The Story Behind The 'Beat LA' Chant — Born In Boston And Now Embraced By Haters Everywhere

(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

As the Los Angeles Dodgers face off against the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, social media is abuzz with some good old-fashioned smack talk. Even elected officials are getting in on the fun.

Many Sox fans are tagging their posts with #BeatLA. It's also a chant that'll likely be heard from those rooting for Boston throughout the series.

But where did that phrase get started? According to one Bostonian, Joel Semuels, he and a couple friends should get the credit.

As the legend goes, Semuels and his friends were at Boston Garden in 1982 to watch the Celtics face off against the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Finals. The winning team would go on to play the L.A. Lakers in the NBA championship.

As the game came to a close it became clear the 76ers would win. That's when Semuels says he and and his seatmates started chanting "Beat L.A."

"We figured... it would be better for the Sixers to beat L.A. if we couldn't," Semuels said in an interview with KPCC's Take Two.

The Lakers ended up defeating the 76ers to win the championship, but "Beat L.A." was a winner too, speading among sports fans determined to see our hometown teams crash and burn.

Joel's daughter, Alana Semuels, spent several years living in L.A. and wrote for the L.A. Times. Now a reporter for The Atlantic, she looked into her father's story to see if she could corroborate his claims, which the family heard frequently.

"We kind of believed him but we also kind of thought, well that's highly unlikely, but he talked about it so much that it kind of gets ingrained in your brain," she said.

The ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, Lakers/ Celtics: Best of Enemies cites the 1982 playoff game as the first time the chant was heard, and Joel says he and his friends were at that game.

Alana asked him if he still had the tickets but decades later they were long, though she said it makes sense he would've been there. Since they were season ticket holders, they would've bought tickets to that game.

The chant wasn't meant to be overly mean-spirited, Joel explained. He and his friends dislike of the Lakers was due to the long-simmering rivalry between the two teams — and the perceived flashiness of L.A.'s "Hollywood-type team."

"The Boston Garden at the time was a big old barn, no air conditioning, no cheerleaders," he said. "There were no kiss cams, there were no t-shirts being rocketed into the stands," he said. "Before the game started people just stood and cheered."

Now, of course, "Beat L.A." is bigger than the Celtics and the Lakers, or even L.A. and Boston; opposing fans from plenty of teams happily take up the chant our teams come to town.

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L.A friends, nothing personal 😉 #WorldSeries #BeatLA

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Joel said he hasn't profited from the chant at all but it has been fun to see it spread.

"I always think if my dad had patented this somehow, you know, you see it on t-shirts, you see it on mugs, you see it everywhere. It's really proliferated since then," Alana said.

Alana said the Dodgers are her second favorite team, but this year both she and her dad will be cheering on the Red Sox (#BeatBoston).

Editor's note: Listen to the radio version of this story here on KPCC's Take Two.


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