As I posted in my Grizzlies preview, I was heading to San Antonio on Friday with a date to make pasta with a 14-year old and a pair of 12-year olds, then hanging out and watching the Grizzlies game. The pasta making was a hit and the Grizzlies game was a wildly entertaining affair. Sucks that we lost.
Sunday was an entirely different story as we took on the Wolves. Follow me beyond the jump for my recap of this odd and wonderful experience.
The flu bug hit Bart’s family over the weekend and I got caught up in San Antonio for an extra day. So, we’ve been a bit absent. That’s the bad news. The good news is that part of my getting caught up in SA is that I went to Sunday night’s game against the Wolves. My first game of the season. But, it being my first live game wasn’t the highlight. No, not even close. The highlight of attending this particular game was my companion. Circumstances conspired to have me attend the game with a friend’s 12-year old daughter. What an absolute hoot and mind-boggling evening. I’m not sure I’ve ever had more fun at a game.
Here’s a quick recap of the game for those who want my assessment of the basketball part of the evening. We started terrible, we got serious, Manu got hurt, the refs sucked, we blew out the Wolves. That’s pretty much how things went.
Let me give you a little info so you see what kind of situation I had got myself into. I’ve known this girl for about four years. I’m good friends with the family, but I’ve never spent a lot of time with her alone until this weekend. It’s always been time with the whole family and she has been the shy, quiet one.
I found out this weekend that she’s a competitive little devil. On Friday afternoon, we started playing ping pong. She started the day playing by holding the paddle in two hands. One hand on the end of the handle, the other by the end of the paddle side, and was content to bump the ball back to the other side. She served by bouncing the ball off the table and hitting it. After one game, I made her start using one hand. We played a game. We played another game. Midway through the second game she realized that all I was doing was hitting it back to her and so she wasn’t winning any points. At which point, she decided she needed to start hitting winners and started whacking the ball back with some velocity. She did all this without a word passing between us. On Saturday, I told her she needed to serve correctly. Two hours later she beat her brother.
We then split a pair of games of Stratego. I only won my game because I went with a non-conventional layout and she wasn’t sure how to find my flag. Otherwise, she completely kicked my ass for the balance of the play of the game. So not only is she a competitive little devil she is also an observant and analytic little devil.
I should also point out that I have very little to no experience with kids. I don’t have any myself and I don’t have a lot of friends that I hang out with frequently that have kids. Girls are even more mysterious to me. You know, because I wasn’t one. I had no idea what I was getting myself into and I wasn’t at all comfortable with how this would go.
So, off we went to the game. Me and TheGirl.
We got to our seats, cold beverages in hand — water for me, Diet Coke for TheGirl — just after the teams had taken the court. We had good seats. We were along the baseline extended directly across from the Minnesota bench. 25 rows up. She was to my right, which meant I couldn’t see her when I was watching the game. I would tend to forget about her for stretches when the game was interesting, which luckily wasn’t very often.
While the T-Wolves were doing their layup line I took the opportunity to point out a few things. Fortunately, Luke Ridnour and Nikola Pekovic were next to each other in line. I said, “do you see that small skinny guy?”. TheGirl, “yes”. Me: “He’s a little bigger than me. Now, look at how big that guy next to him is”. TheGirl: crinkles brow. “Wow. Is he bigger than Tim Duncan?” Me: “Much bigger”. TheGirl: “Wow.” I think the NBA would do itself some favors in helping kids understand just how large the players are. Kids don’t have the experience to understand measurements. They don’t know what 7′ looks like and certainly not at that distance. I’d bet that Pekovic’s calves are about the same size as TheGirl’s thighs. He’s just a massive, massive man and that would be great to convey to young fans.
She picked out the big three, by finding their numbers on their jerseys. I had to give it her, she was a Spurs fan. While we were waiting for things to get going, I was struggling with topics of conversation. So, I started pointing out the different nationalities of the players on the Minnesota team. To no surprise, she didn’t know where Montenegro was. Luckily, the AT&T Center has really good 3G. I was able to bring my Maps up and zoom in on Europe and where everything was. Now this was interesting to her.
Another good thing about the AT&T having good 3G is that it allowed us to multi-task. We were both texting — I was texting Bart and her mom, we played Words With Friends against each other, I checked box scores.
Once the game got started, things didn’t go the Spurs way. The slow start by the Spurs made for a very quiet arena. It was almost corpse-like. We were just so flat for so long that it felt like the game would never get moving. It wasn’t until the last third of the first quarter that our offense kicked into gear and we started a layup line that got people pretty fired up. We immediately got down 16-7 and I was keeping an eye on Pop’s body language. I told her Pop was mad and I had to point him out. She noticed our defense wasn’t very good. In fact, she caught me off guard by what she noticed.
