Posted by Nicole Behnam
Determined to make your way in through a sloppy crowd, you start talking to the bouncers and dropping promoter’s names with your ID in hand, hoping to reverse their permascowls. It doesn’t matter if it’s your best friend’s birthday, or that you’re Sam Nazarian’s “cousin.” It’s 12am on a Saturday night and you’re not an anorexic blonde.
And as for the bouncers and promoters whose only form of power lies in vetoing the unattractive or poorly-dressed who are merely trying to have a good time, they will likely categorize you abruptly and pay no further attention unless you’re willing to spend at least $600 on a table. Is this not a form of prejudice? Look around and you will occasionally see desperate hopefuls who have been ditched by their friends as well.
It’s sad, really. Welcome to Los Angeles.
How clubbing has somehow become an integral part of an Angeleno’s weekend is baffling. The club regulars seem to have no hobbies other than "popping bottles." And a majority of these people are uncomfortable dancing or letting loose without any alcohol. The club is the ultimate venue for the passionless—for people who are often so overly-eager to pick up a stranger because they feel there is no other outlet through which they can meet another person with a shared common interest.
Even the fancy white tufted couches don’t make the idea of dancing provocatively seem remotely classy or alluring. To tolerate the thumping bass—so loud that when you walk out, you experience a constant ringing in your ears—requires a certain level of alcohol buzz.
A group of friends who party at clubs to celebrate once in a while is understandable, but for the people who attend clubs regularly, they’re out to find happiness, companionship, and temporary escape where it doesn’t exist.
I’m no Saturday-night elitist, and I’ve definitely spent enough of my Saturday nights in Los Angeles nightclubs to know what they’re like. But a thoroughly enjoyable weekend for me involves conversations and laughing and good food with friends and family. I’m sure most of us would rather sit around with our friends and exchange funny stories than wear uncomfortable clothes and shoes hoping to catch someone’s eye in the unbearable darkness that is somehow essential to the club’s atmosphere.
A club is like Physical Education class, where one person’s worth depends on being “chosen” by another similarly-lonely stranger who finds you physically adequate. How flattering. Is this how you want to meet people? Even online dating provides more information than your 30-minute drunken encounter. Think about it before you decide to become a club regular.
4.22.13 at 8:29 pm | As for the bouncers and promoters whose only form. . .
4.12.13 at 5:40 pm | We weren’t built to sit at our desks or scroll. . .
2.5.13 at 2:33 am | He tried to cut himself off immediately. He even. . .
1.15.13 at 2:18 am | Are antidepressants being prescribed too often. . .
12.15.12 at 1:45 pm |
12.3.12 at 12:23 am | Leah passed away due to a sudden stroke. I. . .
2.5.13 at 2:33 am | He tried to cut himself off immediately. He even. . . (54)
9.25.12 at 12:26 am | “. . . the best hope of humankind is to. . . (28)
4.22.13 at 8:29 pm | As for the bouncers and promoters whose only form. . . (12)
April 12, 2013 | 5:40 pm
Posted by Nicole Behnam
"Successful people never worry about what others are doing." -Unknown
Log in to your Facebook account and you will seldom notice a self-deprecating post on your Newsfeed. Nobody wants to share with their friends the inevitable failures or pitfalls that occur routinely, and why should we?
The biggest mistake we make is unconsciously affirming the notion that our social media worlds (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, et al.) represent real life.
Graduations, job promotions, engagements, weddings, college acceptances, baby showers, bachelorette parties, and pictures of lavish vacations are daily reminders that we are not currently enjoying the same luxuries. As we scroll down, we feel compelled to “like” all of these posts, but secretly—very secretly—we are wondering when our time will come, and why our lives aren’t as exciting.
We weren’t built to sit at our desks or scroll through our phones, reading the overwhelming heaps of useless intel about other people—we were meant to LIVE.
But even as I write this, I sense a mild hypocrisy within myself. My cell phone is almost always within reach, and I cannot avoid my computer, because my job requires me to use it. So I am compelled to check my social media accounts, and I’m even guilty of posting at least once per week.
So what’s the solution? How can we separate ourselves from a generation that thrives on cell-phones, social media, and multiple apps?
The answer is Mindfulness—paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment, by channeling our bodies, feelings, and our minds. In a recent Los Angeles Times article, I read that a Professor at Claremont’s MBA program takes 15 minutes per day during his lecture to teach his students the art of mindfulness.
