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But as Leiweke looks out the window of his third-floor office, something is missing. Southwest of Staples Center is the outdated Los Angeles Convention Center, the proposed site of Farmers Field, a 72,000-seat football-only stadium that could bring the NFL back to L.A. for the first time since 1994. The naming rights have been sold, the memorandum of understanding with the city passed, the 10,000-page environmental impact report submitted. AEG is hoping to have a deal with a team and a shovel in the dirt next spring.
"I don't think it is lost on Roger Goodell and the NFL owners what is going on," Leiweke says. "I don't know if it's a showcase or a defining moment or an exclamation point, but we have a chance to prove what we have been saying for years: 'Of course football should be here. We have the infrastructure. We are built for this.'"
On April 28, the MTA unveiled the Expo Line on the city's light-rail system, a crucial pillar of the infrastructure, and 26-year-old Jessica Truex took it that day. It was the first time she'd ever ridden anything resembling a subway. Truex grew up in the San Fernando Valley. Her mother worked for the Kings. Her father was a season-ticket holder. They were introduced after a game by a bartender at the old Forum Club. Truex and her boyfriend, Roy Nwaisser, drove 13 hours round-trip to watch the Kings win Game 2 of the conference finals in Phoenix.
And now they ride the Expo Line, having traveled to Staples Center in their Kings jerseys for Game 3. ("We won't drive anymore," Truex says.) Less than two minutes into the third period, with the Kings and the Coyotes tied at 1, center Trevor Lewis digs a puck out of the corner. From his belly he shovels it to the aptly named Dwight King, who unleashes a wrist shot that gives the Kings their eighth consecutive playoff win and a 3--0 series lead. They are one victory away from their first Cup finals since 1993, and in Suite A28 the players from that '93 team try not to cheer.
"You try to be cool," says Luc Robitaille, watching with Tony Granato, Mike Donnelly and Rob Blake. Robitaille is now a club president, pitching free agents on hockey in L.A. "People ask about the market, but we've got guys who came from Philadelphia and tell me they never heard noise like they've heard here," he says. "You can't convince me this is a bad hockey town." Because of basketball, though, the Kings will not play again until Sunday. "Sixty hours rest," Sutter announces, "unless somebody is in that bike race."
FRIDAY, MAY 18: THE AMBASSADOR
Magic Johnson stands next to home plate at Dodger Stadium in a three-piece suit while centerfielder Matt Kemp shows him how to hold a bat. Johnson, it turns out, hits lefthanded but uses a righty's grip. "He owns a baseball team," Kemp marvels, "and he doesn't know how to hold a bat."
Johnson arrived in Los Angeles in 1979, and one of the first people he met was Tommy Lasorda, who had taken the team to the World Series in '77 and '78. "The Dodgers were everything," Johnson says. "They were on the front page. The Lakers were on the third page. I won't even tell you where the Kings were. Tommy wanted me to make the Lakers more like the Dodgers." Johnson would shoot at the Forum in the morning, go to Dodger Stadium for afternoon games and then back to the Forum to play at night. He left tickets for Steve Garvey and Ron Cey, Dusty Baker and Bill Russell.
Now with the Dodgers, Johnson will emulate the Lakers. After he was introduced this month as the point guard in the team's new ownership group, which bought the franchise for a record $2.15 billion, he left a package for every player in the home clubhouse: two Lakers jerseys autographed by Johnson. One was a gift. The other was to be given to a charity.
"When fans fall in love with their teams, it's not just because they're winning," Johnson says. "It's also because they are part of their community. That's where we lost our way a little bit. We need to embrace this community again." After the hitting tutorial, Kemp rides an elevator to the top deck behind home plate. He walks the concrete steps, the hazy skyline at his back, and then stops by the gift shop for an impromptu photo session with fans.