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Lakers

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There's no joy in Lakertown. But there's plenty of bliss in Barça-land. Yes, there are some L.A. Kobe Bryant fans who are just as down for Barcelona soccer star Lionel Messi.

I'm sure of this. OK, 99% sure. Last year at around this time, I started tailgating a car on the north Harbor Freeway right around where the L.A. Chamber Orchestra musicians stare at you and hand you their instruments. It was a three or four year-old Honda or Toyota with two large team stickers on the lip of the trunk: a Lakers' purple and gold sticker and a blue and burgundy sticker of the Barcelona soccer team. If I could only talk to the driver, I thought, did Pau Gasol hook you on the Lakers? Does Barcelona stand a chance against Manchester United on May 27th? Where do you and your friends watch the games? What do you think about both teams' unmet potential? (UC Riverside Professor Jennifer Doyle has a sharp take on this question.)

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I didn't talk to the driver. The closest I could get for now is my radio colleague Miguel Macias, a 33 year old-documentary producer who heads Youth Radio's L.A. operations. He grew up in the middle class El Prado de San Sebastian neighborhood of Seville. In junior high the basketball bug bit him hard. He'd satisfy his urge on a beat up asphalt court, with a net-less hoop that could have been imported from any U.S. big city urban neighborhood.

I'll remind you that Miguel is from the south of Spain and the Lakers's Pau Gasol is from the north east region of Catalunya, around Barcelona. That's a big deal in a country that's balkanized much more than anything we can imagine for this country. They're like oil and water, Boston and New Orleans. Miguel says that in Spain he'd hardly think of supporting a Barcelona team or athlete but as an expatriate Pau Gasol fires up his Spanish pride.

He doesn't remember any trash talking on the basketball court. So does that really make it a basketball game? At the time his teams were the Jazz, the Pistons, and the Hawks and he admired players like Stockton and Malone. It was the era before Michael Jordan's Saturn V-powerful takeoff. He says he gets so worked up watching a Lakers game now that he has to leave the room when they're behind. He can't take the pressure. Welcome to Lakertown Miguel.

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OK, Movie Miento moppets, ready for some extra credit? Here's a picture my photojournalist friend Armando Arorizo shot courtside at Staples Center last Tuesday. Lots of "brownie" points for identifying both people in the picture.

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