She asked why the other team was shooting a technical free throw. Try explaining a defensive three second technical foul some day. Well, you see, we had a guy standing in the middle there without anybody around him for three seconds. Um, yeah, I don’t know why they made that rule. No, you can stand anywhere else, just not in that painted area. Etc. To her credit, TheGirl followed play very well. She knew who had the ball, when we scored, when we made 3-pointers, when things were going poorly, and when the time out entertainment sucked. She thought the old-lady dancers were ok, didn’t care about any of the competitions, cared not about the Silver Dancers, and really liked the blue, red, and green car race (I won!). She also noticed what a crazy deep voice the PA announcer has. I don’t know what happened to Big Kev, but the guy they have now is the one the Toros had for the last few years. He’s really good.
Aside about the refs: Holy cow were they bad. They called so many bad, bad fouls on the Spurs it was crazy. The overhead replays couldn’t help but show that they were bad calls. I went to a small high school girls basketball game on Saturday and I think the refs may have been better. In fact, one girl on the opposing team got called for a travel — the foot split on the drive that is a focus this year in the NBA — that I think most pro refs miss.
We built a big lead early in the second quarter and then pissed it away. Boris hit a big 3 to send us into halftime up 5, but the building was dead. The lead had disappeared and Manu left with an injury that really didn’t look good.
Halftime was spent with more texting and game playing. We got in some trash-talking on each other.
In the second half, during a time out, I decided to take a risk. The lighthouse was showing an interview with one of the Silver Dancers, one of the platinum blonde, fake tan, and lots of make up variety — and I asked TheGirl: “Do you think she is pretty?” TheGirl: “uhhhh, no! Actually, she’s kind of creepy.” Me: Why do you think that?” TheGirl: ”She’s orange!”
During the next time out the Silver Dancers were doing a dance and she said, “I think the creepy one is on the other side.” That was the extent of her interest in the dancers except to discuss their weird looking hair.
A subsequent series of texts with her mother went like this:
Me: Your daughter has excellent taste.
Me: She called the cheerleader creepy and orange.
TheMother: I bet you can’t get her to comment on a boy.
Me: We’ll see.
…2-3 minutes go by
Me: I win!
Let it be known that boys who chew on their fingernails are disgusting. Don’t do it in public. You are closing doors. Doors that you are going to wish are open in 5-6 years. I got a great earful about what kind of disgusting things are under fingernails and why she didn’t want to think about whether or not basketball players were good-looking or not (because then she wouldn’t be able to watch the game). All the while, we are watching the game, doing a team clap (I’d hold out a hand that she would clap or two hands on a 3-ptr and she would clap them both), and cheering on the Spurs.
In the third quarter, the Spurs again built a nice double digit lead and again pissed it away. It was a frustrating quarter for all the fans. We clearly had them outclassed, but we kept let them hanging around. One thing I can get used to though, is Kawhi flying down the paint and throwing down monster slams. I don’t know what it looked like on television, but live it got me and TheGirl out of our seats. It looked positively ferocious.
The game was essentially over when Tiago, Gary, and Jack went on a scoring spree. They scored the first 21 points of the quarter for the Spurs in just over six minutes and the game was a blow out. It gave TheGirl time to work her analytic brain. TheGirl: Do you see those ads? Me: Which ones? TheGirl: The ones along the court. The KIA, KIA, KIA, KIA ones. Me: Yeah. TheGirl: How many do you think they have? So far I’ve seen at least five. Me: Um, I don’t know. TheGirl 2 minutes later: There’s another. That’s six. TheGirl 2 minutes later: Seven. How do you think they do it? Me: I think they have small people under there that change them out. TheGirl: Really? Me: I hold my hands about a foot apart. TheGirl: She gives a nasty look. She decides that there must be a whole conveyor belt type thing of them under the floor. It seems reasonable.
The ending was pretty anti-climactic. The arena was almost empty by the time the buzzer sounded. TheGirl was disappointed that we didn’t chuck (her word) the ball at the basket at the end. I explained that the guys just wanted to end the game. She replied that you could still chuck it at the end. It would be fun she said. I couldn’t argue with her.
Overall, I was surprised to see how little of the entertainment around the game and the presentation of the game itself is of interest to a youngster. It’s loud and flashy and overwhelming with very little for them to grasp. TheGirl was more interested in trying to find where the people who were being spotlighted were sitting than anything that was actually going on during the time outs. Cheerleaders dancing? Meh! People trying to put balls in buckets? Meh! It seems like the NBA could really do itself some long term favors by interacting more with youths at games. They could have apps with games that kids played in the arena. They could show tweets on the screens. They could hand out kid FAQs that help kids understand what is happening (I had to show her all the places she could see the score and where the stats were and how to read them). They could make the whole experience far more interactive for the kids without it having much impact on how adults at the arena watch the game and no impact whatsoever on the tv audience.
Give the kids something they can associate with. I was fortunate to go with someone who is really amazing and observant and interested in the mechanics of what is happening and who can follow the game. I can’t wait to take TheGirl again.