Saturday, March 1, 2014

Day 293 - Attending a Professional Basketball Game


I have never attended a professional basketball game. The fact I have not gained this experience up to this point in my life is largely the result of two things. First, professional basketball has never had much appeal to me. Although the players have impressive talent and are clearly masters of their craft, I have always found the National Basketball Association to lack the degree of passion and excitement that is present in other leagues, particularly the NCAA. I don’t know why, but I have always felt the players of the NBA appear they are playing more out of obligation than out of love for the game. To me, that makes the game lose a lot of its appeal.

Second, I have spent most of my life in a state that has consistently had one of the worst teams in the NBA as its “home team.” In Wisconsin we are very committed to our sports teams. One needs to look no further than the packed stands of Miller Park on a summer day or hear the rush of cheers flowing over the walls of Lambeau field during a Packer football Sunday to know that is the case. Enthusiasm is in abundance when it comes to Wisconsinites and their sports teams with the exception of the Milwaukee Bucks, of course.

The Bradley Center

Ready for a loss...

As the only professional basketball team in Wisconsin, the Bucks are the only real choice for a “local” game, but the reality is they have hovered near the bottom of the NBA standings for so long I have only known them as a losing team during the course of my life. In fact, since I was a child talk of the Bucks leaving Milwaukee has been a recurring theme. Stated simply, they aren’t a good team and they have been struggling to stay afloat for nearly the entire length of my life.

As a result of these factors, attending a professional basketball game has never been high on my list of priorities. Although I knew attending such an event would offer a unique experience, I had no desire to travel to Milwaukee Wisconsin and pay money to watch the Bucks lose. As far as I was concerned, that experience wasn’t likely to occur for me, but considering the circumstances, I was OK with that outcome. Frankly, the Bucks made it easy to come to that conclusion.

Pre-game!

Warm-ups!

It wasn’t until recently that my perspective shifted in this regard. After a conversation with my friend, Ray, who happens to live in downtown Milwaukee, the idea of attending a professional basketball game started to have a little more appeal. Assuring me the Bucks terrible record guaranteed incredibly low ticket prices, Ray convinced me taking the time to attend a professional basketball game would provide plenty of entertainment value. Stating Bucks games are so bad at times that they simply become funny, Ray eventually convinced me that the experience would be worthwhile. Adding in the fact that it would also give us an opportunity to hit the town after the inevitable Bucks loss was secured, I was sold on the idea.

As a result, I packed an overnight bag and took to the snowy winter roads this evening to gain my first experience with a professional basketball game. After arriving at Ray’s apartment in Milwaukee later than expected, the two of us were quick to head into the city and find our way to the Bradley Center at the heart of downtown. Stopping for a beer on the way to the arena, Ray and I watched the pre-game discussion of the forthcoming event an overhead television in the bar. The sight of no more than a few hundred people speckling the concentric rings of chairs in the Bradley Center gave us a chuckle as we worked through our drinks. We were going to be one of the few making an active decision to watch the Bucks play a basketball game live, and although the sparse attendance on the television screen was pathetic in a way, I found myself somewhat excited by the prospects of being one of the relatively few people in the crowd. In a way, that reality took any semblance of seriousness out of the event, and it left the door open for Ray and me to make the experience for ourselves. Knowing who we are, I had little doubt we would make it a night to remember.

Game time!

All downhill from here...

Ray and I sipped to the bottom of our glasses before making the short walk to the Bradley Center. Once inside, we promptly found our seats just in time for tipoff, which set my new experience for the day into motion. During the first few minutes of the game, I watched closely as the Bucks surprisingly made the game interesting by keeping up with the offensive onslaught being delivered by their opponents, The Brooklyn Nets. Initially, the joint effort by both teams made it appear the game could be close, but those hopes were dashed as the Bucks fell into their familiar rhythm by the end of the first quarter, giving the Nets a comfortable lead and making prospects of a comeback slim.

As a result of the slowly unraveling game occurring before us, Ray and I began making light of the events occurring on the court. Air balls became a point of celebration, desperate attempts at flare by Bucks players became comedic relief, and amateurish mistakes on the floor became noteworthy events. By the time the game reached halftime, Ray and I had developed hollow rituals with the complimentary bobble head doll we had received at the beginning of the game, and consistently found ourselves rolling with laughter. That outcome wasn’t what I was expecting from my first experience at a professional basketball game, but in hindsight I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any other way.

The deficit rising...

Out effort to make light of the inevitable home team loss occurring on the court below us continued well into the second half. Under the pressure of a steady effort by the Nets, we watched as the Bucks’ point deficit widened as the game clock pressed toward a point of conclusion. Although a part of me remained hopeful for a comeback victory that would make for an incredible, unexpected story, it was clear the laughable nature of the event and the ridiculous moments Ray and I threw together would be more than enough to tell the tale of my first NBA game.

The results... Somewhat expected

When the final buzzer sealed the Bucks’ loss we had entirely expected, Ray and I laughed our way out of the Bradley Center, recapping some of the more memorable moments of the experience. With the night still young, those moments set the tone for the events yet to come this evening, which made an otherwise uneventful new experience into something worth carrying forward. If anything, that stands as testament to the idea of making the most of every moment and finding the good in every new experience. Although I feel I’ve done quite well at that over the past nine and half months, a reminder of the power that outlook can have in any scenario is always good; especially when it makes an ordinary night on the town into a night like tonight.

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