Google has offered mindfulness training to its employees for years as well; The reason being that mindfulness helps tune out distractions and enforces a healthier “work mode” as well.
If you’re dating your cell phone or your laptop, break up with it. But before you do, look up mindfulness and learn how to routinely exercise this lesser-known phenomenon.
Our generation deserves better—we deserve to be happier and undisturbed.
February 5, 2013 | 2:33 am
Posted by Nicole Behnam
I prefer filmed interviews over print at times because people get so worked up when they’re being taped. Interviewing subjects for print can be bland. They stay composed. There’s more time to think up an articulate response. But on film, they only have a moment. They know people are watching—everyone is paying attention. And on Monday, such was the case for Robert De Niro.
The man is notorious for withholding information about his personal life, for raising his eyebrows then squinting while executing a cold response, and, at times, for getting up and walking away at a whim when he doesn’t like the question being asked.
On Katie Couric’s show Monday, Silver Linings Playbook director David O. Russell briefly discussed his experiences with his son’s mood disorder, which inspired the character played by Bradley Cooper in the film.
Katie Couric asked De Niro if he felt any responsibility doing a film that the director had personally invested in.
“Oh of course,” he replied as his emotions suddenly exposed themselves. He tried to cut himself off immediately. He even tried coughing and looking upwards. None of it worked. De Niro was crying for the first time ever in the history of television—on ‘Katie.’
"I don't like to get emotional," he managed to say. "But I know exactly what [David] goes through." De Niro didn't explain how, but Russell abruptly chimed in to continue the conversation.
"When I first was in his apartment and I was talking to him about the screenplay, this is what happened," Russell said as De Niro wiped his eyes. "I thought he was having hay fever and I realized he was having an emotional reaction. I sat there and I watched Robert De Niro cry for 10 minutes."
Hay fever? Nobody in Hollywood would expect tears from Robert De Niro. To everyone who admires De Niro for the brilliance of his acting, they were watching the young Don Corleone, the angry Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver, the raging bull, Jake La Motta, the Russian roulette-playing soldier from The Deer Hunter, and the impatient Rupert Pupkin from King of Comedy. Every character he had ever embodied or resembled up until this point was now crying on set. Robert De Niro, finally humanized, and it is a beautiful thing.
But why does it matter? Pay more attention, and you will see that everybody you look up to and glamorize, like De Niro and like Russell, has endured something significant—and this is what makes them great, next to their talent. Not all were born with a silver spoon in their mouths.
Most people in Hollywood have struggled with their own issues. Maybe they lost a family member, suffered abuse, endured depression—who knows.
J.D. Salinger wrote it beautifully in his book The Catcher in the Rye:
Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them – if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.
Especially during award season, we tend to forget that beneath the golden trophies and red carpets are human beings with a message and a purpose.
In 2012, Russell told Charlie Rose in an interview:
“Because I have a son who’s had some of these emotional situations I immediately related to Silver Linings Playbook, otherwise I never would have. And I said, what a wonderful story, and a wonderful world that is tragic, heartbreaking, emotional, and ultimately funny and inspiring….While I was waiting the five years to make it, I probably rewrote the script over 20 times, and I was able to plumb new depths of it in terms of calibrating the nature of the challenges the main character faces.”
Too often we look to others’ accomplishments and achievements, and we somehow seek to emulate these feats in our own lives—to draw inspiration from them. While this is a noble endeavor, I urge you to also look for the crossroads, the vagaries, the turmoil, the strangeness, the human side of people’s lives.
To watch Robert De Niro battle against his emotions, and lose, was strangely uplifting. Sadness and even sorrow are common among those we know—but to watch these emotions materialize among those we honor and esteem goes to show that perhaps ambition can be bred from hardship, and ability may very well stem from a deep-rooted understanding of adversity. At the very least, an interest in these subjects will allow you to enjoy the freedom from self-absorption.
January 15, 2013 | 2:18 am
Posted by Nicole Behnam
Are antidepressants being prescribed too often and too much? Has the definition of clinical depression become too broad? And why are mass shootings now being linked to antidepressant use? The risk that antidepressants will ignite violent or self-destructive behavior has been the subject of renewed controversy.
After evidence that several gunmen involved in mass shootings were taking antidepressants during the time of their outburst, a number of threads have been appearing on the Web regarding this issue, but the media refuses to bring it up.
After all, companies like Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline might stop advertising with news outlets if this notion is ever addressed, or even worse, researched in depth.
