Like an injury-free Clipper’s draft pick, a sober Red Sox fan, or a golf course free of jokes involving Tiger’s putter, there are many things in life one may hope for but which, deep down, you just know aren't going to happen. For me, one of these was getting actual floor seats to an NBA game.
Eva Longoria gets floor seats. Jack gets floor seats. I sit where the players look like those little football players on my old Coleco electric football game, where my running back would invariably vibrate straight to the sideline and then just kind of stop there, shaking like he had a horrible cold and wanted a little rest.
BUT! It did happen. Aside from how great it is to see a game up close there are some things you learn even if you’re a veteran fan. Here are the top seven, in reverse order:
7. Trainers and Assistant Coaches Are Really Into the Game. On TV one reason it always looks so crowded around the bench is because it is. The trainer and an assistant coach sit between the first row and the bench with their chairs turned sideways. I saw the final regular season Rockets-Nuggets game and the Nuggets head trainer and a defensive coach were actually in my row immediately to my right and left.
This has the down side of making it a little crowded in there, but has the upside of making you really, really excited about the game, because, man, they certainly are.
You know how you and your buddies yell at the T.V. during playoff games, calling fouls and screaming about walks and charges? We have nothing on trainers and coaches. At one point I thought the Nuggets trainer, all 5 feet of him, was going to leap over Nene and garrote the ref with his dreadlocks (yes, 5-foot white guy with dreadlocks, and built like a tiny locomotive.)
6. Yes, Great Player Really Are That Good. On TV, or even live up in the stands, there remains a shroud of unreality as to what you are seeing. A distance that makes great plays seem like a movie—you expect great players to be great and that’s it. From the floor, though, when you’re watching from the same vantage point that you used to watch, or play in, high school, pick-up games at the Y or on the playground, the level of talent is astonishing. Carmelo put up a 3-pointer at the 3rd quarter buzzer that was probably 25 feet away and all you can do so think, “Oh, right, that’s why I’m not in the NBA.”
5. The Violence is Greater Than You Think. It looks like incidental contact on TV, but when it happens right in front of you, it looks more like an NFL game. Nene elbowed Shane Battier with such force it would have broken ribs on anyone else; Chuck Hayes drove into Chauncey like a fullback on a goal line stand; and the arm grabbing, jersey yanking and knees to the legs are ubiquitous, making a typical rebound look more like the UFC than basketball. It really makes you realize that when guys go down with an injury, it’s not flopping, it’s just the natural result of a 6’9’’ guy whipping his arm into someone with a quickness that suggests Manny Pacquiao.
4. You Have Your Own Wait Staff. I know, minor, but STILL COOL! Our wait-person was named Adorna, and she was terrific.
3. Sometimes There is Profanity. I’m not saying that any coach or player violated any NBA “official” proscription on using profanity that might exist in League rules--all I’m saying is that basketball as played in your YMCA or JCC team is not very different when it comes to, let’s say, descriptive assessments as to what went wrong with a play, or that a ref should do things that really are physically impossible given what we know about the reproductive process. Besides that, Adrian Dantley is a choirboy.
2. The X’s and O’s. I saw them draw up the last play. Freakin’ cool. And better yet, it involved ‘Melo sliding down to the low right post, taking the pass and then converting what would be a virtual lay-up. Instead, Chuck Hayes switched, interrupted the shot and my Rockets won by 2 in the last few seconds.
1. My Dad. Happens to have access to NBA floor seats. And while he could have used them for profit, he used them on me. So thanks Dad! and I hope this little column is in a small way recompense, I just wanted to say thanks.
And that’s the coolest thing of all.