Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Basketball Orgasm

My buddy, Sam, in San Antonio invited me, so I packed my bags and traveled there. That was on March 1. We’re hoops junkies and this March, so far, so orgasmic as far as basketball games are concerned. (Never mind that my Spurs drive me crazy these days.) Here are the classic games that we had watched:

Sun, Mar 02 Dallas L.A. Lakers 104-108, Kobe scored 52.
Wed, Mar 05 Detroit Boston 78-90, Garnett 31 pts, Kendrick Perkins had 20 rebounds.
Thu, Mar 06 Houston Dallas 113-98, McGrady 31.
Sat, Mar 08 New Orleans Houston 96-106, McGrady 41.
Sun, Mar 09 San Antonio Phoenix 87-94, that’s the game when Shaq jumped into the stands.
Wed, Mar 12 San Antonio New Orleans 75-100, CP3 17 dimes.
Thu, Mar 13 Golden State Phoenix 115-123, Baron Davis 38 pts.
Fri, Mar 14 San Antonio Detroit 80-84, the first Bowen-free game after 500, thanks to Stu “Rotten Eye” Jackson.
Fri, Mar 14 L.A. Lakers New Orleans 98-108, Kobe 36, Ty Chandler 20 rebs, Paul 17 asts.
Sun, Mar 16 New Orleans Detroit 84-105, Detroit’s team concept in full power.
Sun, Mar 16 L.A. Lakers Houston 92-104, Rafer Alston exploded for 31 .
Mon, Mar 17 Boston San Antonio 93-91, Manu Ginobili had 32 pts, but C’s escaped with a W.
Tue, Mar 18 Boston Houston 94-74, Celtics as defensive juggernaut.
Tue, Mar 18 L.A. Lakers Dallas 102-100, Dirk Nowitzki’s 35 not enough.

That’s 14 high-stakes games (and there were other less-hyped NBA games that were exciting, too) in 16 days. What a pace, man! We usually had watched them in one sports bar, however, on March 17 I got a chance (and a pair of tickets) to see Boston-SA live from the stands of AT&T Center. What a crazy experience, thanks to Sam’s 3-year old daughter. Here’s the deal:

That lucky day, Sam and his wife had to go to their friend’s wedding. Since I had two tickets (originally for me and Sam), I didn’t know in hell what to do with that second ticket. Find some girl? Find some hopeless fan in front of the Center? In the end of the day, I became a babysitter for one night. I most wanted to see (and I was very afraid of that) her reaction to the game. She, according to Sam, has actually liked hoops ever since it became part of her nighttime routine. This month, as far as I know, their TV could show only NBA games after 6 p.m. She gravitated toward basketball (like us) because of its colors and sounds, the running and jumping, the tattoos and chest-thumping and, most of all, the simplicity. Basically, players try to make the basketball fall through the net, and when they do, everyone applauds.

Fast-forward to the game. When I asked if she wanted to go with me (instead of being held in jail of Sam’s old neighbor), her respond was: “Are there any sofas?”. And I sold Celtics-Spurs game as a combination of Disneyland, Christmas and sweets. After a few seconds, she was hooked, screaming at her dad, "We're gonna go see Micky Mouse!” (Mighty Mouse on the bench, even better.) Her excitement only amplified over the next few hours. Meanwhile, I started to worry because 150 minutes is a long time to keep a child entertained and I’m not a father yet, thus you should understand my deep concerns. Could she make it through the third quarter? What if I had to go to the toilet with her in the crunch time? Could she even make it to halftime?

As soon as we got inside the AT&T, I immediately bought a bucket of popcorn. It buys children some minutes. We stood during the national anthem of US and she infinitely kept asking “Who’s this?” during the pregame intros. She was transfixed when the arena went dark and she saw fans screaming and waving their banners. She liked Manu Ginobili’s nose and told me the she’s frightened by “that man with white hair”, a.k.a. Gregg Popovich. We were comfortly sitting in our seats when the opening tip started. Within 34 seconds, she was on my lap because she was sitting behind a tall guy and couldn’t see anything but his bald head. She was mesmerized by the whole thing, simply too many images and noises at once, capped of by the presence of Spurs mascot, The Coyote. It lasted for a good 15 minutes, just her staring straight ahead as she shoveled popcorn into her mouth. And our Spurs were clicking, climbing as high as on a 22-points pillow.

