Welcome to The Morning Column! I have lived in Los Angeles my entire life and have covered sports in the city for over 20 years. I spent 16 years as a sports columnist at the Los Angeles Times and a senior writer at ESPN and Sports Illustrated. In addition to writing The Morning Column on Substack, I host The Arash Markazi Show on The Mightier 1090 ESPN Radio in Southern California, 98.5 The Fan in Las Vegas and the Hawaii Sports Radio Network 95.1 FM and AM 760 in Hawaii Monday-Friday and on The SportsMap Radio Network on Fridays. It’s also a daily podcast on Spotify and BLEAV.
What is the focus of The Morning Column and The Arash Markazi Show?
The focus is on sports, food, entertainment, and events across Los Angeles and Las Vegas. My goal is to give you a short, breezy, easy-to-read notes column you can get through in less than 10 minutes in the morning and a 60-minute radio show and podcast you can listen to in the afternoon or evening on your commute or at home.
I have covered every significant sporting event in Los Angeles over 20 years, from the Lakers wining five NBA titles to the Dodgers winning their first World Series championship in over 30 years in the Texas bubble. In 2016, ESPN assigned me to cover the flightpath and highway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas before the opening of T-Mobile Arena. Over the next five years I covered every major sporting event in Las Vegas. I did the first live television hits on ESPN from Las Vegas after the NHL awarded Las Vegas its first professional sports franchise, after the Raiders were approved by NFL owners to move to Las Vegas, after the city got a WNBA team and when the supreme court struck down a federal law allowing sports gambling around the country, not just in Nevada.
Why Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Hawaii?
Professional sports leagues have territories and a little-known fact is Las Vegas and Hawaii are part of the territories for most Los Angeles professional sports teams. For example, the Lakers’ territory, designated by the NBA, includes all of Southern California, Las Vegas and Hawaii. That means the regional sports networks that televise the Lakers, Clippers, Dodgers, Angels, Kings, Ducks, Sparks, Galaxy and LAFC are not only available in Los Angeles but also in Las Vegas and Hawaii. The Raiders now call Las Vegas home but remain one of the most popular teams in Los Angeles after winning the city’s first Super Bowl and calling L.A. home for many years. They’re also the most popular NFL team in Hawaii. The Lakers, Dodgers and Raiders also have television and radio deals in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Hawaii.
Los Angeles and Las Vegas recently opened two multi-billion-dollar stadiums and will open two state-of-the-art arenas by 2024. Over the next eight years Los Angeles and Las Vegas will host the Super Bowl, Pro Bowl, NFL Draft, MLB All-Star Game, NHL All-Star Game, MLS All-Star Game, WNBA All-Star Game, WrestleMania, SummerSlam, College Football National Championship Game, Summer Olympics, FIFA World Cup, U.S. Open, UFC and boxing pay-per-views, and other major sports events, making it the epicenter of the sports world for the next decade.
What’s the connection between Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Hawaii?
Over 20 percent of Las Vegas visitors come from Southern California, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. It is by far the largest regional contributor to tourism in Las Vegas. Los Angeles is also consistently Las Vegas’ top air feeder market and California is Las Vegas’ top air feeder market by state with over twice as many visitors as the second state. Walk into any sports bar in Las Vegas or Hawaii and you’ll be able to watch the same local teams on the same local channels you would in Los Angeles. Here's what I wrote about the connection between Los Angeles and Las Vegas for the Los Angeles Times:
Los Angeles and Las Vegas are forever connected.
Beyond the I-15 that links both alongside landmarks such as Route 66, the Barstow Del Taco and Zzyzx Road, the two cities are intertwined in a way unlike any other two metropolises located in different states.
Think of some of the greatest movies involving Las Vegas — “Swingers,” “The Hangover,” “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” “Rain Man,” “Leaving Las Vegas,” and “Very Bad Things” — and most involve the infamous Los Angeles-Las Vegas road trip that anyone who has lived in either city has endured a time or 20.
There are 88 incorporated cities in Los Angeles County, but it feels like Las Vegas, despite being 270 miles away in Nevada, might as well be No. 89. There’s a good chance if you live in Los Angeles that you’ve been to Vegas more than to at least 80 of those incorporated cities.
Whenever I check into a hotel or get into a cab and they ask me where I’m from, they usually laugh when they hear “L.A.” I might as well have told them I was from Henderson or Summerlin. “You’re basically local,” my cab driver told me. “If you can fly here in 45 minutes or drive here in four hours, you’re local.”
The bond between the cities has only grown stronger after the Raiders moved to Las Vegas. Los Angeles Raiders fans who have continued to support the team over 25 years in Oakland now make the short drive or flight to see their team in Sin City before returning home after a fun weekend.
Los Angeles and Las Vegas were already intrinsically connected but now they can add pro sports to the bond that ties these two cities together.
And here's what I wrote about the connection between Los Angeles and Hawaii for the Los Angeles Times:
When the Rams announced they would be playing a home preseason game at Aloha Stadium last November, it was viewed as a one-off contest scheduled out of necessity more than anything else. The Rams were tied for the best record in the NFL at the time and likely would be playing January football in the Coliseum, pushing back scheduled renovations at their temporary home for at least a month. If the stadium wasn’t going to be ready until the end of August, the Rams needed a guaranteed site for at least one exhibition game and Hawaii seemed like the perfect fit.
