How I let the games come to me at Staples Center

Hendrick Johnson | 4/25/2012, 5 p.m.

Working at Staples Center as an usher had its perks at times, especially when I found myself at an important event that I wouldn't have been able to get into otherwise, even if I had the money to pay.

Surprisingly, it was not always fun and games. Michael Jackson's funeral is a case in point. The enormity of the occasion, the media coverage and the tense moments could not have been measured. The mood of the ushering staff was very somber and withdrawn as we got dressed in the locker room. No one was joking or laughing, as we normally did, and during the lineup all the supervisors were very stoical in their demeanor.

We were told not to take any pictures and definitely not take any of the programs and souvenirs or we would face termination.

I had worked very intense Lakers playoff games as well as Kings hockey games that went into overtime, sold-out concerts, and championship boxing matches, but the Jackson funeral was one of the hardest events I had ever worked.

The mood inside the building was thick with sadness. You could have heard a pin drop in the huge arena that seats about 18,000 usually rabid fans. It had never been that quiet inside the building so full of people. It seemed everyone had tears in their eyes, including me. Most of us were still in shock at the sudden passing of the King of Pop, but to actually be at his funeral was surreal.

Though I was a Michael Jackson fan, I had to put my feelings aside in order to assist the guests who were sitting in my section, and that was very difficult. People would ask me where the restrooms were, and all I could do was whisper and point. I functioned pretty well under the circumstances, but other ushers had requested to work the doors because they could not stand to watch, and preferred not to see the funeral. This was more than just an event. It was a moment in history, and even as an usher I was a part of it.

Working an L.A. King's hockey game was an instance of having fun while freezing. Most hockey fans have a high tolerance for cold, and they come to the game wearing shorts and T-shirts. You can tell fans who are at their first hockey game, because they keep repeating the same words, "It's cold in here!"

It's imperative that an usher be prepared mentally and has additional layers on for the event. Most ushers wear long-johns, turtlenecks, several long-sleeve shirts--even pajamas--underneath their uniforms to protect against the cold.

The coldest part of the evening, in my opinion is the hour prior to the game, as we would stand at our posts, waiting for warm bodies to enter the arena. You almost wanted to grab them and hug them for their heat. Once the fans arrive and fill up the place, the cold is less of an issue.

The Los Angeles Sparks is one of those events I can take my entire family to. I love to watch basketball, and these games are often very intense and competitive. The Sparks have a rich history and a winning tradition, and they play at a very high level. The good thing is the doors usually open at 6 p.m. for a 7:30 p.m. game, and you can use that time to take pictures and watch the shoot-around, eat or simply enjoy the scenery. If you want to experience the atmosphere of a Lakers game without the high cost--and, of course, the thunderous dunks--the L.A. Sparks game is the next best thing.