HENDEL: Always at home with the Lakers

For those of you who don’t know, either because you don’t like basketball or the NBA or fun — yet you’re still reading this, I’m impressed — Jerry Buss, the longtime owner of the Lakers, passed away this past Monday. The man who had created the modern basketball team lost his fight to cancer after watching the team he built flounder for the past four months. And “flounder” is putting it nicely. In layman’s terms, they’re the worst. Yes, you heard it from me, a lifetime Lakers fan, the kindergartner who said she dreamt of being a Lakers girl, the girl who has been sitting in the same seat at the Staples Center since it first opened. The Lakers suck. And it’s heartbreaking.

But I’ve had people on campus with whom to lament this season. They’re people who will text me after a big win or comment on my #sadgirl status after a big loss — though at this point it’s not so “big” as tedious. These friends have turned into my go-to supportive shoulders for all things Lakers. They don’t mock my indignation at passing on coach Phil Jackson for Mike D’Antoni or dismiss my animosity towards the Clippers. They get it. Our friendship has solidified into a mutual understanding that we all love this dismal team. And that’s it. It brings us together.

We all come from different places — Yalies, that is. That’s part of our charm and appeal. We’re this diverse student body with different backgrounds and points of view and opinions — you can quote me here, Admissions Office. It’s definitely enlightening and broadens your horizons. I mean, I hate nature, but my new favorite class is about wilderness because of the perspectives in the class that are so different from my own. And though a decent-enough size of the Yale student body is from Los Angeles, I’m only really close to a handful. Instead, I have friends from places where the Lakers never even travel to play, and that’s exciting.

I never expected to get homesick in college. I don’t think that is even the right term to use because I’m not “homesick” — I’m commonality-sick. I sometimes miss being able to share the familiarity of home with my peers. Yes, by being here, we are all developing a new common interest. We can make Yale jokes for the rest of our lives, and every one of us will laugh at the punch line. But our old commonalities with family, home friends, friends that we cultivated for literally a lifetime (a short one, but hey, we’re young!), sometimes seem irrelevant on campus.

Whenever I see someone with whom I can share my little bit of home with, I jump at the chance. It’s not that I don’t want to know more about their lives or problems or anything. It’s just at this point, I don’t know if I see my Lakers buddies as people anymore. I see them as a part of home, the part that traveled to this cold and frigid and very not-LA locale to entertain my need to have some attachment to a place 3,000 miles away. Everyone should find their thing — the one that connects them to home.

With these Yale friends made in Laker-love, I don’t have to rely on talking on the phone to my basketball-fanatic family or Laker-crazed-sometimes-Clippers-crazed-but-we’ll-ignore-that home friends to discuss Jerry Buss’ unfortunate passing or Kobe’s new dedication to the art of the assist. I don’t have to rely on the guys at Au Bon Pain for talk about Metta World Peace’s deep-seated anger issues or how awe-inspiring Dwight Howard’s shoulders are despite his disappointing stats. Regardless of the Lakers’ truly painful season and Kobe’s optimism that we will make the playoffs, I will always have something to gripe about — or maybe soon cheer about — with my Yale-grown Lakers friends.

Though we might not personally be the closest, they afford me something no one else on campus can: a sense of home here and friends I never had to try to make, who always share my purple-and-gold tears.

Sara Hendel is a junior in Davenport College. Contact her at sara.hendel@yale.edu .

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