The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Photo of the Day: Jaded Lakers fan couldn't be bothered by Kobe's terrible tumble

April 18, 2011 | 12:49 pm

Kobe_bryant Have we really become a nation of distracted thumb-twiddlers? If you or I paid tens of thousands of dollars for our Lakers courtside seats, do you think we'd be texting or scanning email on our Blackberry in the middle of the Lakers first playoff game, just as Kobe Bryant comes tumbling in our direction, almost killing himself when he smashes the back of his neck into the leg of an empty courtside folding chair?

Kobe lay motionless for nearly a minute before staggering to his feet and getting some treatment at halftime. Even though he said his neck was sore, he came back to score 34 points in 42 minutes, though it wasn't enough to help the Lakers avoid an embarrassing 109-100 loss to the lowly New Orleans Hornets. I don't know what's more mortifying -- that there was an empty courtside seat for a Lakers playoff game or that, as you can see from the above photo, that the guy on the right couldn't even be bothered to look up from his vital information gathering to notice that the Lakers star was nearly decapitated right in front of his eyes.

(The gentleman on the left of the photo is sports and entertainment tycoon Tim Leiweke, the president of AEG, who owns the Kings, the Galaxy and a 30% share in the Lakers. At least he noticed that Kobe took a hit, thought judging from his expression, he seems more worried about the Galaxy's attendance figures than Kobe's health. The guy to the right of Leiweke is the Black Eyed Peas', who during timeouts probably regaled Leiweke with stories about his group's Super Bowl appearance.)  

This whole obsession with our smartphones is really out of control. It's almost impossible to go to a concert, a movie or a sporting event without being surrounded by nitwits hunched over in their seats, texting their pals, their eyes riveted on the tiny glowing screen instead of paying attention to the actual event they're attending. The behavior seems reliably class-based in the sense that the more expensive the seat, the more the seat holder is focused on responding to his email.

I always thought the obsession with thumb-twiddling was worse in L.A. than anywhere else, but when I took my kid to a Miami Heat game a few months ago at American Airlines Arena in Miami, we saw pretty much the same level of distraction among Heat fans, who are so blase that the arena often appears half empty on television because most Heat fans can't be bothered to show up until the second quarter. A recent New York Times story heaped ridicule on the local fans, saying that "texting is rarely interrupted for cheering" and that the courtside arrival of P. Diddy, "midway through the second quarter, usually," caused more of a stir than any alley-oop dunk by LeBron James or Dwyane Wade.

Things are so bad in Miami that the Heat management bribes fans to show up on time by offering discounts at the concession stands. If the Lakers did that, they'd lose their shirts. But isn't it time we put away our BlackBerrys and went back to enjoying the unique thrill of a live sporting event? If I were a great athlete like Kobe, I'd be mightily insulted that the fans paying the most money to see me show my skills were often paying the least amount of attention to what I was doing on the court.

-- Patrick Goldstein


Oh no, this is not how the Lakers need to start the postseason

Photo: Kobe Bryant falls and hits his neck on a chair during the first half of the Lakers playoff game Sunday against the New Orleans Hornets. Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press