Last night, I watched the Sacramento Kings play in – and win – a playoff game for the first time in 17 years. It was the longest drought in history.
Having grown up a diehard fan of the league’s perennial basement-dweller (and even, through unbelievable luck, having represented the Kings at the NBA Finals in a shooting competition as a kid, appearing on Nickelodeon as the national champion), it was a euphoric moment.
I’ve always relished being the underdog. In basketball, I was the smallest player on the court (my brief career ended before a late growth spurt). My first race for the Assembly was written off as hopeless, with 10 more experienced candidates running. In the Legislature, we went to battle every day against an entrenched Supermajority.
Being the underdog, after all, is in America’s DNA: a scrappy upstart that defeated a powerful empire to gain independence and make freedom the driving force in world history.
That’s why, for those who say all hope is lost for California or the country, I believe otherwise. There is always hope. If after 16 straight losing seasons, the Kings can come out of nowhere to win the Pacific Division, there is hope! Stay and fight.
Which brings us to the beam. For those outside the Sacramento region, it is hard to explain the transcendent cultural significance of The Beam: a magnificent stream of purple light that shoots up from the arena after each Kings victory, never more magnificently than after yesterday’s.
Light The Beam has become the anthem of our region. As fans of all political views and walks of life chant these words in unison, the starkest of differences are forgotten. In the grand scheme of things, sports may be trivial – but this capacity to come together for a common cause is not.
In these most divisive of times, it can be easy to forget what we have in common. I think many Americans are ready to remember anew, to reorient political life towards the things we share: our flag, our Constitution, our revered institutions of liberty and self-government.
In the meantime, with apologies to our friends in the Bay Area – and perhaps LA next – tomorrow night let’s Light the Beam again.