Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Basketball Spectators Have Spoken

I must admit, I didn't get it. I just didn't get it. What's worse is I didn't know I didn't get it. I had no clue that all my preconceived notions of what it meant to be a basketball spectator were so far off the mark that I probably should have just stayed home and watched the game on TV.  But there I was, Duh-doot! Duh-doot! in the St Pete Times Forum in downtown Tampa with excellent seats about 8 rows back from the players bench anticipating the chance to watch a basketball game between the University of South Florida Bulls and the Syracuse University Orange. Granted, the Bulls are not doing very well this year and the Orange have a very good team (ranked 17th nationally at the time of this game, I believe) but knowing the Forum was a step up from the Sun Dome where the bulls usually play and especially knowing my season tickets location in the Forum was going to be courtside instead of 21 rows up in the 2nd level in the Dome where I almost need binoculars to see the game, had me pumped for a good game. I hoped the Bulls felt the same.

Those who know me and my wife are aware that we are among the vertically challenged. Not defeated, just challenged.  Dunking a basketball by either one of us, for instance, is not in the realm of possibilities, even if she was seated on my shoulders and I was standing on a ten foot ladder. On the other hand, both of us would literally tower over the Roloffs on TLC's Little People BIG WORLD. The only reason I bring up this stature issue at all is to clarify our predicament as spectators in most sports venues.  If someone especially tall is seated in front of either one of us our view can be obstructed.  Someone short or tall and wearing a silly hat (Green Bay Packer Cheese Heads come to mind) we pretty much have to try to view between the head gaps or resort to hoping we can look up at a jumbotron sort of apparatus to see things. Stadium seating in movie theatres is wonderful! Flat surface seating, like in a gymnasium or meeting hall, might as well stand in the back row because that's the only way you're (as in my wife and I) going to see anything.  In the Forum, designed for hockey games, the first level seating is gradually inclined down to court level. So when we got to our seats for Bulls vs. Orange we were sitting pretty. The drawback was there was a large contingent of Syracuse fans present, most clad in Orange, and many exuberantly cheering, well before and into and throughout the game. The bonus to offset being in the minority was that when we sat down 30 minutes before the opening jump ball, two rows immediately in front of us were empty!  No stupid hats in front of us. No head gaps to peer around and in between. Perfect seats.

Until five minutes before the game started. The two empty rows filled in immediately. Orange fans, all wearing orange shirts. All carrying Budweiser "deeps" (16 oz cans). Mostly guys, a few girls. All young but obviously past student age, I'd guess mid to late twenties.  All pretty buzzed and all exhibiting that high level of exuberance we noticed in most of the Syracuse fans we saw that day. I don't hold that against them; they have a great team that gives them reason to cheer and be excited.  Upon the opening jump ball it became clear that viewing the game, even from excellent seats was going to be a problem. Pretty much every basket scored by the Orange was rewarded by their fans standing, issuing high-five hand slaps, toasting with deeps, and in general whooping it up pretty good.  When I complained that they were obstructing our view they pretty much laughed me off and ignored my protests.  They did manage to settle down a little bit but that was probably a combination of the Orange running up so many points over the Bulls and the crowd in front of us consuming vast quantities of beers. I think they pretty much grew weary of arguing with an old short curmudgeon whining about not being able to see around them. At one point my complaint was answered by the question, "What is your problem?" When I responded that my problem was that I didn't object to them standing and cheering after an especially nice play, but I didn't understand why they had to stand up after every basket!

Syracuse fan (on left) stands even during a time out!
But one of them was kind enough to explain it to me. In very simple terms that even an old man like me could understand. He said, "We're standing because this is a basketball game, Man! Basketball!"  Thus, the basketball spectators have spoken.