The Forum is a theater, air-conditioned and respectable. A place more for popcorn and Milk Duds than for passion. Anaheim is an outdoor Forum, an outdoor theater. The Coliseum and the Sports Arena are next-door neighbors. There always seems to be a lot of local complaining about the Coliseum and the Sports Arena. Wrong neighborhood. Wrong sight lines. Wrong something. I don't see the troubles. Put the arena and the stadium on an airplane and send them with me. They would be modern structures where I live. Even the neighborhood would be modern.
"Can you change a 10?" I ask the parking attendant at Anaheim.
"Have a nice night," he says as he passes the seven dollars through the car window.
He actually says that: "Have a nice night."
Westwood. I find the Los Angeles Tennis Center by accident. It is located on the UCLA campus. Three green hard-surface courts are surrounded by an amphitheater. An amphitheater for tennis on a college campus? I find a seat in the top row. I watch a lesson.
The teacher is a guy from UCLA with a blue hat and blue shirt and blue shorts and some high-powered sneakers. The student is an adolescent boy dressed in white. The teacher has a supermarket shopping cart filled with yellow tennis balls. How many tennis balls fit into a shopping cart? Two hundred? Three hundred? The teacher takes a ball and hits a softy, and the kid returns it. The teacher takes another ball and hits another softy.
"Move to the ball," the teacher shouts. "Don't wait for it...."
I have a fantasy that the lesson continues forever. The teacher hits balls for every minute of every hour of every day of every year. The student returns. Constant repetition. Come at any time of the year and the scene will be the same. Teacher and student. Hit and return.
Couldn't this be true? Never a touch of rain, tennis every day? Isn't this how Southern California sports life really is? Isn't there supposed to be tennis every day for the very best players, for the players with an obvious future?
This is where the athletes are developed better than anywhere else, watered and tended, taken to the state fair as if they were prize pumpkins. This is the ultimate athletic topsoil. Drive anywhere and you see the fields and the courts and the instruction. Baseball is played on Christmas, tennis on New Year's Eve, golf anytime at all. How does anyone who lives where I live have a chance?