Earlier this week, I had the privilege of going to a Warriors game at the Chase Center, just about 10 days before NBA stadiums officially open back up to the public.
Being one of 25 fans in a stadium designed to hold 18,000 was an eerie, intimate, and unforgettable experience. I am lucky to have seen a game in such abnormal circumstances… and, thanks Steph Curry for making the night – you had 10 3’s and broke Wilt Chamberlain’s record for most points ever scored by a Warrior!
So what was it like?
1. Mass rapid testing needs to come a long way to make games viable.
We showed up at 6:30pm for our COVID test, parking just two spots away from the entrance. No traffic, no parking jams, it was like a dream come true. Here we are, psyched to be so far “ahead of the game”. Not so fast!
2. The testing process was very personalized. Lovely staff all around.
3. At 7:18 we were still waiting for our test results. Oops, system error, they had to run my test again.
4. We got in around 7:50pm. While we skipped physical lines, it definitely had the feeling of the slowness of crowds.
5. Once inside, you are struck by the usually crowded spaces being absolutely and completely empty. No concessions, just quiet halls ready to take the fans back! And a personal escort to your seat.
6. It was much more a group of supporters than fans. One lady had taken two flights to see her boyfriend, a rookie, play a few minutes. Another gentlemen was there to support his brother. We were physically distanced but everyone was enormously friendly.
7. Steph had an amazing day with so much to celebrate. But without the fans and in the quiet arena, it had an entirely different feel to it. Almost like a private celebration of this great Warrior. Slaps on the back by teammates, a side joke with a coach, a nod from a referee, Steph looking up to the sky and thanking God. Just the quiet triumph of this wonderful competitor and earnest support from a group of people who all had their reasons for being there.
8. I was incredibly impressed with the heartfelt effort of those hired to entertain the audience. When they signed up for these jobs I imagine they expected to be playing for sellout crowds, not 25 of us (with the one random guy dancing to the 1990s hip hop hits. That one guy, of course, was me). This DJ:
Was located here:
These ladies enthusiastically danced with no direct audience witnessing them.
It took until the end of the game for me to realize what was so hauntingly familiar about this game.
All across America, thousands of sports games are played every day. The vast majority of these are not the ones that are in packed pro stadiums. They happen quietly in school gyms, at the soccer field which needs new grass, on Saturdays in the rain.
A mom holding a baby in one arm and cheering for her daughter, who will never be a pro but just loves the game. A few people hired to entertain, who practiced their dances the night before even though their team has been on a six game losing streak. Big dreams everywhere, most of which will never be met. Sports in the end, is really about a bunch of human stories. And when you removed all the fans, it once again became an intimate and special treat.