(ed. note: I found out Duff Man was headed to Cleavland and I asked if he would not filling a report from behind enemy lines. He did, and now I owe this man a beer for his fine work. Speaking of which, grab yourself one, sit back, read, and enjoy. This recap almost makes this game seem enjoyable. Thanks Duff Man!)
For those of you who don't already know, I currently live in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I am 2 hours from New York, an hour and a half from D.C., an hour from Baltimore, and an hour from Philly. I have worn Falcons, Hawks and Braves gear into the toughest arenas and stadiums in the U.S. (Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington, Philly) and lived to tell about it. So imagine my delight when I was offered an opportunity to hit yet another "tough town" in Cleveland to support my beloved Hawks. Would the bite be as bad as the bark? Or would the Cavs fans turn out to be just another misunderstood fanbase? How would I, Duff Man, aka Ed be received as a Hawks fan? More importantly, how drunk could we get? Hit the jump for a recap of the night's events...
Pictured: Outside the scene of the crime.
5:15: Stopped at Local Heroes outside The Q for a bite to eat and some pre-game booze. Already taking shit for my Dominique throwback jersey. Conversely, the bartender and I are talking about how badly Nique got jobbed in the 1988 Dunk Contest. Cleveland is flirting with me already.
6:30: Brisk walk to the entrance of the Q. And by "brisk", I mean "19 degrees".
6:42: Stopped on the way to our seats to chat up the Cavs cheerleaders. Not the most attractive chicks, and their booing of my jersey was half-assed at best. We buried the hatchet when I told them to cut me a break on my birthday. I didn't tell them my birthday was May 2nd.
6:45: Just hit the seats with beers in hand, and the Lebron Birthday Bash has begun! The DJ is spinning the tunes and the world's lamest dance crew (The Scream Team) is poppin' and lockin'. Odds of hearing a Black Eyed Peas song: 4 million percent.
6:50: Five minutes later and there's "Boom Boom Pow".
For Drew: Zaza rules the pre-game jumbotron!
6:52: Lebron just threw in a half-court underhanded shot during warmups. The (already full) arena goes absolutely bananas.
6:53: Ilgauskas in all white seems redundant.
6:54: Bibby has yet to hit a warm-up 3. This disturbs me.
6:59: Bob's hair looks so glorious in person. Using my awesome powers of lip-reading, Nique says, "Bob's hair have that scorer's mentality."
7:00: Oh those wacky Cavs! They all put on party hats and brought a makeshift cake out for Lebron. You haven't lived until you've seen Zydrunas in a party hat. Shaq and Varejao are having way too much fun with it.
7:05: Some high school choir just did the National Anthem. I give it a 5.
7:10: Lebron just did his powder toss. Exclusive! What you didn't see on TV: Hawks staffers had to hold Larry Drew back from snorting it off the floor.
- The Cavs are like a bunch of little kids. Constantly laughing and messing around.
- The Q has WiFi throughout the whole arena! Take notes, every other arena/stadium.
- Every fan was in their seat before the National Anthem. Never knew that happened.
- No sign? The Cavs have people every 50 feet to make one for you.
On To The Game:
7:20: First timeout. Cavs fans a little uneasy as Joe looks to be in beast mode.
7:35: Even the girls next to me are openly questioning the Hawks' lineup. Zaza, Joe Smith, Marvin? Come on, Woody...these spinsters are HAMMERED and they hate your lineup right now.
7:42: Some poor woman has been selected to play "Plinko" for fabulous gift cards up to and including $100. She missed every attempt and came away empty-handed. I just killed section 130 by yelling "YOU CAN'T PLINKO FOR SHIT, LADY!!".
7:50: Hall of Fame moment: Shaq dribbles forward barrels into Jason Collins for the funniest exchange in NBA history. It may have been the slowest live athletic movement since Mo Vaughn retired.
8:01: Cavs fan two rows away "Hey Nique, which Collins brother is that?" Me: "The fat one!"
8:02: First Josh T of the game. I predicted an ejection. We're halfway home.
8:15: Halftime. Hawks are shooting the lights out. The crowd is just waiting for Birthday Boy to get it going with a vengeance...as if 23 at the half wasn't "going" enough.
8:20: Worst. Halftime Show. Ever. A hot chick and a horrible magician did a magic act that the County Fair would turn down. The name of the act: "The Magic Of Bruno!" I can't make this crap up.
Your halftime score. Also shown: "World's Crappiest Magic Show".
- As far as wearing a Hawks jersey in an opposing stadium, this place is really tame. Most Cavs fans are obviously casual fans because instead of booing me or throwing things at me, they are asking me questions about the players on the team and how they play.
- Right now the fans are acting like the Hawks have no business winning the game.
- Cavs fans are some of the most uneducated fans I have heard in my life.
- Celebs in attendance: James Harrison, T.O., Akon, Bob Rathbun.