Under the influence of three powerful constituencies—the pharmaceutical industry, the social work industry, and the psychotherapy industry—along with their handmaidens—the government, the media, and advertising—it has become exceedingly difficult for people to believe that unhappiness might just be an ordinary reaction to unpleasant circumstances.
Because of false advertisements, millions of people per year are tricked into renaming their unhappiness “depression.” Even a television advertisement could lead you to believe that you are clinically depressed.
Leading questions like “feeling tired and hopeless?” are geared toward subconsciously convincing people that any given pill can cure all of their symptoms.
But try reading about the symptoms and reactions caused by these pills. Suicidal–and perhaps homicidal—thoughts are almost always prevalent in the long lists of side effects written in small print on a flimsy sheet of paper folded several times over.
Many psychiatrists have admitted that antidepressants may also cause manic or aggressive behavior, especially for those who are prone to bipolar disorder. So why are tens of millions Americans taking antidepressants?
Instead of solving their problems and building resilience, people are choosing to medicalize their situations in hopes of finding a simpler solution through a happy pill that will miraculously banish symptoms of what is probably just conditional unhappiness. While some people may need them, it shouldn’t be so easy for everyone to obtain these drugs.
Of course, depression is a serious illness, and those who are truly afflicted with the disorder should seek help. But it is important to consider that perhaps advertising has allowed the mental health and pharmaceutical industries to turn human unhappiness into a cash cow through these medications—and at a cost we cannot accurately measure.
December 15, 2012 | 1:45 pm
Posted by Josephine Eshagian, contributing writer
The morning of December 14, 2012, a senseless massacre took the lives of 26 innocent victims: 20 children, ages 5 to 10 years old, and 6 adults. Police rushed to the crime scene of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. There they discovered the nightmare. The shooter, 20-year old Adam Lanza, took his own life after the heartless killing spree. His mother's body was discovered later that day. She was suspected to have been killed before Lanza headed to the school.
According to officials, Lanza died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The car he drove and the guns he used were registered to his mother, who he murdered at point-blank range. Three guns were found at the scene – a Glock and a Sig Sauer, both pistols – and a .223-caliber AR.
I could not help but tear listening to children's testimonies on the news; most could not even register what had happened. When describing the events he witnessed, a 7-year-old boy recalled, "it sounded like someone was kicking down a door, not like gunshots. I was in the hallway and bullets were going past me. A teacher pulled me and another kid into a class so we could get away".
To say the least, I am heartbroken Grieving the innocent lives that were taken is not enough. As a nation, we should take action towards some kind of preventative measure--but is gun control the answer?
Hundreds of Americans rallied outside of the White House for gun control action today. President Obama shed tears as he addressed the nation in solidarity of the victims. The federal government and the National Rifle Association (NRA) may be under pressure more than ever after the events at Newtown.
Unfortunately, the tragedy in Newtown is not totally unordinary. As much as registering a gun is a deterrence for those with a troublesome past, the perpetrators of the recent massacres that we have seen in the news, Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech, and Newtown, were all committed by men without a criminal history, who were introverts, yet seemingly functioning members of society. The profile for a killer, from these events, is somewhat similar: young males, in their 20s or early 30s, had a decent education, and unexpectedly snapped.
Many gun control policies already exist. Background checks, gun registration, limits on the number of guns, ban of high-capacity clips, ban of semi-automatic weapons, no guns for felons or mentally ill are some of the most favored policies—but are they really enforced? To some extent, yes.
Permits for concealed weapons are too easy to attain. It’s easy to buy a gun at a convention center or a local firearm shop. The firearm industry is a business that grosses over $2 billion annually. There are over 300 million guns in circulation, most registered, but many of them are not.
The idea of gun control sounds good - on paper. The NRA and the government should screen potential "responsible gun owners" via mental health screenings, but the logistics of enforcing that would be tedious, hard to regulate, and thus ineffective.
Fewer guns in circulation would reduce accidents but it would not eliminate the risks of massacres that continue to be a bane to society. Most people don't realize how absurdly easy it really is to obtain a firearm. Most vendors don’t even perform background checks. Even so, the unfortunate and painful truth is that illicit activity is all too common, especially in major urban cities. It isn't hard to buy a cheap unregistered handgun for $100 on the streets. A WASR-10 can run for $275. A higher-grade gun like an AK-47 is $300. At a gun show or store, these probably cost a lot more, but then again, the premium is the price to legally carry a concealed weapon.
