Season Ticket Review – Ho, ho, ho
Christmas day. A time to revel in the spirit of giving, to rejoin family after time apart, to celebrate all that has been given throughout the year, both meaningful and superficial. It’s a day to eat too much, a day to talk too loud, a day that commonly ends in an exhausted, yet pleased sigh and a drop into a warm bed.
Game 6: December 25th, 2007
Fort Wayne Mad Ants (4-6) at Sioux Falls Skyforce (3-7)
Christmas day in Sioux Falls means something even more. It means Skyforce basketball in front of what usually ends up being the biggest crowd of the year.
This year, we faced the Fort Wayne Mad Ants – Detroit’s pet franchise and the team that sits just one game ahead of the Skyforce in the standings. It’s a relatively new rivalry – in fact, it’s brand new; the Fort Wayne Mad Ants are celebrating their inaugural season as members of the D-League.
Last year, we were the Detroit affiliate, and we benefited from their youngest future star, Amir Johnson. This year, we were dropped in favor of the Mad Ants – a team actually owned by the Pistons – and now we’re saddled with the Charlotte Bobcats in its place.
I mention all of these impressive big-league connections because I’m a little self conscious of our minor league status. Most of my friends see the Skyforce as a trinket on the basketball landscape, a knick-knack not worth much attention, let alone a season-ticket induced fandom.
“We’re for real!” I’ll scream. “A real team with a real coach and real jerseys and everything!” and my friends, many of which have strong connections to Minnesota and, therefore, the Timberwolves, just smile and shake their heads.
As if the Timberwolves could beat the Skyforce this season.
Tonight we entertained a real sports fan – Kerrie’s uncle Bernie, from Virginia. He’s an aficionado. He has years of sports knowledge tucked away and can spot things I never even think to look for – footwork, unbiased ref calls, the release of a shot.
In addition, he’s got some great connections. Enough that he has courtside tickets to Georgetown basketball. See that bald guy to the left of the scorer’s table? That’s Uncle Bernie.
That’s our guest. That’s what the Skyforce have to live up to – the unflinching brunt of a knowledgeable sports fan with tickets to one of the most sought after shows in the Washington D.C. area. Suck it up, Force. Don’t embarrass me for the hype I built up.
As if notified of the importance of Bernie’s visit, the Skyforce were on their game. Like, seriously on their game – great shooting, great defense and a drive to win. Maybe it was the crowd – a typical, “get us the hell out of the house!” Christmas crowd – or maybe it was the idea of moving up a spot in the standings. Either way, the Skyforce simply blew the Mad Ants out of the building.
And hey – some guys got a little chippy, and some guys got thrown out. The Mad Ants became frustrated, some flagrant (and flagrant-2) calls were tossed around, and the crowd became a seething pit of hatred, calling for Mad Ant beheadings and mass slaughter.
Less violently, this was the first game I really took notice of J.C. Mathis – both good and bad. The man has some great footwork (thanks, Bern!) and moved around defenders like they were stuck in epoxy. He sliced shots up and in, and developed the statement dunks when needed.
But then he wouldn’t give up the ball. He took shot after shot, leading the team in both scoring and off-balance, no-pass shots. Still, he ended with 29 points on 13 of 19 shooting, so at least he was making the shots he was blindly taking. David Bailey managed to do the same thing, except he couldn’t hit an inside shot all day (1-8 from inside the three-point line). Thankfully, he took enough long shots (4-5 from three-point range) to make his game worthwhile.
When the fury settled, what was left was the strongest Skyforce showing of the year. Over 50% shooting from the field and from three. Two players with a double-double and seven players in double figures. Every quarter won, no lead squandered. Even a justifying ejection by Fort Wayne’s brute, Corey Minnifield.
So maybe it’s not a Wizards game. It’s hardly even a Georgetown game. But one thing’s for sure – the Skyforce are competitive, and they’re nothing to look down your nose at. As long as the team can play like this every week, they’re no longer semi-pro. They’re all out pros.