Because I am going through severe basketball withdrawal (and because I offered up a ticket to Danielle as a Squidmas present), I went and saw the Melbourne Tigers soundly defeat the Cairn Taipans (87-64). Not bad for a team that was 4-8 when I first booked the tickets.
Of course I couldn’t stop comparing the experience with a Raptors game.
The biggest difference? It was a lot of white people. A lot. The audience was almost entirely Caucasian, although I did spot a few visible minorities on the way out. In TO, whites are the minority. The Raptors attract a good mix of Indian, Chinese, black and everything in between. Hell, even games in Guelph attracted every black person in town (not that I made it to a game. Bad Gryphon). The players themselves are mostly white (black players are imported from the US, including Julius Hodge, the only name and on-court player I recognised), and they all have the same facial hair. (To be fair for all my ragging on the lack of colour – TO did draft Nathan Jawai, a former Taipans player of Torres Strait Islander origin but we traded him for a couple of pennies and packets of airline peanuts). D asked at one point, if I was afraid being surrounded by so many white people. As a twinkie, I’m quite used to it.
Basketball is a definite distant cousin to the footy-mad Melbourne, and it shows with the adverts pasted everywhere, including players’ uniforms and corporate logos pasted at midcourt (whereas in the ACC, it’s the Raptor claw) and in the key. For Lite’n’Easy, of all things. I wanted to throw something sharp at the Lite’n’Easy blimp. Also, someone had imported the idea of thunderstix and transformed it into plastic clapping hands (complete with sponsor’s name). It started at tip-off and didn’t stop until the Taipans scored. One of my favourite bits of bball is the squeak-squeak of basketball shoes on the parquet floor, so I was greatly annoyed at not being able to hear it and rejoiced when the thunderclapping ended. Squeak-squeak.
For all my complaints, it wasn’t a bad experience. The arena (the “Cage”) was much smaller than a typical NBA-sized arena, which made for a more intimate experience. I’ve never been this close to the action, and for half the price. The Tigers won. Game was short (10 minute quarters instead of 12), if uncompetitive. I had ice cream. On court entertainment was 2 kids attached to each other by bungee cord, objective to pull the other in order to grab a ball and toss it into a recycling bin with a hole cut out the top (apparently, they do this on Ellen. I haven’t been keeping up with her). The fans could certainly give the Raptor Truthers a run for their money. (although, they could never top this)
The NBL is like a homeless man’s NBA. The quality of the NBL is questionable…one of the Tigers accidentally scored on the wrong basket. But it is endearing when a player deflects the ball and the announcer gets the crowd to chant “(insert player’s name) says NO!”.
All of this whinging just makes me realise how much I miss the NBA. The whole experience of attending a game. Buying a program that fluctuates in price with the Raptors’ success but is still better than the glorified insert of the Tigers programme. Chewing on a soft pretzel. Trying not to spill my pop bottle as concession staff have removed the cap to prevent people from throwing it on the court. The hip-hop music, and me wondering the value of paying an MC to do nothing but dance behind the in-house DJ. Peeking into the Centresports shop and going “Daddy? Can I have this?” (the amount of Raptors crap I have is astounding. I once convinced him to buy me a Vince Carter Celebriduck. Needless to say, it’s not displayed anymore.) Chanting along to “D – picture of a fence”.
Also, the Raptor Chicken is much better than either of the Melbourne Tigers (#1 or #2, their jerseys signify the difference), when he puts his life in danger just to entertain the crowd. One of the Tiger mascots used its tail to play air guitar on “Start Me Up”, leading D to comment that it looked like it was doing something rude.
Update: Ok so apparently this post comes off as a little racist. It’s meant to be tongue-in-cheek, like the blog Stuff White People Like. I am always the lone minority in a crowd of Caucasians, it’s like “Where’s Waldo” with an Asian female. Race has always been a touchy topic in the NBA, like when Dan LeBatard claimed that everyone voted Steve Nash as MVP because he was white, over a giant black man. Or with Gilbert Arenas’ latest troubles and being proclaimed a thug by the talking heads on Fox News. The NBA has something like 80% African American players, the NBL has very clearly not, the audiences in both reflect this difference. That’s all I intended.