The flaw of gun control proponents is their failure to understand that it is not a simple issue. Gun control is very intricate and there are many classifications (e.g. of guns, magazines, and other specifications, that deem its legality). Most people assume that the ban on assault weapons is a ban on automatic weapons such as machine guns, when it is actually a ban on weapons with military styling, not capability. For example, in California, a handgun is legal but one can buy a kit to convert it to a rifle, with a long barrel and stock, making it an assault weapon. High-powered guns such as MAC-90 and Ruger Mini-14 are legal but an AR-15 is not, yet they have the same capabilities. None is more dangerous than another.
Banning firearms will not stop killings. The irony of gun control is that although it aims for preventative measures, it does not significantly deter anyone from purchasing a gun. I support gun control, but with more than 49% of the popular vote going towards a Republican candidate, I can assure you that gun control would be hard to attain. Roughly half of the country, by association, opposes gun control as does the U.S. Constitution. The Second Amendment protects the right of people to bear arms. Protection is a viable reason to own a gun. Storeowners, security, and police own guns.
I asked my wise mother what she thought. I know how affected my mom was by the news because she seemed unusually upset during Shabbat. My mother is a compassionate woman: one that loves her children. In fact, she loves all children and she has the noblest heart. She told me how 20 years ago things like this didn't happen. 20 years ago people had guns. 20 years ago there were regulations on guns.
My mom told me a story detailing an event that occurred 14 years ago, when an Anti-Semitic armed man attempted to enter my elementary school, Stephen S. Wise, with intent to hurt children. The security turned him down, but the man went to another local Jewish school where he was able to hurt children. The guard at school that day may have saved my life.
Hate crimes, senseless killings, and other acts of mass violence do not occur merely because people are able to kill, but because they want to kill. Just as a man could use a gun to kill, a guard, could use one to protect, or deter a killer. In the right hands, guns have a legitimate value.
These views are not based on anecdotes or personal experiences. I support stricter gun control. It would prevent street crime, accidental deaths, and homicides. I think deadly weapons should not be easily accessible to the public, but I don't think that gun control alone can stop massacres.
Gun control is a start, but not the answer. The intrinsic nature of a killer, one that most of us cannot fathom to understand, is so potent, so evil, that even getting turned down by a store to buy a gun could not prevent him from his killing spree. If he has the capability to kill, he wouldn't hesitate to steal or harm to get his hands on a gun. The gunman, Lanza, took his mother’s guns and killed her with them. Lanza didn’t even own a gun, but he did possess the urge to murder.
There are many opinions, but let me issue mine: gun control is not the easy answer or fix to preventing tragedy. Guns account for 30,000 deaths annually, but if they are not legal, they will still be a recurring problem, just as alcohol was during the Prohibition. Before reforming gun control, perhaps we should pay more attention to our fellow human beings. There were warning signs in these young men turned killers. I would also purport for armed guards at school.
I strongly believe in heightened security at schools. Protecting children's safety is of the upmost concern.
In any event, what may seem to be unavoidable or unexpected should be put to an end as soon as possible—to prevent the amassing toll of innocent lives. Nothing can undo the tragedy that has struck, but we can aim for a brighter and safer future.
In the unfortunate case of Newton, Connecticut, 26 innocent lives were taken too soon and we mourn their loss. At this difficult time, let us keep their families in our prayers as we wish for refuah shlema.
December 3, 2012 | 12:23 am
Posted by Nicole Behnam
“Whenever someone who knows you disappears, you lose one version of yourself. Yourself as you were seen, as you were judged to be. Lover or enemy, mother or friend, those who know us construct us, and their several knowings slant the different facets of our characters like diamond-cutter's tools. Each such loss is a step leading to the grave, where all versions blend and end.” -Salman Rushdie
For Physical Education in 5th grade at Sinai Temple, they used to make us run laps around the entire school. My best friend Sarina lived right across the street, and when I felt faint around the 3rd lap, her mother Leah Rubin, would come outside and sneak me a water bottle so I wouldn’t collapse. This was the type of person she was.
Every year for Sarina’s birthday, Leah would bring ice cream cones from Baskin Robbins for our entire grade. She always accompanied our class on field trips, and did the same for her son Danny. It felt like she was the “school mom,” if such a position ever existed.
