Back in the day, 23 years ago, I attended my first Suns game. I was 10 years old and tickets were sold through the school. I brought my crumbled order-form and a check for $14, and in return I was given two tickets to Suns vs. Clippers. My dad took me to that crazy looking building I remember from the State Fair, which I learned had the nickname “Mad House on McDowell”. At the time, I didn’t realize how small and intimate the place was inside; I just saw a mad house. The game was exciting, gorillas were flying, fans were standing, and everyone was screaming. After the Suns won, I joined a group of kids that were lined up behind a small wall near the locker room. Before long, Dan Majerle, K.J., Tim Perry, and The Gorilla all had signed the purple Suns hat my dad bought me. They got me, I was hooked.
I have watched 99% of the games since then. Unfortunately that would be via television, not live with a ticket. Where I come from (West Phoenix), you have to rely on the graces of your friends that score tickets, and offer up the extra one. In return, when you score tickets, those are the same set of friends you offer your extra tickets to. When you do the math, it probably equates to around 2.5 games per season. When I’ve had an opportunity to go, I’ve made damn sure make the best of it. I wear orange, I stand up when I’m excited, I cheer after good plays, I don’t jack with my phone, and I NEVER leave early. Those are some basic rules of enjoying a game to the fullest. Love your team; if you don’t what are you really doing? If you’re not getting your tickets for free like me, then you’re wasting your money.
I remember going to a game back in Jason Kidd’s last year as a Sun, 2001. We were pretty good, a 50 win team, but I remember it being so dead. It was a different atmosphere. When you only watch games on TV, and only read the paper, you are blissfully unaware of the widespread unease of the fan base. I remember sitting there, looking around, really in disbelief that everyone was having such a horrible time. I wasn’t sure what to make of it; I couldn’t put my finger on it. After the season, Jerry Colangelo summed it up well by saying it was a “general malaise on the part of our fans” as he sent Kidd packing and brought in Starbury. He also went on to say “There were a lot of games I didn’t enjoy myself, so how could I expect the fans to enjoy them? We needed a little shot of adrenaline.” Jerry had the right idea, but the wrong guy. The malaise would continue for 3 more years.
I didn’t take some break from watching Suns basketball. I am a die-hard, optimistically suffering through bad, praying and patiently waiting for the good. That’s why when Jesus “Steve Nash” Christ arrived in town, I feel like it was much sweeter for me then the rest of the city. I guess I held myself in higher regard then the fair weather fans I despise, or even the average fan that had just lost interest and hadn’t watched any games lately. Finally we had someone who could feed our starving beast Amare. Going to games to see the duo, easily throttle opponents by 20 while scoring 130, was fantastic. It was nice watching people have a good time again. It was a special time. The universe felt right; it felt just like the Madhouse on McDowell. As life goes, all good things come to an end. It wasn’t the departure of Steve Nash that took the air out of the city’s lungs once again. It was the departure of Amare Stoudemire. We haven’t been to the playoffs since.
We now find ourselves three years deep into the current malaise. As before, I have been following the Suns, trying to stay positive. I went to the Sixers game earlier this year which was fun. We got the win, but I was in the back row (yes literally a wall behind me up by the ceiling) and my section was dominated by K-State fans booing Markieff Morris and cheering for more Michael Beasley. I will go to a game in the back row, in the crappiest of seasons, 10 out of 10 times. Because again, I only attend 2.5 games per season, and the worst seat is still better then my non-HD TV. I expected that to be my only game this year.
We really hit a slow patch at work recently, so a few weeks ago; I decided to check out the pod-cast brought to us by BTOTS’s Kris Habbas and Jim Coughenour. I hadn’t listened to any before, but I am glad I did. You really had to listen to the whole thing to catch it, but about 26 minutes in they laid out a contest. I was the third listener, as the first two were out of state and couldn’t claim the tickets. Now I usually don’t win anything, but due to some tough personal events over the last couple months, I guess I was due for a little luck. So I won the contest, two tickets to the Suns vs. Kings. They were donated to the site by another fellow reader UASun. I never look a gift horse in the mouth, but I have to admit I was really excited to find out where the tickets were at. Of course the contest was 3 weeks ago, I didn’t get them until 6 hours before tip off- It was so much suspense. Again, I am happy in the back row, but I was very pleased to find myself in row 20 in section 107.
I took my girlfriend, which is out of ticket-sharing man code; but we were seriously due for a date night. She is actually really fun to take to a game. She is a good fan. She only got into basketball when she met me two years ago, and I’ve done my best to mold her observations and opinions. She sees things for what they simplistically are. Her first observation, these tickets are “freaking sweet”. She was right, the tickets were great, and ranked highly in my “lowest ticket ever” count. She has never been to a “madhouse” game so she really didn’t know any different. But she still had enough sense to realize the crowd was fairly lethargic. Some of her other observations; Hadaddi is “really tall and goofy looking”. P.J. Tucker is “a baller”. Watching Markieff on defense she asked, “Why the F**K is he just standing there?”. She wondered why Kendall “doesn’t shoot more”. She wanted to know if Shannon Brown still plays here. She also pointed out that all the Suns Dancers all have fake boobs. At half time, she had another observation; she said I looked grouchy, and wanted to know if I was having a good time.
I found myself breaking some basic rules of enjoying a game to the fullest. I just got out of work, so I wasn’t rocking any suns gear. I threw my hat on, but I felt like my blue plaid shirt was really throwing me off of my game. My initial reaction to “SUNS FANS ON YOUR FEET!” was to get on my feet. For some reason, I felt embarrassed; I don’t think anyone in the lower section stood up, so like a sheep, neither did I. After the intro, I pulled out my phone, and was looking for a story indicating why The Dragon wasn’t in the starting line-up, breaking the rule of not jacking with my phone. I cheered lightly after some of our better plays, but I had my voice in tact after the game, which by the way we bailed with one minute to go. It was just a minute, but I felt dirty doing that. Enough about my inner-personal observations, I did watch the game. We obviously were in complete tank mode, which even though I guess it’s for the best, it really sucks to watch. I guess if they were more honest about it, I would feel better. When they make up BS like “We’re resting Goran for the Euro-league”, or they don’t start the best available players like Dudley, it just seems so fake. P.J.’s motor looks especially strong in person. I don’t know if he was extra juiced last night, or if it was seeing it live, but dang he is really intense and honestly appears to be our best player. We played absolutely no defense in the paint. The perimeter D was good, we picked a lot of pockets, but Cousins killed us down low, they all did. It’s just the same obvious generic observations that all of us have. I didn’t want to really bore anyone with that, I do believe we are just waiting for the credits to roll, and get on with the NBA Draft.
My unintentional grouchy demeanor was due to the fact that I was flashing back to 2001, just looking around me at the depressive state of this franchise. We are a proud fan-base, even without a title, and it’s sad to experience the malaise. I hope it doesn’t last much longer then our previous rough patches. In the end I had a good date-night with my main squeeze. We were happy to get out of the house and have a good time. We could’ve sat at home and watched the game, but now that would have been no fun. We are grateful to BTOTS and UASun for the tickets, if you ever get any against the back wall, we will gladly accept those as well.