So I'm at work on a slow-moving afternoon when nothing particular is taking place; my phone rings.
"Ahoy ahoy," says I.
"What are you doing?" says the voice on the other end. It belongs to my brother, and I'm already annoyed. He's going to the Spurs game in a few hours and he's jamming my face in it. Besides, I can't stand that question when the answer is so freaking obvious: Talking on the $%&*! phone, you jackass!
"Nothing really," I reply. I won't give him the satisfaction; I'll carry on as though I'm happy for him and his stupid floor-level seat at the stupid game and don't the Bulls suck anyway without Derrick Rose who wants to go see that stupid game? I want to vomit.
"What will you be doing after work?" Oh great - now he's fishing around for a babysitter. He and his wife are gonna have a grand old time while I chase around Veronica The Brute all night. Oh well. Maybe they've got chips.
"Can you get off early? We've got an extra ticket to the game...Hello? Hello, are you there?"
It takes a while to reply when you've crashed to the floor feeling faint.
On March 20, 2004, the San Antonio Spurs defeated the visiting Boston Celtics 103-87. In 24 minutes Manu Ginobili was 7-10 from the field (3-3 from three-point range) with a plus/minus of +11. They outscored the Celtics 46-34, or +12, in the second half in a 16-point victory over the Eastern Conference's eighth-best team.
This, amongst other things, is what took place the last time I attended a Spurs game in person.
We stop in Nixon, at the Happy Sac. My brother's wife isn't into the blue humor, which is why I'm suppressing every scrotum-related joke I can think of. They sell Hunt Brothers pizza there, and I could go for some pizza.
Oh, hey, looky here - no supreme. Geez. I was all wound up for a slice or two or twelve of some delicious supreme pizza. Or even terrible supreme pizza - I've never had Hunt Brothers. Oh well, I'll just get one of those personal pizzas at the Subway; there's a Subway in this joint too.
"No sir, we don't sell pizza, since we have," she adds a little please-understand giggle, "the pizza place here!"
Oooooooof course. Well, then I settle for a meatball sandwich with pepperoni. That's when things go even more badly:
1) My belief is, on a hot sandwich, most folks want the cheese melted. To do that, you and I would put the cheese down first, then put the hot meatballs and marinara sauce on top. Not this Sandwich Artist - she goes: bread, meatballs, sauce, pepperoni, cheese.
2) You see what's happening here? The only way I'm getting the melted cheese is if they toast the sandwich, which I hate. But I'm locked in here, my hand is forced. Reluctantly, I opt for the toasting. Which comes out too toasty. And now the cheese is too melted.
3) What gets me is, the whole cheese-meatballs-marinara method is how they USED to do it at Subway. Nowadays they hardly ever do cheese-first anymore, which is so asinine. But you can't tell these people anything! Swear to God, make a suggestion about how you want your sandwich made and it's like you're trying to butt into their lives. So you're stuck with a poorly-made sandwich. You see, this is why I don't vote.
Whatever. The sandwich is adequate, and I'm going to the Spurs game. Take THAT, Happy Sac/Hunt Brothers/Subway!
The walk from the car to the AT&T entrance was a too long and too brisk walk for my tastes. Or maybe I'm just in woeful physical condition. Anyway, after getting scanned out front - by the way, what kind of world is this when you can't even sneak a dirty bomb into a sports arena anymore? - my brother, his wife and I make for our seats.
The one seat - the free seat my brother won, the whole reason this trip became a thing - is in Section 20. The other two seats are in Section 118. My brother's wife and I are in 118 and my brother's in 20. Our seats are really good; his is fantastic.
There are two arena-related phenomena of which I never tire:
1) The walk into the arena. Walking through that tiny little tunnel into a colossal room dominated by a Jumbotron and a basketball court...at times like this, I am so jealous of the players. I would love to taste that just once, running out onto the floor for warmups.
2) Turning out the arena lights for player introductions. This is the cheapest gimmick there is and to me it's awesome every single time.
