Posted by: bkivey | 12 March 2015

My First NBA Game

I’m not a diehard sports fan, but I do enjoy watching anything done well, and I enjoy watching athletic competition performed at a high level. I’ve played several league sports, but I abused my body enough in my 20’s and 30’s to be chary of sustaining injury just to advance a ball. Now I’m content to sit and cheer on the home team, preferably with an adult beverage to hand.

Over the years and in different cities I’ve attended NFL, NHL, MLB, NWSL, and MLS games, along with F1 events, and have enjoyed the experiences. But I’ve never been to an NBA game. Because I live in the Portland metro area, this is something of a hole in my sports fan resume’. People here love them some Blazers, and in truth there’s a lot to like about our local NBA franchise. After the ‘Jail Blazers’ era of the Oughts, ownership decided that players that play well together were more important than simply recruiting the best talent available. Over the past three years the Trailblazers have assembled a core group of players that obviously enjoy the game, like playing together, and are fun to watch. They also win a lot of games. Going to a Blazers game is something of a right of passage around here, and in 8 1/2 years in the area, I hadn’t yet made it to a game. One of my goals this year was to rectify that shortcoming.

Wednesday 11 March the hated Houston Rockets were in town, the very same team that ejected the Blazers from the playoffs last year. Money and time were available, so I bought a ticket, and went.

I took public transit, because parking at events is expensive, and an all-day transit ticket is $5. It’s about a 10 minute drive to the train station, and an hour to the arena. I got off a couple of stops before the arena to eat. I stopped at Kell’s, Portland’s most authentic chain Irish pub, for a bite. The waitress gave me a look when I ordered iced tea rather than a pint. I had the Reuben, and it was OK for the price. Fueled and hydrated, I had a look at some items of interest across the street while waiting for the train.

The light rail stops directly in front of the Rose Quarter, which is where Moda Center ( basketball/hockey/general events), and Veterans Memorial Coliseum (hockey), are located, There’s a complex of shops and restaurants here, too,

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This used to be the Rose Garden, until a large national health insurance company bought naming rights. Yes, it hasn’t gone unnoticed in Portland that paying millions per year for naming an arena is maybe not the most productive use of healthcare dollars.

On game nights, there’s a lit cauldron:

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I’d never been inside the Rose Garden Moda Center, but figured it would be laid out like every other sports  venue. It was. There was an unexpected pass through metal detectors, but otherwise nothing unusual.

The view from my seat:

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I’m surprised there weren’t Sherpas and oxygen masks for rent. But really, the view wasn’t bad, and there are very few obstructed view seats in the place. There are spaces ringing the upper level for standing room only, and for $20 you can see a game: you just can’t sit down. I’ll note that this photo was 1/2 hr. prior to tipoff; nearly all the empty seats were filled. Even on a weekday, the Blazers can sell the house.

The game experience went about as expected. There was the usual amount of promotional activity during timeouts and intermissions; all entertaining. There was a halftime show by a gymnastics group from Union College of Lincoln, NE, which was fairly impressive and got a respectable amount of applause. The game was easy to follow even from my lofty perch, and I was mildly surprised to find that defensive sets and shots were plainly visible. This was the same feeling I’d had when watching NHL from the same tier of seats. You can see a lot more than you think you might from the 300 level.

The home team won. It was a close game through three quarters, but the Blazers pulled away in the fourth, although miscues allowed the Rockets to close the gap late. Some, um, unfortunate calls by the refs didn’t help. James Hardin can’t be too happy to play here: he was loudly booed every tine he touched the ball. Overall it was fun to see a game and players in person that I’d only seen on TV.

But the experience reminded me why I don’t go to live events more often. Mostly it’s the people. There’s a lot to be said for the collective experience, especially for a sporting event, and I try to let the little things slide, but sometimes, you have to wonder.

My seat was between two families. Family A, on my left, was two adults and one child of about 4. The child was old enough to appreciate what she was looking at, and her parents parented, in that they explained what was going on, and except for excessive talking during the National Anthem, indoctrinated her in the norms of society.

Family B, on my right, had some issues. There were two adults and three children, but they’d only bought four seats. The youngest child was maybe 2, and that was a problem. The plan was apparently to hold the youngest on laps for the game, but that didn’t really work out. The child couldn’t know where they were at, or what they were seeing, and they were squirming all over the place. The mother had her hands full the entire game with this child. The school kids in the row in front (attached in some way to Family A) were distracted by this child. What’s the point of going to an event if you can’t watch it, much less enjoy it? I was thinking: why didn’t they buy a seat for this child? It would have cost less than a babysitter.

It was a decent evening out  I like the Blazers, but I’m not a rabid fan. I couldn’t help but think that for the price of the night, I could watch four or five games at the local bar, with people who are just as good company, and who cheer just as loud. I’ll probably go to another game, but maybe I’ll spring for the 200 level

 

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