Howdy, Pounders! So great to talk to y'all crazy people again. It has been a whirlwind of a week for me and the Mrs, but at long last we are back "home" sweet "home," and ready to tell you all the sordid little details (no, not THOSE kind of details, you sickos) of our brief jailbreak from the plains of Oklahoma to the relative oasis of the Alamo City. Lend me your ears after the jump..........
Before I embark upon this missive, here's a little background on yours truly. I'm a Spurs fan, but not necessarily an X's and O's type guy or a statistician. I latched onto the Silver and Black at a young age because it was something relatively permanent in the ever-undulating life of a kid with military parents. Therefore, I'm more of a cheerleader than someone who'll be able to break down individual players' +/-. But that passion runs deep and has helped me gain a great appreciation for the NBA's finest franchise.
Now that we've got that out of the way, allow me to whisk you away to Altus, Oklahoma, home of the Mighty 97th Air Mobility Wing and...................not much else. My first duty station with the U.S. Air Force landed me and Mrs. Felder in one of the more godforsaken areas of the country--a tiny hamlet about 15 miles north of the Red River in southwest Oklahoma. Other than the air force base, the main attraction in town is the Walmart Supercenter on Main Street. To say the area leaves just a little to be desired is a colossal understatement. And yes, the wind really DOES "come sweeping down the plain" up here--the last windstorm the area had tore shingles off the roofs of almost half the houses in base housing and littered the base with the most disgraceful assortment of rubbish imaginable. Life here is not bad, but for a young couple accustomed to the hustle and bustle of Texas metropolitan life (or at least being close to it in a place like College Station), the glacial pace of life can drive us quite wild.
Hence, when yours truly proposed a road trip to the normally-leery-of-long-car-rides Mrs. Felder, she jumped at the opportunity to return to God's Country. Even though she doesn't really follow basketball (and therefore maintains a bit more sanity in her life), my initial reason for choosing the Rockets game was to give her a chance to see her old hometown team play. Imagine my elation when she told me she'd be rooting for the good guys!!!
We loaded up our faithful little blue '92 Toyota Tercel (a.k.a. "The Little Engine That Could") and set out on our 8+ hour trek to the Alamo City on Tuesday morning. We took the long way, opting to head down the more familiar I-35 because of the lack of stops on the more direct route down Highway 281. It was definitely worth it! There's something to be said for the quality of Texas highways--far outstripping those of Oklahoma from a convenience and entertainment standpoint. As we wended our way down one of Texas' main arteries, I regaled the Mrs. with tales of my former neighborhoods in Waco and Universal City, as well as treated her to some of my world famous "singing" to the radio. It really is a wonder she didn't throw me out of the car before we made it halfway. The woman is a saint!
Made it to our hotel (a Microtel near Brooke Army Medical Center) around 3. We actually stayed there on our honeymoon last summer, and liked the service as well as the proximity to downtown. The Riverwalk was literally 5 minutes away, so we made a night of it. Took Mrs. Felder on her first ever Riverboat ride at dusk and had a blast! Our tour guide's name was Lucinda, and she did a wonderful job engaging us landlubbers in conversation and pointing out the various landmarks along the route. Even for someone like me, who was familiar with San Antonio, it was so much fun to experience the flair of the city from a new perspective.
Didn't realize how much the Tower of the Americas looks like a giant cupcake!
We looked pretty scrumptious ourselves, come to think of it!
From there, we of course hit up Rivercenter Mall for some souvenirs--I must confess that I emitted a rather unmanly squeak of excitement when I walked into Champs Sporting Goods and glimpsed a Ginobili t-shirt that suited my fancy. Were it not for some timely advice from the Mrs., I might have bought half the Spurs merchandise in the building. Such is life when one no longer lives in Texas, I suppose! But sanity prevailed and we ended up just hobnobbing with some of the nicest folks in each of the stores. It was refreshing to be back in the Lone Star State and experience genuine Southern hospitality once again.
Pictured: A now-conquered Rivercenter Mall. All hail the mighty shoes!!!
The next morning, Mrs. Felder pried me from the sheets and so we could go for a run. I hate running, but I figured after cooping her up in a cramped car for 8 hours, it was the least I could do. Ended up taking her to Lackland Air Force Base to run--the same base where I began Basic Military Training nearly a year ago. It was kind of a surreal experience running out there again. Not just because of being back at the base, but also because a heavy fog had rolled in that morning and reduced visibility to about 20 feet. We ghosted around the 1.5 mile track and managed to scare some Navy trainees who were doing a PT test. All in all, a satisfying morning!
My wife is an animal lover--my in-laws' house is a veritable menagerie of dogs, cats, and birds. Therefore I would have been remiss if I didn't take her to the SA Zoo so she could get her animal fix. The day broke nicely, and we were able to walk around the zoo for hours in relative cool. The Africa Live exhibit was a favorite. We were treated to a training session featuring some 50+ year old elephants--seeing those great beasts put through their paces was quite a sight! We were dive-bombed by Lorys and Australian birds at another exhibit, and I even managed to talk Mrs. Felder into visiting the reptile house (we didn't stay too long). By the time we were through, we'd spent the better part of 4 hours at the zoo and still hadn't seen everything. Our feet were tired, but we were both happy with the way our visit turned out, so we returned to the hotel to get ready for dinner.
"Boo" says GSG!
Those are the eyes of a cold blooded killer
Ruthless, I tell you!
