Salt Lake City Thriller
Yesterday I was part of a magnificent game between the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Kevin Durant scored almost at will, but Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer also had great games. With less than two seconds left in the game Deron Williams hit a game winning shot over two Thunder players to give the Jazz a one point lead. What is quirky about this is that it occurred on the corresponding season game on my video game yesterday morning as I left for the airport. Sometimes life imitates art and sometimes life imitates video games. (or another true example – sometimes a hockey player that “dated” your ex scores a goal on you in NHL10).
The day did not start with good omens. As I got on my Delta flight to Salt Lake City I observed an Indian family of four sitting in my row of three. I had an aisle seat because my legs are a long, awkward nuisance and I cannot physically sit in the middle seat or a window seat unless absolutely necessary. The family, whose English was limited, but whose baby’s screaming was proficient, looked at me with this look like the father in Blood Diamond who did not want to be separated from his family. I just said, “I can’t switch seats with you because your seat is a window and I am a giant.” So my trip to Hoops Mecca began with breaking up a family.
When I arrived in Utah I was blown away by the white landscape. And the snow capped mountains as well. Seriously, the scenery was beautiful and there were actually more minorities than I expected. Granted, it had the diversity of a NYC law firm, but that was better than what I expected, which was the diversity of Friends.
Among the pre-game highlights were standing on the street named after John Stockton and seeing a sign that indicated that drinking was not illegal in Salt Lake City. Expectations were getting obliterated by the minute!
I went to the arena around 6 pm (one hour before game time) to look around and to spend money in the gift shop like a crack addict in New Jack City. There were also several groups, who apparently did not make the cut for halftime shows – a series of awkward child dancing routines. I think everyone who knowingly shows up to pre-game early to watch this (that isn’t related to the kids or an unknowing out-of-towner) should be automatically registered on sex offender lists.
Something else I noticed was how many doors I held for people in Utah without getting a thank you. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing or perhaps I have been too harsh on Manhattan as the King City of Rudeness. Or maybe it was just a coincidence.
In the Energy Solutions Arena my seats were so close to the court that I could actually see concern on Paul Millsap’s face when he looked in my direction and saw me wearing his jersey. His thought may have been – why is that grown man wearing my jersey? And why is he so big and not playing?
The pre-game warm-ups featured the Jazz mascot “Bear” who is a anthropomorphous bear who comes into the arena on a motorcycle to greet the Jazz starters. It sounds weird, but it makes perfect sense for a team called the Utah Jazz.
When the game started I felt like I was at a Tea Party rally. There were angry white people yelling things at black men they did not support that made no sense. It seemed like at the beginning of the game the emotions ran much higher than rational thought. Every call that was made against the Jazz drew jeers, no matter how right the call was. And the young woman sitting next to me was literally overflowing with bad heckles – her best was shrieking that Russel Westbrook (pt guard for the Thunder) should call himself Westbrick! The guys next to me were a little better because they kept calling Serge Ibaka (center for Thunder) Chewbakka (which I got laughs for when I did a decent Chewbacca impression).
The game was going well for the Jazz early, but Ibaka (ggggggggggggggg) helped keep the Thunder in the game. At halftime the Jazz were actually down 1.
There various amounts of intermissions provided humor. There were the dancers, who shook their breasts and asses with great vigor, but because they were dancing to oldies half the time I guess it is less dirty than other franchises who dance to Whitesnake and Timbaland. It was around this time that I heard my first and only anti Obama comment from the people behind me. That was 7 less than I expected.
There was also a brief acknowledgement of the Salt Lake City Bees who were either a minor league baseball team or a separatist militia. Oh wait – there were a couple of brown people with them.
I of course did yeoman’s work at the concession stand, but drew a “You don’t want cheese???” more incredulous than any I have ever received when I purchased some soft pretzel bites.
The second half turned a good game into what may have been the NBA Game of the Year to this point. Deron Williams got filthy, CJ Miles alternated his play between Kobe Bryant, Dr. J and J-L Cauvin, solidifying him as unquestionably the most frustrating Jazz player. Carlos Boozer started dunking like a madman, but then Kevin Durant happened.
Kevin Durant is my favorite player in the NBA not on the Utah Jazz. He is built like Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas, but has such an effortless and smooth game. He will be the chief rival against LeBron’s James’ upcoming dominance because just as LeBron is so physically gifted, Durant has incredibly innate basketball gifts.
So the Durant show began and he just started pouring in points. The game eventually was tied by Georgetown alum Jeff Green’s three pointer (as if the Law Center experience was not enough of a reason for me to hate G-Town) with 8 seconds left.
It was at this point that I noticed something odd – as legitimate passion and tension rose during the game: the fans were not saying stupid stuff. It seemed once they had to focus solely on exciting action they had no time to make inane and unfunny comments. I grew to appreciate the crowd’s enthusiasm (though the Korver-to Millsap Jersey ration left some unfavorable in my mind – though I don’t begrudge the chicks for shrieking for Kyle Korver a/k/a Ashton Kutcher with a jumpshot).
In overtime the Jazz had the ball with five seconds left and the atmosphere was electric – just check my 3,898 Tweets during the game (www.Twitter.com/JLCauvin). Boozer got the ball handed it off to Williams who nailed a jumper over two defenders with 1.1 seconds left. (Please see that on my Twitter feed I wrote about the ending of my video game an hour before Williams re-played it in real life). That was awesome.
Kevin Durant ended up missing a game winning shot thanks to CJ Miles gently slamming Durant’s forearm, but Durant was not going to get the call for a few reasons. One – Kevin Garnett had made a public and expensive complaint about Durant getting calls. Two – Durant over-dramatized the foul with leg flailing that only drew attention from the actual foul on his wrist. Three – it did not happen on my video game.
So the Jazz finish up the J-L Jazz tour in dramatic fashion, giving me a 5-0 season at Jazz games. It was a phenomenal trip and a phenomenal game. Now I need my plane to leave already so I can play Utah vs. Houston before tonight’s game. If it happens again I’m calling Hollywood about a sequel to the Gerard “My native accent always creeps in to any role I play” Butler “film” Gamer.