“There hadn’t been an NFL preseason game here in 43 years and the Pro Bowl left three years ago so this was a chance to bring the NFL back to Hawaii and there was a real passion from the Hawaiian Tourism Authority to make this happen,” said Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff as he watched the team go through practice Friday in Honolulu. “It’s a chance to really plant some roots and strengthen our ties to the community here and make some long-term Rams fans in Hawaii.”
The Rams are the most recent Los Angeles sports franchise to tap into a market that has long been viewed as a home away from home for Southland teams. California is the largest state contributor to Hawaiian tourism with over two million visitors per year. The next closest is Washington with about 500,000. Walk into any sports bar on Hawaii’s eight main islands and you’ll be able to watch the same local teams on the same local channels you would in Los Angeles. Since most of Hawaii gets Spectrum, watching the Dodgers might be easier on the islands than it is for some in L.A.
“There’s always been a big connection to L.A. just because of proximity and the residents of Hawaii love their sports,” said Chris Tatum, president and CEO of Hawaii Tourism Authority. “Football and basketball are huge here. We’re close to L.A. and it’s a relatively easy flight, so proximity is huge but having a team come out here and reach out to the community and embrace us as fans is even bigger.”
The Lakers were the first Los Angeles team to do that on a consistent basis, holding 13 training camps in Hawaii, beginning in 1988. Before the team’s first camp in Honolulu, Lakers owner Jerry Buss said, “I have been coming to Hawaii for many years, and everyone over there seems to be a Laker fan. Since the people of Hawaii have seemed to adopt the Lakers, it only seems fitting that the Lakers adopt the state of Hawaii as their home, at least for training camp.”
“Dr. Buss loved Hawaii and the people who live there so much so he decided to host Lakers training camp there every few years,” Lakers owner Jeanie Buss told The Times on Saturday. “It was not easy for the staff having to move all the equipment to the islands but a beautiful sunset on Waikiki Beach could make you forget all the extra effort. The Lakers coaches, Pat Riley and later Phil Jackson, saw a special opportunity to build team chemistry. Also playing two preseason games in front of our growing Lakers ‘ohana’ (a Hawaiian term meaning “family”) Hawaii quickly became our home away from home.”
The Lakers, who last went to Hawaii in 2015 before training in Santa Barbara in 2016, have held camp in El Segundo since moving into their new $80-million headquarters in 2017, but Buss said there’s a possibility the Lakers could return to Hawaii in the future.
“The NBA has shortened the amount of time and reduced the number of games played in the preseason, which creates a challenge in scheduling,” Buss said. “The Lakers hope to return to Hawaii soon and reconnect with the island spirit.”
When Hawaii lost the Pro Bowl, which had been played at Aloha Stadium for more than 30 years, to Orlando and Lakers training camp, the Hawaii Tourism Authority began to explore other options and reached out to the Clippers and later the Rams. The Clippers announced last week they will be holding training camp and playing two preseason games in Honolulu in October for a third straight consecutive year.
“These organizations are very smart and they know we have over a million and a half people here in the state of Hawaii and they love their sports and we love being fans of teams that love us and embrace us,” Tatum said. “So it’s great that the Rams and Clippers are reaching out to the community of Hawaii and hopefully making them Rams and Clippers fans, that’s a win for them and us. We’re over the moon to have them here. Hopefully we can continue that relationship and you’ll see a lot of Rams and Clippers fans here in Hawaii.”
In addition to the Rams playing host to the Cowboys on Saturday, the Clippers will be playing preseason games in Honolulu against the Houston Rockets on Oct. 3 and Yao Ming’s Shanghai Sharks on Oct. 6 while the UCLA men’s basketball team will be playing three games in Lahaina in November as part of the Maui Invitational. The games not only serve as a way to connect with fans in Hawaii but as a way for teams to bond before the start of the regular seasons. The Rams, for example, enjoyed a luau Friday night before Saturday’s game.
“We had been talking with Hawaii Tourism Authority in terms of ways we could work together and at the same time I was having a conversation with Doc Rivers and he was describing the year they won the championship in Boston they did an overseas trip and the connection that was developed with the team on that trip created a camaraderie and a chemistry that lasted throughout the entire season,” said Clippers president of business operations Gillian Zucker. “So, it resonated with Doc as a great opportunity to do something similarly for our franchise and become a tradition.”
The Rams-Cowboys game sold out in March within 24 hours, the fastest sellout in the 44-year history of the 50,000-seat venue, and was projected to be Aloha Stadium’s biggest single-revenue producing event, surpassing a Bruno Mars concert last year. The success of the game has forced the Rams and the NFL to rethink the future of Hawaii as a destination for an annual preseason game.
“I think the NFL has looked at the success of this game in terms of the excitement and the sellout crowd and is paying attention,” Demoff said. “There’s a great passion for the NFL here and how we and the league feeds that in the future is something we’re still trying to figure out.”