I was supposed to graduate from college in the summer of 2002. I say supposed to because guess who didn't end up graduating college in the summer of 2002? Unsurprisingly this reality did not sit particularly well with my parents. Their oldest son not graduating from a private, Catholic college after all these years of private, Catholic education. The reality also did not sit particularly well with me. I'd spent 4 years of relative freedom in Los Angeles (I'd attended Loyola Marymount University) and now, for the foreseeable future, I was going to be living on a couch at my parents' house in Carmichael. I'd note foreseeable future ended up being 4 years. In any case as a consequence the move out process was not without it's, uh, tensions, tensions beyond the tensions requisite of any move out process.
Loyola Marymount is near LAX, and if the Southwest Terminal at LAX is to the Southwest what Union Station in Manhattan is to the Northeast, Loyola was a reflection of that reality. Most of my friends were from places like Dallas, Phoenix, San Antonio, Los Angeles. All cities with basketball teams. All cities with, at that particular point, particularly good basketball teams. And so the playoffs became the highlight of graduation season, because it certainly wasn't going to be, you know, graduating. And the Kings were far better at playing basketball than I was at completing higher education. We, natives of places like Sacramento and Salt Lake and Dallas, watched as the Kings burned through the Jazz, handily dispatched the Mavericks, and closed out with the one non-academic bane of my Los Angeles existence, the Lakers, and their insufferable, front running fanbase. One of my roommates, and still close friends, is from Waco, Texas. I suppose as a sort of justification for having grown up in Waco, like the long night after the divorce is finalized, he decided he was entitled to like whatever teams he felt entitled to like, in this case the Rangers, Cowboys, and, logically, the Los Angeles Lakers. As good as those years were to Kings' fans, they were not necessarily good to Kings' fans living with Laker fans.
My family's trip to help me move was timed, coincidentally, to the first half of that 2001-2002 Western Conference Finals. My father had a panic attack the first night they were in town, which I rationalized had much less to do with me and much more to do with anxiety around the series. The next day he and I got into a shouting match that has since become an ongoing family joke, and we settled in that night to decompress and watch game 4 of that series. Didn't really work. Night ended with my Waco roommate preening after the Horry shot and my family, particularly my youngest brother, staring at each other dumbfounded. We left Los Angeles the next day. The departure felt ignominious.
Everything seems fatalistic at 22. Leaving college, leaving your friends, moving to Sacramento, moving to your parents' house in Sacramento, the Kings losing, the Kings losing to the Lakers. In retrospect none of it, short of that Horry shot, was really that traumatic, but this was new territory for all of us, and it felt traumatic. My father split season tickets with an old coworker and by luck of the draw he ended up with the seats for game 5 of that series. I don't think, for a variety of reasons that we are all entirely too familiar with, it's problematic to overstate the importance of sports, but it can be problematic to overstate the importance of one game. But not that game. Not that game at that place at that specific time in my life. Arco felt, before, but especially after Bibby hit that shot, like the warm center of the universe. At that moment there was legitimately no place else in the world I would have rather been. And while I fancy myself a pretty positive person I can say honestly I'm not sure how many times, if any, I've felt that way since. A feeling that this moment that's so intimately relevant to you and the people around you is equally relevant to the world at large.
My father and I have always been close. But that game, and the games in the years to come, at that place, drew us closer. Cut through the tension of my moving back, and staying, home. He was weirdly like a roommate. Just a roommate with a wife, and 2 other sons, and a job and a mortgage. Same with my youngest brother, who was almost in his early teens, that era when life is almost exclusively about sports and erections. (My middle brother is cool also. He just was in college at the time, less of a f*ck up, and not into sports. He's a priest now.) And those games, at that place, drew me closer to the city. At times, in those years after, everything in the universe felt far away. Arco made it all feel relatively close. It made me feel at home.
And I shared that home with LeBron James' NBA debut; Ron Artest's Arco debut; Mitch Richmond's jersey retirement; and the last Kings' home playoff win.
But the God's honest truth? I won't miss it. I won't mourn it. I won't pretend I'm sad to see it go. Arco was Sacramentan in spite of itself. An anachronistic eyesore between the airport and downtown that, after a point, started to personify all of the impersonal indifferences of the Maloofs and an era in Sacramento where the best restaurants in town were places like Piati and belonging to Del Paso Country Club was a thing. It wasn't the building, of course, but the people inside of it that made Arco matter. But those people figuratively, and in some cases literally, built the new stadium. Golden One Center is the physical manifestation of the emotional that Arco never was. It is a building that, by helping to define the Sacramento skyline, defines just how important this team is to Sacramento. It is Sactown Royalty in architectural form and function.
Of course in my never ending wisdom I decided to move back to Los Angeles just as it was being built. But when my family comes to rescue me once again, as they inevitably will, at least I know what my father and I will have to look forward to.*
*I don't actually plan on moving back. At least not back in with my parents. I'm 36. It was weird enough at 22. Plus they closed the Arby's by their house.