She eventually (maybe she jinxed the game for SAS by this) emerged from her stupor and started to ask about the JumboTron, which she mistook for a giant TV. Could we touch it? Was there a remote control? In the next five minutes, I got Qs about the referees' whistles, the substitution horn, the people around us, the PA announcer and, finally, about Matt Bonner’s red hair.

She liked how the players huddled in a circle for timeouts, as well as my revelation that the players had their own "teacher" (that man with white hair, the coach). She liked putting her drink in the cupholder that comes with each seat. She was so delighted by the Silver Dancers that she immedialtey wanted to go dancing, too. In the fourth quarter, in the waning moments of the game, she loved clapping with the crowd after each Spurs basket and she loved hearing the crowd boo and roar ‘Defense’. By the way, she misunderstood that word and instead of that she yelled something like “deep-pens”, but I didn’t want to spoil her joy by correcting her. And she was interested when a guy behing us called one of the referees a total jackass.

The biggest revelation as the game went further to the final buzzer was that she actually liked the green color more than the white one. Hmm, maybe this is a typical act of child: root for the team that’s leading (or has a momentum). When Sam Cassell hit that key trey, everyone in the building was quiet but my friend’s daughter. Her team led! The end of the game was a real adventure. When Rob Horry’s shot didn’t go in, I was mad and sad but this feeling was reduced a little bit by the mood of my little friend: she was thrilled by that and not caring about the result. I want to be a child, too... They have lost fourth in a row? Screw it, children don’t care. They mainly care about the atmosphere. Her happy face made me happier soon. We shared a large Coca-Cola Zero as Spurs, defeated and angry, marched to their lockerroom. I realized the NBA had itself another fan (besides, the fan ratings are way UP thanks to the incredible West situation and Boston’s resurgence). Her words on the way out of AT&T gates: "I wanna see Tom Duncan again tomorrow."

On Thursday, March 13, we (with Sam) were watching Golden State-Phoenix at Tex's Sports Bar (Sam’s favorite place to be). The other days we visited the River Walk and its nightlife with restaurants, bars and shops... and water taxis to traverse the area in style. One day at Dick's Last Resort (patio seating at "the joint your mamma warned you about"; we’ve even seen one smoking hot chick with transparent dress there), the other at Howl at the Moon (piano bar) and Durty Nelly's (Irish pub). These two sports bars stand the highest in Alamo City: TSB with ice-cold beer and Texas-style appetizers to accompany any and all TV coverage and Hooters with 15 TVs, wings and other hot stuff (Sam says Hooters bar is jinxed, everytime he went there, Spurs had a bad shooting night.) You can try restaurants, too: Boudro's on the River Walk (go-to place for Texas-style seafood and steaks), Rosario's Cafe y Cantina (classic Tex-Mex with lively music, good food and great River Walk atmosphere, btw, a great chance to test the knowledge of your Spanish with beautiful latin-esque girls all-around) or County Line Bar-B-Q (expect vintage Texas barbecue, with ribs, brisket, sausage and beans galore). You can get cheap eats at Mi Tierra Cafe y Panaderia (terrific Tex-Mex breakfast tacos and other morning-meal dishes served 24/7 under year-round Christmas lights, since 1941). We also visited The Alamo, Fort Sam Houston Museum, Market Square, San Antonio Museum of Art, Sea World, San Antonio Zoo, Six Flags Fiesta Texas Theme Park and Spanish Governor's Palace. Back to the GS-PHX game at TBS and the story...

