Finals Feature

Cheering behind the 'enemy'lines

Courier Times

Philadelphia natives living and working in La-La land are providing fighting words for their Los Angeles neighbors during the NBA Finals.

"There's no better cure for homesickness than having my hometown heroes visit and destroy the Lakers," said Craig Newman, a music agent who hails from Langhorne. "Brotherly Love vs. Angels? Yo, you know the brothers can whip ... a bunch of angels!"

Tracey Schnitzer of Bensalem, an advertising representative with Variety magazine, managed to secure tickets for Wednesday night's game between the Lakers and the Sixers, which the Sixers won in overtime, 107-101.

"That game ... was amazing! I had the best time. I even lost my voice from screaming so loud and yelling for the Sixers," she said. "The Staples Center was nuts before the game. There was a live band playing outside the stadium. People dancing in the streets, partying, etc. But after the game it was all quiet. The halls of the Staples Center were so quiet.

"The Lakers fans are so bitter and miserable now. I love being a Sixers fan! Now my goal is to get tickets for [tonight]!"

Hatboro's Jonathan Shank, also a music agent, remembers Lakers' standout Kobe Bryant from his high school days.

"Iverson and the Sixers will teach Kobe a lesson that will send him back to his days at Lower Merion High School," he said.

Molly Mayock, the entertainment reporter for Fox-Philadelphia's "Good Day Philadelphia,'' is "absolutely rooting'' for the Sixers.

"I'd like to do something unmentionable with those brooms that all the L.A. fans [were] bringing out,'' she said. Mayock hopes the Sixers can quiet "all my friends who say the Lakers are so dominant.''

Langhorne native Markus Flanagan, an actor in Los Angeles, has no love for his adopted town.

"This is a town of frontrunners. These people didn't even care about the Lakers until this week. Every little agent in town will manage to get a ticket to 'be seen.' "

Flanagan hangs out with other transplanted Philadelphians, including comedian Craig Shoemaker, co-host of Magic Johnson's ill-fated talk show. When asked if Shoemaker gets tickets from Johnson (who is a part-owner of the Lakers), Flanagan laughed, "No, it gets tense if they bump into each other.''

Eric Weingrad, a production coordinator for VH1, doesn't try to hide his feelings. "Even though I have to make sure some Lakers nut doesn't run me off the road, I still proudly wear my Iverson jersey and keep my Sixers flag posted high off my antennae," the father of seven from Bensalem boasted.

Blue Bell's Sarah Graham, a producer for television news in Los Angeles, has a Philly posse that watched Games 6 and 7 against Milwaukee.

They also go to Big Mike's Philly Steaks and Subs in Hermosa Beach, a Philadelphia-friendly establishment that sells cheesesteaks, Tastykakes and has customers such as Norristown's Mike Piazza of the New York Mets.

Graham echoed Flanagan's comments - "People in L.A. don't care about the Lakers until they got to the Finals. Now everybody has Laker fever,'' she scoffed. Graham would love the Sixers to prove the Lakers fans and media wrong. "I heard an announcer on the radio report that the Sixers were in the air [on the plane to L.A.] unless they decided to turn around and forfeit.

"All my friends who have moved here from Philly remember the exact date they arrived [in L.A.],'' said Graham, who moved there on Sept. 3, 1998. "Philadelphians never forget they are from Philadelphia.''

Posted June 8, 2001