Saturday, January 31, 2009

Basketball as it should be

Suddenly it didn’t seem like such a good idea. We had won tickets on eBay for today’s KU – Colorado game at Allen Fieldhouse. I had never seen a game there, having only been in the fieldhouse to enroll in classes. But once we parked the car, I began to realize just how far from our seats we were on foot -- me with two, him with one and a crutch. But intrepid we are and off we went. My son of steel plate and 13 screws and me of titanium hips, worked our way down three flights of concrete stairs from the parking lot and up three long flights of concrete stairs in the fieldhouse to our seats 10 rows from the rafters.

Not seats. Wooden benches, actually. A little less contoured to the butt than even stadium seats. I understood why smarter fans were hauling cushions up to the roof.

Being at Allen Fieldhouse in person reminded me how small a basketball court is. The last time I saw a basketball game live was a Kansas City Kings game where I had a photo pass and sat on the court at Kemper Arena. If you only watch basketball on television, the setting looks so much bigger. The experience today reminded me of the time we took my 80-year-old mother to a major league baseball game. She tapped me on the shoulder then whispered in my ear, “John, it’s so much bigger than it looks on television.” I think she was also thinking it was more grand. Then I was reminded how my sister and the grandchildren got her tickets to the fieldhouse a few years before she died and how much she loved being there. My eyes got teary.

I’ll never forgive Roy Williams for breaking her fragile old heart.

Not only is the court and the fieldhouse smaller than they appear on television, but the players are younger than they appear on screen, boys really, unlike the hulks of the NBA. They scrabble and scramble like mice with cats in hot pursuit. They care more than pros and that makes fans care more about them.

The game is just too easy for NBA players. They need to raise the rim to 12 feet for the pro game.

Allen Fieldhouse isn’t perfect. Did I mention those rock hard wooden benches? The third level has only one men’s room and one women’s room and two family rooms. Concessions are limited. Not much pizzazz.

But, when you look across the packed house, folks standing in front of the windows, and you see the strips of bright light from the afternoon sun illuminating certain rows of fans with the God-light of our old Sunday School papers, you realize how special this place is.

If the University of Kansas gets greedy and touches one brick of that building, the whole administration should be run out of town on a rail. Star reporter J. Brady McCollough referred to the field house in his game story today as “the old barn” which was probably a term of endearment. If not, it was a term of stupidity.

Not sure why reporters still write game stories anyway – especially the formulaic stories Star reporters churn out daily. In most cases anyone who was interested saw the game. The writers routinely fail to capture the drama or the narrative of the game, opting instead for statistics anyone could cull from the Web and, of course, a few typically lame interviews.

An afternoon in Allen Fieldhouse deserves drama and narrative, and maybe even a wee small bit of atmosphere.

-- Lofflin

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