Monday, April 13, 2015

Basketball Diaries

There are first times for everything, but what first is quite as exciting as the first game you catch with your kids? I'm a baseball guy, and a baseball game with my kids is the holy grail of firsts for me. However, when opportunity knocks, I'm more than happy to open the door.

And that was the case last night. After working so hard to raise money for Jump Rope for Heart, Godzilla was given a voucher for an Indiana Pacers game. He had a choice of a few different nights, and was really excited to get to go. Unfortunately, my work schedule got complicated, and we waited a little too long to find tickets and were unable to get to any of the games available with his voucher. He was so proud of his work and of earning the tickets that we weren't going to break his heart and not take him to a game, so instead of buying one ticket to go with his free one, we picked up two and made our plan to see the Pacers take on the Oklahoma City Thunder.

As the day approached, we talked about it more and more, until Sunday morning came and he was ready to go! Of course, if you're excited to go to a basketball game, you have to warm up for it, as he pointed out before lunch.

As game time approached, we made our way down to downtown Indianapolis and Banker's Life Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers. It's not a bad drive from our house, and we were quickly inside, tickets scanned and walking the concourse to take it all in. We found a shop and picked up a foam finger right away, but only after he sat down at a table with two Pace-Mates (The Pacer's cheerleaders) to design his own sign to hold up during the game featuring a "Pacers #1" hand. A short distance further down the tunnel was another table set up with "Pacers Plinko." We won a Pacers chip-clip, and Godzilla thought even that was pretty cool. Add in a couple pizzas, and a souvenir cup, and we were ready to find our seats.

As we found our section, I also found a Sun King Brewery stand. It's one of the perks of living in such a great craft beer town, and I didn't mind paying ballpark beer prices for a cup of Wee Mac. Just after grabbing that, an usher came up and offered Godzilla and I two seats on the suite level, a big upgrade from where we were going to sit, and we happily accepted, thanking him as we made our way with all our loot down to our new seats. We had a great view of the floor, and a few minutes to take in the jumbotron and lights and all the activity going on around the stadium before they dropped the lights for player introductions.

Eventually, we saw the cotton candy guy come down the aisle, and with eyes as big as the stadium itself, Godzilla looked up at me as if afraid to ask for more. I gave him a simple nod, and his eyes got even bigger still.

Not having been to a game before, and knowing how he can be if we put on a movie at home, I didn't have any expectations beyond halftime. He was so into cheering, and seeing all the action, and eating all the food that I couldn't have taken him from his seat before the final buzzer if I had wanted to. With everything going on, the halftime show ended up being one of his favorite parts of the night. We took a quick bathroom break as the first half ended, and quickly made it back to see a guy rolling around the court inside a large circular frame. He twisted and turned inside the frame, performing acrobatics in and around it as it rolled. Godzilla kept looking up at me saying "How is he DOING that?!"

When the action started back up, the Pacers had a five-point lead, and held onto it into the fourth quarter, but the score stayed close the whole game. While Russell Westbrook was shooting at every opportunity, he missed a lot. Still, he managed to put up 54 points by the end of the game, and even Pacers fans were cheering his efforts, as the stadium recognized what a stat line he was building. It didn't hurt that as the season is wrapping up, his name is being tossed around for MVP and scoring champion. Sure, he was wildly inefficient (54 points on 43 shots) and the Pacers starting five had 85 points on 47 shots, it was still something to see, and probably the most memorable part of the game.

When the clock finally ticked to zero, and the crowd began to file out of their seats, Godzilla got up and moved closer to the rail to get another view of the wonder laid out in front of him. He noticed the cameras on the court with the grips pulling cables behind them. He pointed out the mascot whenever he came out. He asked questions about the game throughout the night, inquired about the refs and the guys who came out to clean the floor whenever a player fell. He just took it all in, and talked my ear off as we too climbed our way up the steps back to the concourse, waving his finger and filling in the silence between with chants of "number one" and "Pacers, Pacers, Pacers" under his breath.

I hadn't planned on creating a Pacers fan when we committed to going to the game, but when the first words out of his mouth when I woke him up this morning were "Pacers number one", I knew the experience had given birth to one anyway.

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