Anyway, game on! We won the tip, jump out to an 8-0 lead, basketball is easy. We're on pace to win this thing 216-0.
Well, of course, you all watched it - the Bulls got acclimatized to the situation and made a game out of it. Their defense tightens and they finish the quarter on a nice 23-14 surge.
Things get dicey. The Bulls defensive pressure is making us blow layups, turn the ball over (9-3 in the Bulls' favor in that first half), and push us out of our comfort zone. The only time the ball moves is from our possession to theirs. I'm wondering if the hole's too deep. I'm wondering if we've been off too long.
I'm worried about Manu in particular. He's back to forcing things again, and he's got three TOs in about 10 minutes of play. After a season full of injury setbacks, is he going to find that Manu gear against a tough Chicago defense? With 4:06 in the second quarter, we're down 46-32. 46-32??
It may have taken most of the first half to knock off the rust, but they do. Manu nails a three. Kawhi hammers a dunk. Tim puts back a miss with authority. Kawhi gets to the rim again. Just like that, it's a four-point game. The Bulls get a point back and lead it by five going into the break.
The happy couple and I reunite at the half back in the tunnels. Or the concourse. I don't know what you call that area where all the restrooms and souvenirs and food can be found, but there. That's when my brother asks his wife if she wants to take the Section 20 seat in the second half.
She declines the offer, which leaves...me.
It took some time to get down to Section 20. Staircases once easily accessed were now barred by rope, so I had to go down via elevator to the club level or the player level or, ahhh, I can't remember my terminology anymore. I was just bummed that I was missing game action. But I eventually found my seat.
These aren't real seats. Am I in the holodeck? I had seventh-row seats at the Alamodome in 1999, but do you all remember how vast the Alamodome out-of-bounds areas were? This was waaaaaay closer. I could have hit a jumpshot from that seat. Would have taken 20-30 tries, but it was doable.
The 2-minute, 9-0 run from the second quarter was necessary to restore order; in the third the Spurs did things the Jacob Riis way. 8:33 into the third, it was a brand new ballgame at 63-63 following a Boris Diaw bucket. The teams traded leads until the game was tied one final time at 68-68 with 1:49 left in the third.
For the next twelve minutes and nine seconds, the Spurs would outscore the Bulls 31-15. Yowzah.
And who sparked that dominant stretch of basketball? The same guy that was throwing passes away in the first half, Mr. Manu Ginobili. 5 points, 5 assists, and one rebound in about ten minutes during that 12-minute pull away. He did throw out one more TO for good measure, but it was one of only three second half turnovers committed by the Silver and Black. They really tightened their game up after the Bulls raised the bar.
Ginobili was far from the only star tonight. Double-doubles from Timmy and Tiago. TD threw in five first-half schmacks just to pad his stats, as he is wont to do. Patty Mills did his usual "energy and threes" routine. Cory Joseph looks like a different player these days - I loved the way he competed, I loved how he stepped into that first quarter jumper, and that offensive rebound was Fat Leveresque. I hope he keeps on growing. Danny Green gave us the stuff he always does; who doesn't love Verde? And Boris Diaw was a big, big part of the third quarter rock-pounding. But how about Kawhi? That guy was in serious attack mode, rising up to punish rims from coast to coast. 14 points, 7 boards - what can't he do? (Besides smile.)
To watch a performance like this about twenty feet away from our boys was just tremendous. Bet my brother never lets me hear the end of it, about how I owe him one. Meh, I guess he's right.
On March 6, 2013, the San Antonio Spurs defeated the visiting Chicago Bulls 103-87. In 26 minutes off the bench, Manu Ginobili was 7-14 from the field (3-5 from three-point range) with a plus/minus of +11. They outscored the Bulls 54-31, or +23, in the second half in an 18-point victory over the Eastern Conference's sixth-best team.
This, amongst other things, is what took place last night when I attended a Spurs game in person. Nine years is a long time, but I guess some things don't change very much.