The courtside experience

For those of you who don’t know me, allow me to summarize myself in a few words.

I’m a poor-but-employed-student loan-paying-college grad working in journalism who has a serious affinity for all things sports, namely football, basketball and hockey.

I’ve been a Spurs fan for a very long time, but I’ve never been able to scrape together the money to sit close to the court. While most of my game experiences have been either in front of the TV or sitting in the rafters of the AT&T Center, my closest moment to the team was sitting in front of the throng of fans lining the Riverwalk for the 2005 River Parade after the championship win.

Well, that was my closest experience until the evening of Friday, March 5.

That was the evening that I joined the ‘elite’ fans as I sat (and stood on occasion) in the sixth row of Section 101 in the AT&T Center as the Spurs faced the New Orleans Hornets.

To say I was giddy is an understatement; I was elated. Thrilled. Completely and totally psyched. With perfect seating in the corner between the Spurs’ bench and the basket – all thanks to a friend/sorority sister with excellent job perks – I was ready to enjoy the fan atmosphere that is exclusive to those lucky enough to be there in the moment.

In a moment of focus while watching the teams warm up, I noticed the father-son duo sitting behind us. Clad in a black and white jersey, the young boy of no more than five listened intently as his father explained the Jumbotron and pointed out players on the court.

As the lights went down and the teams were introduced, it was easy to sense his excitement grow as he cheered on the players. His enthusiasm reminded me of why I love sporting events: they’re exciting and bring people together – no matter how old you are or where you’re from.

Being the outgoing individual that I am, I decided to take advantage of my location and make encouraging comments to the team on occasion. Let’s be honest: the majority of us as sports fans have found ourselves yelling at players as if they can hear us, whether we are sitting in our living rooms, at the bar or even in the nosebleed section. This was my chance to say “Come on, Timmy” and know he could probably hear me.

It took my friend a bit longer to realize this, even after she had commented that she could “hear them slap the ball,” but when I decided to give Timmy an extremely succinct pep talk in a moment of otherwise dead silence from about 45 feet away she caught on.

Knowing that I’d have friends watching, I also decided to make ‘friends’ with the ESPN cameraman. For those of you who’ve attended previous games, you may have noticed that some camera operators have their favorite fans – see the older attractive woman sitting in front of me who was on the Jumbotron at least twice and is in the Spurs’ season ticket commercial. I’m sure I’m not as easy on the eyes as she is, but I have personality so when the guy from ESPN walked up with camera in tow, I asked if he was going to put us on national TV – too bad he didn’t know that I know the red light is on when the camera is operating. The first time he wasn’t recording/live, I looked at him, told I expected him to return and put me on TV.

I’m not sure if I made ESPN, but he did come back – he winked at me and yes, the red light was on. Note to all who want to make it on TV: if your seat is close enough, just be convincing. I should also note here that I know I made it on KENS-TV’s (the local CBS affiliate) local game feed thanks to my mom’s forethought to DVR the game.

I took photos pretty much throughout the first half, so when the team headed for the locker room I tried to snap a few quick pictures. No such luck, but just after I’d turned my camera off I caught a glimpse of former Spur-turned-TV analyst Sean Elliot making his way towards us. Having met Sean at an organ donation event in high school, I know he is a pretty easy-going guy and would probably at least say hello. Sure enough, when I turned and said “Hi Sean! How’s it going!”, he responded with “Hi! Good, thanks!” as he walked out. The lady next to me seemed convinced for a split-second that I knew him. No, he just knew my name for all of five seconds about five or six years ago.

In addition to the chance to see the Spurs up close and in action, I had the chance to ‘meet’ one Project Spurs friend as well as be spotted by another Project Spurs friend. First, I got to meet Ben Hunt of spurs.com during halftime – it was nice to put a face (other than an avatar!) with a Twitter name! During the game, I recognized Jason Arredondo from his avatar when he appeared on the Jumbotron with his kids.

Later on, he found me (from all the way up in Section 219 – eagle eyes!) and caught me dancing as well as getting mad about a foul. One of the additional ‘in the moment’ things I love about being at a game: I can actually enjoy the music that’s played rather than just play ‘Name that Tune’ at home. I was in a great mood so I started dancing in my seat and Jason busted me. I’m not sure if he was exaggerating, but apparently he may have pointed me out to other people. As for being mad at the refs, all I remember is that it had to do with a David West foul in the second half… but I’m a verbal person, so of course I reacted.

It was a great game; I was disappointed that Chris Paul a.k.a. CP3 didn’t play, but overall the experience was awesome. I was happy to have been so close to my favorite team for a great win in the company of so many Spurs fans: a home sell-out crowd of more than 18,000 people.

Whenever I make my millions as a famous journalist, I intend to have courtside season tickets – in my opinion, there really is nothing like being right there for a win on home court.

(Photos by Emily Allen/ProjectSpurs)