All I really wanted to do was see a basketball game.
The last time I went to a professional basketball game I was in high school , which is about three eons ago. I remember it well: it was an ABA game between the Kentucky Colonels and the Indiana Pacers. Artis Gilmore played for the Colonels back then. I remember seeing him sitting in the seats before the game — he was sitting in the third row and his feet were in the first row. He was one big guy.
George McGinnis and Darnell “Dr. Dunk” Hillman played for Indiana. I don’t remember how Hillman did during the game, but he was something else in warm-ups.
But back to modern times. My sons and I were in Denver in December and I noticed the Nuggets were going to be playing the Minnesota Timberwolves. Here was my chance to see another NBA game after all those years. Buying tickets for a Nuggets-Timberwolves game is a little bit cheaper than buying tickets for, say, a game between the Cavs and the Warriors. In fact, you could buy a whole section of tickets in Denver for the price of three seats at a Cavs game.
Our seats were rather high up — Denver is the mile-high city and our seats were at about the 2-mile mark. Still, it was a real NBA game. And there was a video screen the size of Pike’s Peak hanging above the center of the court, just in case we missed anything.
What I wasn’t expecting was that I was going to a rap concert/dance contest/kiss cam/celebrity interview fest with the hope that a basketball game might break out.
I guess I’m showing my age, but when I go to a basketball or baseball game I go to see the game. I am amazed by the types of things professional athletes can do. In fact, I think NBA players really aren’t human – they are aliens from other planets who are sent here as children so they can grow up, make us mere humans look inadequate, and send scads of money back to Planet Dunkathon to support their families who stay home.
But as I learned at the Nuggets’ game, a simple game of basketball isn’t enough. There has to be recorded interviews with the players about their favorite cars or Christmas presents, played at maximum volume on the giant screen. There has to be very loud music played almost all the time, even sometimes while the game is going on. The crowd has to be whipped into a frenzy with giant clapping hands on the video screen, except almost no one pays any attention to these attempts to stir up a little spirit for the home team.
I suppose I’m really showing my age now, but I could only yawn when the dancing girls did their thing during timeouts (accompanied, of course, by ear-splitting music).
All this is now just part of the game. Apparently, the game itself isn’t enough to keep the interest of paying customers. You have to include a circus to keep them engaged.
I do have to admit they pulled one good trick: late in the game, when a Timberwolves player was at the free throw line, they flashed a mammoth picture of Tom Brady onto the screen. Since it was Denver, everyone naturally booed. In fact, it was the loudest the fans got the entire night. They guy at the free throw line probably is still wondering what he did to make them all so mad.
I wonder how the players feel about this. I guess if they get to collect their $10 million to send back to Dunkathon, it doesn’t really matter, but I couldn’t help but think that a large number of the people in attendance didn’t appreciate what they were seeing. Andrew Wiggins and Carl Anthony Towns did some amazing things. Danilo Gallinari made some shots no person should even attempt. And my new favorite player, Nikola Jokic, was really fun to watch. Besides, he has a great name.
When Wilson Chandler made a remarkable defensive play to save the win for the Nuggets, my head was about ready to explode. I couldn’t help but think of the story of the World War I soldier coming back from the trenches for the first time. When asked what it was like, he said, “Well, except for the explosions and noise and flashes of light and constant fear, it wasn’t so bad.”
I have two potential solutions to this problem, assuming the NBA isn’t going to change its approach just because one basketball purist can’t stand all the distractions. I could sit closer to the floor, wear earplugs and close my eyes during timeouts. Or, I could just wait 45 years before I go to see another game. By then, I’ll have no idea what those dancing girls are doing and I won’t be able to hear a thing … but I’ll still be able to appreciate a nice pick and roll.
David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.