Pledging Pelicans Allegiance

Published: April 17, 2015

I love New Orleans. Truly. Deeply. I’ve lived down here since 2004 when I was an 18-year-old freshman at Tulane. I’m 29 now. Those 10-plus years are more formative in shaping who I am now than the 18 spent in my hometown of Los Angeles. I may not be from New Orleans originally, but there is no doubt it is where I am from.

I identify as a New Orleanian. Not as a Los Angeleno who lives in New Orleans–as I would once tell people when I was out of town–and it’s been that way for a while. I’ve embraced everything about this city. My girlfriend is from Louisiana. My friends are lawyers and realtors and accountants in this community. I’ve picked up words like “y’all”, and how to catch the best throws during parade season. It’s to the point where I prefer to staycation down here rather than fly out west. But one Los Angeles aspect, until this season, stayed with me.

I was a Lakers fan first and foremost.

Don’t hate me just yet. The Pelicans/Hornets have been second. But, no matter what, I identified as a Lakers fan if you asked me. My dad loves the Lakers. My brother loves the Lakers. They are my hometown team. Those are not bonds easily broken.

My first year of season tickets (2010-2011) I wore my Kobe Bryant shirt brazenly in the season ticket holder beer garden when the two teams met. You may have even heckled me while in there. When I started covering the team for a different site, I wore regular non-Lakers clothes to the games out of respect. I didn’t wear then-Hornets colors either, but secretly, below my expressionless demeanor, I was rooting for Purple and Gold.

Then, after the lockout, it happened one game. Sitting in my season seats in 309, wearing a dress shirt and blazer, a writer for this site, I found myself clapping after Robin Lopez made a basket. It was unconscious; I didn’t mean to do it. And I felt confused, conflicted. I couldn’t tell if I liked what I had done. But I can tell you I didn’t hate it. That was the game where the then-Hornets blew, like, a 20-point lead to the Lakers. Normally, as any fan would, I’d have been thrilled with the comeback. But I left the arena angry that night.

In the end maybe it was inevitable I would start feeling this way. Just how it’s inevitable you’ll fall in love with New Orleans once you’ve lived here for a bit. As I followed this team closer than any other before I’ve found my one last tie to Los Angeles loosening.

I’ve thought a lot about the turning point for me. What caused my change in allegiance? I’d held on so long, why is it now my collection of Pelicans gear dwarfs that of their counterpart? Why was I secretly clapping when I used a press credential? We’re supposed to remain neutral on press row. And I think I’ve uncovered the exact moment things changed.

Go back to the lockout. Back to the “I’m In” campaign. The then-Hornets goal was to sell 10,000 full season tickets, or a combination of equivalents. No easy task when we didn’t know how much of the season would even be played. Part of the marketing would be people opening their homes to have ticket parties. Let the team provide food and drink, send some ticket reps and a front office executive to try and talk people into buying season tickets. The goal was 100 parties.

I went to one of the parties at our own Joe Gerrity’s house. I expected to hear a pitch about how fun the games are, the beer garden, and other benefits. The then-team president Hugh Weber addressed the crowd. And not one bit of that come off his lips.

Weber first started by being stunned at the attendance. He wasn’t entirely sure how this party was going to turn out. The people at this event were not friends, or neighbors, or coworkers. The group was made up of readers from the site. From twitter followers. From people we met at the grocery store. Or our favorite bar. We were all more familiar with everyone’s twitter handle instead of their first names.

Weber was surprised. He couldn’t believe there was this community out there that supported the team in this manner. Here was a group of people who really didn’t know each other, covering all walks of life, coming together, talking, interacting, sharing stories, and spending their hard earned money to help the team reach it’s ticket goal.

And it was that one word Weber kept mentioning: Community.

I think about how all of us are impacted by the Pelicans. Our own Mason Ginsberg is one of my closest friends. He’s helped me through some very personally difficult times. And I never would have met him without New Orleans basketball. That is truly something special.

It’s a great moment when you’re walking your dog down the block or walking into a place to grab lunch while wearing your favorite red Pelicans shirt and you see someone wearing a hat with the team’s logo on it. You make some eye contact, give a nod followed by a quick passing compliment on what they are wearing. But you know they are thinking the same exact thing as you: Was the best play from last night’s game the Anthony Davis block? Or that Tyreke Evans spin move that froze his defender? No, it was, without a doubt, the Eric Gordon 3-pointer which gave the team the lead. Yeah, you right!

It’s the shared experiences, the shared passions that make up the heart of this Pelicans community. And isn’t that what we all love in New Orleans? The shared passion we have for what makes this city unique? Just like beignets, crawfish, Jazzfest, pick-whatever-you-want, Anthony Davis is unique to this city. And everyone has at least two more home games to cheer him on.

I’m excited to see the passion of my fellow fans at the Smoothie King Center. I’m excited for this community to embrace the Pelicans and professional basketball. And even though I’ll have on some fancy shoes and a nice jacket while covering the game you can bet I’ll be cheering on the inside just as loudly as anyone else.

And I’ll never cheer for any other team again.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.