During my college years, I would spend many of my weekends with Sarina and her family. Dinners with the Rubin family felt like dinner with my own family, because Irv and Leah Rubin were like a second set of parents. I opened up to them and sought advice from them often. I even confided in them, and I never left without feeling a bit wiser.
Leah Rubin was not just a mother, she was a teacher, a mentor, a wife, a cook, a housekeeper, a confidant, a best friend, but most importantly, she was a guide for her children.
A few months ago, Leah passed away due to a sudden stroke. I don’t think anybody saw it coming—I certainly didn’t. At the time I had no words—just tears.
Irv and Sarina came to my grandmother’s funeral just two weeks later. They extended sympathy and remained strong in the presence of my family. And all I kept wondering was: how? How could they keep it together to the extent that they were able to comfort and attend to other mourners?
And then I remembered a quote I had read before. “Love is stronger than death even though it can't stop death from happening, but no matter how hard death tries, it can't separate people from love. It can't take away our memories either. In the end, life is stronger than death.”
Leah’s words and the way she made people feel will never be forgotten. In fact, her presence was so strong that if ever a problem were to arise, I think her immediate family would be able to think up what she would have replied.
In honor of Leah Rubin’s life, and in her memory, some words from friends:
I'll miss her wicked sense of humor and her brilliant insight about people and relationships. I'll miss her belly laugh and the way her eyes literally sparkled when she spoke about her family. She was her children's strongest advocate and greatest fan and she loved them unconditionally. She constantly opened up her home to guests and genuinely enjoyed their company.
When my diabetic daughter asked if she could spend the night at Leah’s house while in elementary school, I tried to discourage her because I was worried about a low blood sugar episode. Leah’s response was "show me how to test her blood sugar...it's no problem," and she did in fact wake up in the middle of the night to test her and put our fears to rest. She was the one to offer help, no matter what the task and always put others needs ahead of her own.
-Loretta Helfant, friend of Leah Rubin
Leah helped me with whatever I needed. She always put others before herself and I am so lucky to have had her as a role model, support system, mentor and the list goes on. "Mother Dearest" was a second mother to all of Danny & Sarina’s friends, and in taking on this role, she helped shape the people we all are today.
-Marc Becker, friend of Danny Rubin, and “second son” to Leah
Leah was an amazing friend—she was someone that could always be depended on—always there to lend a helping hand. Her children were her #1 priority. She was a phenomenal mother and friend. If you needed anything, she would go out of her way to help you. I miss her beautiful smile, sense of humor, twinkling piercing eyes, and brilliant mind—I miss my friend.
-Michelle Halimi, friend of Leah Rubin
When I was little, my mom and I scheduled weekly dates for just the two of us. We would get dinner and go to the clay club where we would paint together and just talk about life. It is something I am never going to forget.
-Sarina Rubin, daughter of Leah Rubin
Although we are all still grieving in our own ways, we carry her love and her memories with us.
And to Irv, Sarina, and Danny: you will always be my second family.
October 12, 2012 | 2:11 am
Posted by Nicole Behnam
“You think of yourself as a citizen of the universe. You think you belong to this world of dust and matter. Out of this dust you have created a personal image, and have forgotten about the essence of your true origin” ― Rumi.
‘Argo’ is a true story based on the efforts of a man named Tony Mendez, who helped six Americans pose as a sci-fi film crew to escape the 1979 Iran hostage crisis during Jimmy Carter’s presidency.
Director Ben Affleck espouses the virtues of country, teamwork, and compassion, and decries violence, deceit, and abuse of power in a mighty struggle against revolution and the corrupting forces of power.
The film opens with a gripping rehash of Iranian history up until the revolution. Clips of Mike Wallace interviewing Shah Reza Pahlavi and the Ayatollah were played on cue throughout the film.
But what’s this got to do with me?
Last week I attended the premier of Argo. Among its cast, George Clooney, and Bryan Cranston, I listened to Ben Affleck as he thanked virtually every member of its production before introducing the film. Finally, he thanked the hero his character was based on—Tony Mendez.
I watched Tony stand up as Ben Affleck thanked him last. The room was full of applause, and my face was blank, tears streaming down my face. I was sitting in the same room as a war hero—in fact, I was looking right at him.
After six Americans escaped the Islamic student militant attack on the American Embassy in Tehran, Mendez, an exfiltration specialist, trained each of them to persuasively act as members of the pseudo-film crew.
Tension spanned across the room as the film depicted a throng of protesters savagely rocking the van (led by Mendez) transporting the hostages through the Grand Bazaar on the way to the airport.