We were sitting and watching with two Pulp-Fiction like guys at the table. They said they’re the biggest fans of this movie. The first one, Vincent Vega-like, said he’ a plumber from Amsterdam and recently came to work to San Antonio. Bogus-Vincent drives a red 1960s era Chevrolet Malibu convertible. (Truly amazing!) He wears a bola tie with his suit, has long hair pulled back into a ponytail, rolls his own cigarettes, uses heroin and orders his steak "bloody as hell". Although Bogus-Vincent said he does not watch TV he knowledgeably refers the movie stars from the 1950s. He even had a copy of Modesty Blaise with him. The second one was Jules Winnfield-like. He works as a plumber alongside Bogus-Vincent. Has jehri curled hair and drives a beat up 1974 Chevrolet Nova which he otherwise describes as "tip-top". He even knows that pseudo biblical passage from the movie: “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and goodwill shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy My brothers. And you will know My name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.” Great times. They’re fans of Warriors and went berserk everytime Baron Davis touched the ball.

We talked with ‘em about hoops and Bogus-Jules said that although March 21 it's the first friday of the NCAA tournament, one of the best days on the sports-viewing calendar, he’ll simply not be able to escape from NBA. We chatted how we’re excited about the final eight weeks of the NBA regular season. This year the pro game doesn't just offer better players, it offers better games and better story lines, as J.A. Adande of ESPN has written.
Yep, there's too much on the line right now, when seeds can be gained or lost. They hope the eight spot will be theirs, we hope Spurs will gain some momentum, even as late as in April. Bogus-Vincent & Bogus-Jules said us hello after the game and predicted a second round playoff run for Warriors. Meanwhile, we stayed long into the night discussing the NBA. The league loads up on the conference and divisional matchups as the schedule winds down. This season promises to be a SLUGFEST & ENTERTAINMENT all the way through.

Our Guide to NBA March Madness, The Month of March:

Tonight, Mar 19 Detroit Cleveland 8:00 PM ET ESPN
Tonight, Mar 19 Houston New Orleans 8:00 PM ET NBALP
Thu, Mar 20 Boston Dallas 8:00 PM ET TNT
Thu, Mar 20 L.A. Lakers Utah 10:30 PM ET TNT
Sat, Mar 22 Boston New Orleans 8:00 PM ET NBALP
Sat, Mar 22 Houston Phoenix 10:00 PM ET NBATV
Sun, Mar 23 San Antonio Dallas 1:00 PM ET ABC
Sun, Mar 23 Golden State L.A. Lakers 9:30 PM ET NBALP
Mon, Mar 24 Phoenix Detroit 7:30 PM ET NBALP
Mon, Mar 24 L.A. Lakers Golden State 10:30 PM ET NBATV
Tue, Mar 25 San Antonio Orlando 7:00 PM ET FSFL
Wed, Mar 26 New Orleans Cleveland 7:00 PM ET NBALP
Wed, Mar 26 Phoenix Boston 7:00 PM ET ESPN
Thu, Mar 27 Dallas Denver 10:30 PM Altitude
Fri, Mar 28 New Orleans Boston 7:30 PM ET NBATV
Sat, Mar 29 Cleveland Detroit 7:30 PM ET NBATV
Sat, Mar 29 Golden State Denver 9:00 PM ET NBALP
Sun, Mar 30 Houston San Antonio 1:00 PM ET ABC
Sun, Mar 30 Dallas Golden State 9:00 PM ET NBATVHighDef
Mon, Mar 31 Denver Phoenix 10:00 PM ET NBATVHighDef

Sure, we'll be watching the NCAAs during the off hours. But when NBA beauty calls, we won't feel we're missing out. We’re already looking forward to our basketball orgasm on March 31.

My March Madness Final Four Picks:
*Memphis over UCLA
*Kansas over North Carolina
-Memphis over Kansas

Tonite’s games:
MIA at TOR... (TOR win)
DEN at PHI... (PHI win; AI’s big comeback night)
WSH at ORL... (ORL win)
CHA at IND... (IND win)
ATL at NJ... (ATL win)
DET at CLE... (CLE win)
HOU at NO... (NO win)
MEM at MIN... (MIN win)
PHX at SEA... (PHX win)
GS at LAC... (a tie)

Posted by Foreigner in CS - Mar 19 2008 2:41PM

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