Back to the game:
8:25: My god to they love the Scream Team. They hit the floor every timeout.
8:35: Bibby technical. Bad. Collins in again. Worse.
8:36: One thing I'll give the Cav fans: they know a scrub playing good defense when they see it.
8:45: Lebron drills a 3. Building just exploded. This crowd now has a frenzy like it's the Finals.
Side note: Marvin Williams literally stands outside the three point line every play and is not involved in any way. Maybe I should have noticed this earlier, but he is only in for defense at this point. They do nothing to get him involved in the offense.
Side Note 2: There is a portly young man in front of us. He leaves for about 20 minutes and comes back to his seat with a carton of 12 Quaker Steak and Lube wings. It's the messiest, smelliest thing you could eat. Why would you order something so messy at a sporting event? By the way, I have never held back a flurry of jokes so much in my life.
8:51: Nice little Hawks run capped off by Bad Josh hitting a jumper.
9:01: Woodson just marched onto the court to ream Marvin a new one. He's right...Marvin doesn't know what half the plays are. I never noticed this on TV. Woody calls the plays in and Marvin looks at the bench or at Bibby and makes the "huh?" sign.
9:03: 107 decibels in the arena as the Cavs start taking over. This place is absolute pandemonium.
At this point of the game, I am trying to hold three conversations:
- My buddy and I are discussing the size of Akon's earrings. You can see them from across the arena. Blingtastic!
- A Cavs season ticket holder and I are discussing how it could be possible for the Hawks to end up with Horford out front on Lebron so much. I casually explain to him that teams all do that to the Hawks. They dictate the matchups they want because they know the Hawks will switch.
- The single older woman next to me who missed a quarter and a half to guzzle beers at a blistering pace. My odds of some road strange have gone up exponentially. Now I know how Shawn Kemp felt.
9:13: I get beer "spilled" on me as Anthony Parker makes every highlight reel in the country. My response? I take the jersey off and start sucking the beer out of it. Three guys howl at my disgusting display. Two of the women they were with were not as impressed. I really do hope that was beer.
Food update: That fat bastard in front of me is still working on those wings. He can't move anything but his arms and mouth. Good thinking in the second half of a great game.
9:20-9:30ish: Here's where the game went from "ugly" to "Susan Boyle". Hawks get a rebound off a Cavs airball and the scorekeepers never reset the shot clock. Hawks come down and cross mid-court with 11 seconds to shoot. My buddy yells "How can they only have 10 seconds?" I start yelling and the fans around me are in complete denial as I scream about the clock. Of course THREE refs never notice the clock, the Hawks rush a shot, and the Cavs get a reverse layup on the other end. At this point I am furious as the Hawks just had their balloon deflated on so many levels. Woodson was going absolutely bananas and somehow everyone at the scorer's table and three refs never heard him. I smell a rat...or a ref who once served federal time.
9:35: I'll take Varejao shooting that bomb every day. Except today. FML. 17.2 left.
This is where I start to take a little heat from the crowd around me. The Cavs passed the ball around and somehow the ball ended up in Varajo's hands. I immediately yell "SHOOT IT PLEASE!!" and of course he hits his first career three. The people in front of me are dancing in my face and having the time of their lives. Even my would-be drunken hook-up has lost her respect for me and possibly her balance. How soon everything can fall apart.
9:38: Hawks get a good look by Bibby and can't get a board. Ballgame. Final Score: Cavs 106, Hawks 101.
9:45: Back to Local Heroes to take a ton of medicine from the local Cav fans. My buddy and I were the first ones back. I proudly take off my coat to reveal my Nique jersey as if to bait the homers into getting into it with me. Doesn't take long. The chants of "Hawks suck!" have begun all around me and to my right, I have two older gentlemen literally dancing at their barstools. I snap and tell them to enjoy this season because next year you'll have to watch Lebron on MSG Network. I get booed loudly, but not in a mean-spirited way. We all enjoyed a couple beers together as fans.
So after it is all said and done, I feel like I had an overall good experience at The Q. On the plus-side, the fans were mostly welcoming, the arena is beautiful and engaging to fans, and we got to see an epic performance by Lebron on his birthday and Joe Johnson on a Wednesday. On the down-side, the Hawks lost and got jobbed, I got beer spilled on me, and I didn't get to violate a drunken divorcee. As a Hawks fan, I am leaving this game with an awful taste in my mouth. The Hawks clearly were the better team and had the rug pulled out from under their feet in an epic way. As an NBA/sports fan, I feel that I was greeted with open arms into one of the better crowds and games you'll ever see. That arena full of people LOVES Lebron and it shows. They expect a magic moment every time he has the ball. It's very tough to not get caught up in all the excitement, even as an opposing fan.
Thanks for having me, Cleveland. I'll be back. But after this game, I'll be taking a few of these:
NOT a dramatization
For more blurry photos of the game, go here: My Picasa Page