The Argo Operation stayed Top Secret until Clinton declassified it in 1997. Even then, Mendez earned no fame—until now.
Working in the entertainment industry, I attend several movie premiers and award shows. But this experience was different. It changed me. It stirred up a feeling of pride, and at the same time, revolt.
I am an Iranian Jew. I belong to a community of Iranian Jews who love Israel, and see Iran as a nuclear threat. We plan our vacations in Israel, never in Iran, because we are afraid. And we refer to ourselves as “Persian.”
For the first time ever, I am disturbed by this. Yes, I love Israel and will fight for its people, but what about Iran? What about the country both of my parents came from?
Before he escaped, my father served in the army under the Shah, and was unable to leave for 3 entire years because of the revolution.
Iranian immigrants, like my parents, have a different set of social constraints put on them because of their unique positions as having to bear the expectations of their people and the new realities of belonging to American society.
And here we have a brilliant film that depicts a very sensitive, chaotic era for Iranians, but we still refuse to take pride in Iran and speak up against Ahmadinejad for our other—former—homeland.
No dictator could rise if men exercised their inalienable rights as much as they exercised their submission to their faith and “the common good,” but in order for that to work, we need to take pride in our country, and fight for its people too, before a Nuclear Iran really does come into fruition.
In the United States of America, we seek the achievement of happiness. Iranians seek escape from pain. We exist for the sake of earning rewards. They exist for the sake of avoiding punishment. Fear is not our incentive. It is not execution that we wish to avoid, but life that we wish to live.
Throughout history, no tyrant ever risen to power except on the claim of representing “the common good.” Hitler was serving “the common good” of Germany just as Napoleon served “the common good” of France. And Ahmadinejad is now serving “the common good” of Iran—did you watch his interview with Piers Morgan on CNN last week?
If you are going to watch a movie tomorrow, or anytime soon, watch ‘Argo.’
Bringing to life such a wide-ranging story with technical proficiency and visual dazzle is an unprecedented achievement for even Affleck and Clooney.
And while scores of filmgoers clamor to see the nearly impossible rescue of the six hostages, no one is eager for the journey to end.
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi & Farah Pahlavi
Nicole Behnam & Bryan Cranston
at the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards
October 10, 2012 | 12:43 am
Posted By Ilan LaKritz, contributing writer
If New York is the city that never sleeps, Los Angeles is the city happily dreaming. Dreaming like we cheer for our sports, eager for more and more. ‘Cause when it comes to sports in Los Angeles, fans only get more and more. Just look around! The Lakers, Clippers, Angels, Dodgers, Kings, Galaxy, all star-studded at the same time. Like never before, the city has become a magnet to athletes, pulling away small-market heroes from cities nation-wide. And it’s been this influx of stars from all major sports that continues the city’s commitment to the biggest, best, and brightest, and L.A. has never been brighter.
Let’s have a look at the five major sports teams “based” in L.A.:
Los Angeles Dodgers
Golden Acquisitions: Led by Magic Johnson and the Guggenheim Partners, the new Dodgers ownership wasted little time jockeying for prominence. First they re-signed one of baseball’s most dynamic talents, outfielder Matt Kemp, to a long-term extension. Then they re-signed their 2011 Cy Young Award winner, 24-year-old Clayton Kershaw, for two more years at Chavez Ravine. Later in July, three weeks after the Lakers traded for Steve Nash, the Dodgers traded for former NL batting champion Hanley Ramirez. And again in August, two weeks after the Lakers traded for Dwight Howard, the Dodgers traded for a $250 million star-trio of Josh Beckett (3x All-Star), Carl Crawford (4x All-Star), and Adrian Gonzalez (4x All-Star).
2012 performance: Finished 86-76, 2 games back from NL wild-card berth.
Cost: Matt Kemp- 8 years, $160 million; Clayton Kershaw- 2 years, $19 million; Hanley Ramirez- 6 years, $70 million; Josh Beckett- 2 years, $31.5 million; Carl Crawford- 5 years, $102 million; Adrian Gonzalez- 6 years, $127 million.
Star Grade: A-
Los Angeles Kings
Golden Acquisitions: Looking to spark their offense, Kings management traded defenseman Josh Johnson and a conditional first-round pick for former All-Star, forward Jeff Carter. It was a golden transaction for Kings general manager Dean Lombardi, who watched his team finish 27-9 to win their first Stanley Cup. In an effort to keep their championship pieces intact, the Kings have already extended Stanley Cup MVP Jonathan Quick, and re-signed forwards Dustin Penner and Dwight King.
