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Archive Post: vacation notes from seattle & vancouver December 2, 2007

Posted by Amy in Archive Posts, sports.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Originally posted in my LJ, 02.02.07:

late vacation post

Ignore the fact that it’s February. Notes from Seattle & Vancouver…

Mostly, what I learned from going to the Sonics game in Seattle was respect.

Here’s a horrible team in dead last place, playing in tiny rundown building in a media market where absolutely no one cares about them & there is absolutely nothing to cheer for but some guy making his NBA debut on a 10-day contract.

But the Seattle fans did a decent job of filling up the building, they were loud & supportive & didn’t leave or stop cheering when the team was down by 30 in the fourth quarter to the comically bad Knicks. Andre Brown probably won’t play in the NBA after those 10 days, but he’ll probably remember those 8 meaningless points forever. He’ll remember the crowd, inexplicably mostly still in their seats in the last few minutes, chanting “WE WANT BROWN! WE WANT BROWN!”

Cheering for Andre Brown was so much fun, I forgot about the rain & the first 53 uneventful minutes of what was–let’s face it–pretty horrible basketball & the remarkably generic arena that I just couldn’t get over was part of the same league as the AAC & its majestic architecture & expensive luxury boxes & impressive food & beer variety & its professionally produced jumbotron graphics. The Sonics made up what they lacked in fancy graphics with charmingly brilliant clips of their players. Besides Ray Allen, & maybe Rashard Lewis, the Sonics are kind of a nameless team if you don’t play fantasy. But the sheer genius & hilarity of the clips–Earl Watson, sheepishly, yet still enthusiastically pumping his fists for DE-FENSE, DE-FENSE; Ray Allen suavely winking while fantastical music plays & his name sweeps across the screen like RAY is a rock star of unbelievably cool proportions–had us actually waiting for them to re-appear, so we could cheer along genuinely & frantically try to get video on our digital cameras. So even though the team was awful, I still liked them. And I admired their organization for being brave enough to do something…almost anti-Mavs.

Not that I think the Mavs have a bad game presentation. I actually LIKE the Mavs game presentation, w/the incessant PA prompts for DE-FENSE & the afformentioned impressive graphics & the dance team & the Mani-ACCs & the dancing grandmothers & the drumline & the mascots shooting t-shirt guns. It’s entertaining & it keeps you watching. But the Sonics had Earl Watson’s little fist pumps & RAY the movie star & a freaking break dance team & fans that joined us in our attempt to will Andre Brown into scoring 8 meaningless points, & I kinda got won over.

And then, we went to Canada.

I don’t know what I was expecting. I guess, it was what I got. It was remarkable. I couldn’t get over it.

The Canadian hockey experience clearly kicks the American hockey experience’s butt.

The tickets were hard to come by. It was Vancouver/Florida, what the Canucks fans on their O boards helpfully told me was the hottest ticket of the year b/c it was the return of disgraced superstar Todd “Cheap Shot Who Has Perhaps Suffered Enough” Bertuzzi, who was traded to the Panthers in the off season. (Sidebar: In case you care, my stance on Bertuzzi is I think what he did was despicable. But I also think it’s sad Steve Moore still can’t get over it & move on with his life. It’s horrible that he isn’t coming back to hockey. But what is Bertuzzi supposed to do?) Bertuzzi was hurt though, so the prices came back down to reasonable for a game against Florida, one of the more generic non-traditional market expansion teams that I don’t personally care about.

Parking was $20 Canadian, which hurt, but we immediately got it back by scalping our extra ticket. $20 for a $50 single ticket wasn’t bad & it certainly was more than I expected to get. GM Place looks unremarkable on the outside & their security is even less thorough than at Key Arena in Seattle. At Key, they looked in everyone’s bag so briefly (I didn’t really get the chance to completely unzip mine before they waved me through), I was angry I didn’t think to sneak a Diet Coke, a bag of microwave popcorn, the delicious white chocolate bar I bought earlier & left at Amy F’s place, a full #10 combo meal from McDonalds & Dirk Nowitzki in with me. They certainly wouldn’t have noticed.

In Vancouver, we saw them checking a few bags ahead of us, then one of the security guys said, “If you haven’t been checked, you can go on through.” Ah, gotta love those trusting Canadians.