They're trying to figure out wtf YOU'RE looking at!
We dined at Aldaco's mexican restaurant at historic Sunset Station. While we waited for our food, I took advantage of my captive audience to dump a lifetime's worth of Spurs history into one conversation. Since we were sitting in the shadow of the Alamodome, I preached about David Robinson's MVP campaign in '95, of the lottery that brought Timmy to SA, and recounted the epic '99 title run. I told of Sean Elliott's Memorial Day Miracle, attendance records, and the Little General. Then I transitioned to talking about how the SBC Center saw the Spurs win a title in its first year of operation, and David Robinson's final year as a player. I revisited Timmy's '03 MVP season, Manu's breakout year in '05, and our last title in '07. By the time our shuttle arrived to take us to the AT&T Center, my wife looked like her head was spinning from information overload! On the way to the arena, she got to hear me fret about whether Pop would play Tim Duncan since we would be watching a FIGABABA--she responded that if he really was intelligent enough to attend the Air Force Academy (her brother is a junior there now), that he'd better play number 21.
Game face? Check. Shades? Check. Shoulder bag? You better believe it!
Singing in the Absence of the Rain? Also a check!
The atmosphere inside the arena was festive before tipoff. We got to hear an lively Spurs pep squad circle the arena getting everyone fired up for the game, and I pointed out the seats of the Baseline Bums and shared their backstory. During warmups it was a ton of fun to watch the players on both sides joke around and stay loose. Timmy seemed to be in a particularly good mood, jawing with the shooters as they warmed up. We were encouraged by the shootaround--SA players seemed to be stroking, while Houston's appeared to be competing with each other to see how much paint they could chip off the rim.
Brand new Spurs fan already adjusting to the bling!
Held obligatory press conference to celebrate that fact. Luckily Pop wasn't present to criticize our ubiquitous smiles.
This is one band that would not be ignored
Spurs fandom has taken me to (dizzying) new heights!
After careful consideration, we decided to root for the gray ants
Make that the ants in white
Then the game started, and boy were we wrong! Like I said, I'm no statistician, but it seemed like the Rockets' players simply could not miss from downtown. Duncan was the lone bright spot for the Spurs, but it seemed like everything was a labor on the offensive end, and when we'd finally score, it felt like Houston would answer back just as quickly. Compounding our frustration was the fact that there were two inebriated Rockets fans on either side of our seats who cheered as loudly as they could whenever Houston did anything right (which was a LOT, unfortunately). By the time we were down 19, I was doing everything I could to keep a positive attitude and keep Mrs. Felder from getting bummed out about how lethargic the team was playing. The only nugget of hope I could offer her was that the Spurs had come back from down 18 on the road in Dallas, and that they'd only lost once at the AT&T Center.
We got excited when SA cut the lead to 10 late in the 2nd quarter, but of course Houston answered with another triple, and we ended the half with the cheers of the Rockets fans ringing unpleasantly in our ears.
There was still life in the arena, however. When a passel of red-clad Rockets fans started up a Houston chant in the concourse during halftime, they were loudly and lustily booed by the beleaguered Spurs supporters. It was nice to see some spunk from the home side, but we still knew it would be an uphill climb to even get back in the game.
The third quarter saw the Rockets come out hot once again, and when the lead ballooned to 18, it felt like we were teetering on the precipice of Pop throwing in the towel. But then the Spurs started showing signs of life--Tiago Splitter made some hustle plays underneath the basket, and Gary Neal warmed up from distance. When Bonner got into the act with a 3, there was not a seat flat in the building. Even though the Spurs entered the 4th down by 4, you could feel the momentum shifting, and the crowd smelled blood in the water.
I already told y'all I'm a cheerleader--when SA finally took the lead in the 4th, there wasn't a force in the world that could've kept me seated. I think I might have frightened a couple kids sitting in front of us, but soon they were in on the act, as well. The atmosphere in the arena was electric down the stretch, and when Bonner made his final 3 to put the game on ice, we were trading high fives with little kids and little old ladies. It was a hell of a night, and the AT&T Center crowd was raucous. It was also a bit of a relief for yours truly (up to then, every Spurs game I'd been to had been a loss--either I finally got the jinx monkey off my back, or Mrs. Felder is my good luck charm). The only thing that prevented me from joining in the spontaneous "Go Spurs Go!" cheers in the concourses after the game was the fact that my voice was already shot from cheering on the comeback. I think Manu should let us be honorary sixth man award holders for a day--we promise we'd give the trophy back!
Best home crowd in the NBA, bar none
One of my favorite parts of the night was seeing a vintage performance from Timmy Duncan.Now that he's in the twilight of his career, we fans can't take nights like he had for granted anymore. To see him getting involved, talking to the youngsters, and taking the offense on his back for stretches of the game was so beautiful to watch. I don't know when (or even if) I'll get the chance to see him play in person again before he sets sail for the calm waters of retirement, so it was an honor to be on hand to witness another one of his inimitable masterpieces. My wife (a.k.a., the official newest member of Spurs Nation) was so impressed that she wants her first Spurs jersey to be a pink #21.
And that, my friends, is something any Spurs fan hubby can be proud of! God Bless y'all wherever in the world y'all happen to be, Pounders!
Special thanks to:
Mrs. Felder for both her patience (with yours truly) and her expert picture taking
JollyRogerWilco for trusting me with invading the site with my feeble literary attempts