2012 performance: Stanley Cup Champions.
Cost: Jeff Carter- 10 years, $52 million; Jonathan Quick- 10 years, $58 million; Dustin Penner- 1 year, $3.25 million; Dwight King- 2 years, $1.5 million.
Star Grade: B+
Los Angeles Clippers
Golden Acquistions: If Jay-Z is the East Coast’s rags-to-riches romance, it’s time for Angelenos to consider the Clippers as their own. The Clippers still haven’t won anything of significance, but for a team with an all-time regular season winning percentage of .357%, they’ve had quit the Hollywood facelift. It started with their heist of Team USA’s starting point guard Chris Paul, a player who single handedly and instaneously renewed hope and excitement in the team. Then it was the turn of Slam Dunk champion Blake Griffin, whose five-year contract opened the roads to Los Angeles more than Carmageddon. And it was the pledges of support from Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford, Chauncey Billups, Grant Hill and Matt Barnes, that added the finishing touches to the team’s radical transformation.
2012 performance: Finished 40-26, Eliminated 4-0 in the Western Conference Semifinals by San Antonio Spurs.
Cost: Chris Paul- 1 year, $17.7 million; Blake Griffin- 5 years $95 million; Lamar Odom- 1 year, $8.2 million; Jamal Crawford- 4 years; $21.35 million; Chauncey Billups- 1 year, $3 million; Grant Hill- 2 years, $4 milion.
Star Grade: A-
Lost Angeles Lakers
Golden Acquisitions: What more can be said? They wrestled away two-time MVP Steve Nash from their conference rivals and kept 5x All-NBA First Team player Dwight Howard from forming one super-team by forming their own. Led by the ever-imaginative Mitch Kupchak and Jerry Buss, the Lakers continue to flourish as the NBA’s model franchise, a title achieved not by the demographic of their fans at games but rather by the standard to which they field their team. The standard is a simple one: win, and win with style. And following the summer moves they’ve made, the Lakers are poised to do both, emphatically.
2012 performance: Finished 41-25, eliminated 4-1 in the Western Conference Semifinals by Oklahoma City Thunder.
Cost: Steve Nash- 3 years, $27 million, Dwight Howard- 1 year, $19.4 million (and a likely 5 year, $117.9 million contract offer next offseason), Jordan Hill- 2 years, $7.13 million; Antawn Jamison- 1 year, $1.4 million. And because of their being so high above the salary cap, they’ll pay an additional $30 million in luxury taxes next summer.
Star Grade: A+
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Golden Acquisitions: The Angels made the biggest splash of the offseason when they signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the two top free agents, both in the same hour. Wilson, a 2x All-Star, was regarded as the best pitcher of the offseason, while Pujols, a 9x All-Star, was recognized as the best batter of his generation. Then, a little more than a month into the season, the Angels struck gold when rookie-phenom Mike Trout* emerged as an instant superstar, producing MVP-like offense and Gold Glove-caliber defense. And in true L.A.-fashion, the Angels struck gold once again when they acquired former AL Cy Young Award winner, Zack Greinke, the prized pitcher of the 2012 trade deadline.
Cost: Albert Pujols- 10 years, $254 million; C.J. Wilson- 5 years, $77.5 million; Zack Greinke- 2 months, $5.15 million, 3 top prospects, an offseason bidding war to come.
2012 performance: Finished 89-73, 4 games back from AL wild-card berth.
Star Grade: A
In less than ten-months time, the sports world stood idly by while Angelenos celebrated 7 major trades and 5 major signings. And thanks to the generosity of cities like New Orleans, Orlando, and Columbus, Los Angeles now features 5 teams with at least two former All-Stars on their current roster. To put that in perspective, 25 U.S. states don’t even have a team. And incredibly, this article has spotlighted a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year (Howard), a two-time NBA MVP (Nash), two CY Young Award winners (Greinke, Kershaw), a three-time NL MVP (Pujols), a World Series MVP (Beckett), a Stanley Cup MVP (Brown), 11 more All-Stars, all without a single mention of Landon Danovan or Pau Gasol and their kind-of famous teammates David Beckham and Kobe Bryant. A wealth of this measure this can only be dreamt of in the city of Los Angeles, in the City of Angels.