive and made his free throws to give the Heat a 109-108 lead. James drove in at the other end but was met with bodies in the air and opted to pass out to an open Danny Green. Green’s shot was short and the Heat won the game 111-108.
After such a close game there is always a thought that it can fuel the winning team to victory in a series. That was not the case this time. In the next game, the Lakers pounced on the Heat from the start and never let go. Los Angeles went to the locker room at halftime with a 28-point lead. By the fourth quarter, it was all smiles on the Laker bench as the starters were pulled out of the lineup to watch the clock tick down. The Lakers returned to the top of the NBA on the year that began with the tragic loss of Kobe Bryant and ten years after Bryant led them to their last championship.
Since the game was over early, The area around Staples Center and Figueroa Street in particular quickly became the gathering place of choice. There were Kobe chants, Lakers colors, and fireworks. There were no riots like in previous years but one car doing doughnuts on Figueroa did come a little too close to those fireworks.
Dodgers Win World Series, October 27
In basketball, a team winning multiple championships is common. In baseball, a World Series championship is elusive—primarily because the season is long and grueling. Baseball was possibly the sport that changed itself the most because of COVID-19. That arduous 162-game season which usually begins in April was pushed to July and cut to only 60 games.
In the typical grueling season, injuries are guaranteed. In 2020, the season was meant to pass quickly and the biggest questions were about teams losing players who opted to sit out the season due to the dangers of COVID-19 or the possibility of players contracting the disease in the middle of the season. In the end, the two teams considered to be the best of their respective leagues made it to the World Series: The Tampa Bay Rays and our very own Dodgers.
The Dodgers entered game six with a 3-to-2-game lead. The series had gone back and forth with neither team winning two straight games. This was to be the Rays’ turn to win and force a game seven. Clayton Kershaw pitched the previous game and the Dodgers were saving their breakout pitcher, Walker Buehler, for game seven after he pitched a spectacular game three allowing only three hits and striking out ten batters.
Two batters in, the Rays’ Randy Arozarena smashed a ball into the right field stands to take a one-to-nothing lead. It remained this way until the sixth inning when the Dodgers picked up two runs in an exhilarating display of small ball that began with the controversial decision by Rays’ manager Kevin Cash to pull Blake Snell for allowing only his second hit of the game. The Dodgers have been guilty of over-managing games in previous years and it cost them dearly. This time, for once, they were on the receiving end of that managerial error.
Mookie Betts, who was integral to the sixth inning rally by moving Austin Barnes to third base and eventually scoring himself on an infield grounder, hit a solo home run in the eighth inning for insurance. But the closing innings of the game really belonged to the Dodgers’ Julio Urias who pitched the last two innings and struck out four players, including the final batter to give the Dodgers their first championship since 1988.
Sunset Boulevard was inundated with cars almost immediately. I could hear the honks from inside my house as my daughter and I were jumping for joy. I could not resist the urge to see it for myself. I donned a mask, grabbed my phone, and walked down to Sunset to witness the rare joyous L.A. traffic jam. The Dodgers have always been something special in Los Angeles. They have a unique bond with the city and especially the Latinx community. When they first arrived, they were seen as the reason behind the loss of communities that had existed where Dodger Stadium was to be erected. It was a source of tension for years. Fernando Valenzuela helped to heal the wounds and make the Dodgers feel like they were for every Angeleno regardless of race. It was fitting that for all the deserved praise given to Kershaw, Seager, and Turner leading up to the World Series, this night in our multi-cultural city belonged to Mookie Betts and Julio Urias.
Joe Biden Defeats Donald Trump, November 7
Election Day was Tuesday, November 3rd. There have been absentee ballots for a long time but this time around due to COVID-19, it was obvious there would be more mail-in votes than ever before. That first night consisted of mostly those votes entered at the polls on the third. Many of us went to sleep dejected feeling like the next four years would be a repeat of the ridiculous and hate-fueled administration we’d endured since 2016.
The following day, as states began to count the mail-in ballots, the national voice of the people started to become clear. Counters were meticulous and the results took days as we had been warned. Key states were still counting Friday night and we were within reason to think results would not come until the new week began.
We woke up early that Saturday. My wife had told the girls the night before we would pick up Coffee Bean drinks and pastries in the morning. It was she that reached for her phone first and noticed the notification. We rushed to the living room to turn on the television. Pennsylvania was called for Joe Biden and he was to become the next president of the United States. Donald Trump, the man who openly denounced People of Color in America, the man who alienated allies of the nation, the man who openly ridiculed people with disabilities, and the man who expressed that groups who stood for racism and oppression had “good people,” would not get a second term. The victory was not a landslide but it was decisive and it was the clear choice of the people. If you don’t believe it, all you have to do is recall the celebrations that broke out in the streets all around the nation—and even the world.
In order to get to the Coffee Bean as promised, my wife and I needed to cruise down Sunset Boulevard from Echo Park to Hillhurst Avenue. We could hear cars honking in the distance as we walked to the car. Once on Sunset, we witnessed the euphoria of that morning first-hand. There were throngs of people at every intersection celebrating with American flags and home-made signs denouncing Trump. The cars on the street were honking the entire way in the unified celebration. There was positivity all around Los Angeles. Even those who were not out strictly celebrating were in a better mood than before. It was a glimmer of hope for a brighter, more inclusive future that would begin in 2021.