We had nosebleed seats, as usual, though I paid more than I usually do for Stars cheap seats. They thoughtfully put railings in front of all the rows in the top balcony, which is nice since I’ve always said sometimes when I’m up there, I think I’m going to lean over too far & actually fall onto the ice. The starting lineups are announced & I realize I haven’t paid enough attention b/c WTF? Who is in goal for Florida than our old friend Eddie Belfour. Amy F is delighted to recognize a player. The eagle on Eddie’s mask now has a red background. I find it hard to realize he’s still kicking it around the league after all these years…& as it turns out, he’s still damn good.

I’ve been to many games now in the last few years (after I realized it was okay to spend the money, that it was worth it almost every time, 6-0 loss to the Coyotes not withstanding) & I continue to be mesmerized by the opening presentation. The Stars do it better than most, I think. They have a great video guy, their highlight clips always give me chills. Two years ago, when I took my brother to the home opener after the lockout (against the Kings, when they were down 4-0 in the first & came back to win 5-4), the opening presentation went on for like five solid minutes. That’s it, just lasers & spotlights & brilliant video clips that made you proud to be a fan. The Stars players come skating out of a giant lit yellow slant star, w/smoke & Pantera & I always thought you could say what you will about whatever team they put out there, but damn, they knew how to make an entrance.

(Plus, they manage to be dramatic w/out being tacky, like the Sharks skating out of a giant Shark head, complete w/bizarre & terrifying red lit eyes.)

The Canucks presentation was a lot less of a production. There was no smoke or giant…Canuck or whatever for the players to skate out of, no theme song. Mostly, it was just spotlights & then the players lined up for the anthems.

I’d heard about the anthem in Canada, I’d seen the video. I didn’t know it happened EVERY GAME. They were playing an American team, so the “Stars-Spangled Banner” was as inspiring as always. I never ever get tired of hearing the anthem at a sporting event. So then came “O Canada” & I swear to God, the entire crowd was more alive, more excited about the anthem than I have ever seen a crowd. They cheered throughout the ENTIRE THING, not just when the singer inevitably draws out the note & pauses for applause, like at “land of the FREEEEEEEYEAH!!” (as Celena Rae insists on doing for each & every Stars game, it seems). The whole thing was fantastic. It was so great, I found it easier than usual to stop myself from yelling “STARS!” when the words came up. There were moments, just like in the video from the playoffs, when you could hear the entire arena singing “O Canada,” loud & clear & proud. It was amazing. I know I’m going on & on about this, but I get this way about some things.

The Canadian crowd is really supportive & really polite. When Eddie made a good save, the entire arena applauded IN UNISON. I can’t tell you how surreal it was. Dallas has a tame crowd, we don’t just boo like we’re from Philly or whatever, we cheer for our guys, we’ll give the other goalie an appreciative “AWW!!” when he makes a good save, but we’re not about to give him a freaking ovation, IN UNISON.

The crowd was into every play. Amy F, who was originally going to go be Eddie & the Panthers, pretty much immediately switched to Vancouver when we looked at each other & realized what was happening. It was a good, but sloppy game. Goals in Canada, as it turns out, are celebrated exactly like goals in the US, just longer. The cheering continued through the goal announcement, drowning out the PA announcer. Every goal was celebrated w/such enthusiasm. We got swept up in the euphoria.

The teams traded goals throughout. About midway through the third, when the score went to 3-3, it began to dawn on me that OT & shootout was a possibility. Amy F had work the next day & obviously she wanted to get out of here & back over the border before midnight. But I couldn’t help it, a shootout in a true hockey building? I’ve seen shootouts on TV at the AAC & other American cities & it’s always, without exception, been the loudest those arenas have been outside of the playoffs. Couldn’t even imagine how loud it would be in Canada. So Jean & I started actively rooting for shootout, while Amy F looked on in dismay. And to shootout it eventually went.

It was better than I had hoped, it went on for six rounds, 12 shooters. The crowd good-naturedly wailed at Eddie whenever a Vancouver shooter got ready to go, “BELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL-FOURRRRRRRRRRRRR!!! BELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL-FOURRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!” Eddie was sharp. Luongo was sharper. When it finally ended (Canucks 4, Panthers, 3), it was controlled chaos, an expression of pure joy & love for the game & the team, a beautiful wonderful thing to watch if you are a sports fan because you have felt it before too. This wasn’t my team, my town or my country, but I’d been there before so I knew how to feel. It felt great.


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