Sunday, October 22, 2006

I Love This Game

When the heavy steel doors swung open to give way to the Chicago Bulls Hallway o’ Legendary Locker Rooms, all I could see was the glistening hardwood of the United Center floor in my peripheral vision.

I almost missed it, actually. It’s easy to suffer from tunnel vision when you’re actually IN a tunnel. But I stepped through the threshold and out into the stadium lights—out from the building's underbelly and into the fresh air, and there it was. The Court.

I’d been there an overabundance of times for varied games, but never that close to the floor unobstructed. My seats are usually so far above sea level that, had I been baking, I would have had to make temperature adjustments on my conventional oven.

Guys, Michael Jordan won championships on this floor. Nearly ever waking minute of my pubescent experience was spent considering what it would be like to be on that floor. (For the record, the rest of my waking minutes were spent agonizing over rampant facial acne, as well as the literally thousands of girls I’d fall in love with but never actually come into close enough contact with to determine important things like eye color and gender.)

Enough basking, though. I had work to do. So I headed towards the locker rooms and waited for the requisite 6:00 pm media “Release the Hounds” time. This was it; I was going to be inside an NBA locker room for the first time in my life. I for some reason had visions of something out a Jay-Z video—half naked black women, top-shelf liquor, a swimming pool—all to the backdrop of a delightfully angry hip-hop music track.

Yeah, that didn’t happen.

The rooms themselves really aren’t much bigger than my own bedroom, except for the flat-screen, high definition television with the approximate dimensions of a standard-size door. And nobody was there save one or two guys. So, I talked to them, got a little audio, then wondered if anybody else would roll out the red carpet for me.

I waited about six or seven minutes, and nothing.

So I trounced over to the locker room of the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves, hoping to score an interview with superstar Kevin Garnett. Sure enough, I breeze through the doors, and there he was, as tall as Andre the Giant and slightly heavier than Lindsay Lohan.

I shook his hand, introduced myself, and asked for an interview, but apparently the man they call The Big Ticket doesn’t provide pre-game chitter chatter. Oh well. Worth a try, right?

I did score a pretty decent conversation with P.J. Brown, but that information’s classified. If you want to know more about it, you’ll have to order the newest copy of “Swish,” where I will have my first professional magazine article published later in November.

Once the locker rooms closed, the media buffet opened. For six measly bucks I ingested a savory Caesar salad, beef stew with rice, the beverage of my choice, and the freshest fruit I’ve ever eaten. You know how on TLC they have those shows about chefs at five-star hotels, and how they pick out only the most delectable fruits from the garden? I think one of these guys picked out my cantaloupe this morning.

The game itself was lovely; I didn’t get to sit courtside, but the view from the press box is more than reasonable. Plus, I got free soda and popcorn. So, bonus.

After the game was over (The Bulls lost by two), I high-tailed it back to the locker room area to try and hit up Kevin Garnett. He said he’d be happy to answer questions after the game, so I was going to see if he was a big, stinky liar, or a man of his word.

Turns out, he’s a man of his word. He talked to me and a couple other reporters, but not until after most of the other guys had gotten dressed and left the room. While I waited uncomfortably amidst a slew of gigantic, half-nude athletes, I did manage a quick interview with Troy Hudson, who’s a starting guard for Minnesota. He was actually very cordial and pleasant.

Garnett… not so much. That poor man is so bored by reporters that he could barely speak after the game. He talked to us with a pizza box in his lap, and I know all he really wanted to do was munch. So he breezed through a few questions impatiently, and took off for the bus.

Kevin Garnett, ladies and gentlemen.

Honestly, there’s no better way to experience an NBA game than the manner in which I came upon it this evening. Access to the players, free seats and parking, and great food that doesn’t cost more than a two-to-three karat diamond.

I love this game.

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