Season Ticket Review – Rekindling the Flame

This morning, the story was full of suspense.


Game 24: April 6, 2008

Fort Wayne Mad Ants (17-29) at Sioux Falls Skyforce (27-21)

The standings were tied between two long time rivals, two teams that have traded players and coaches and elbows and wins and sometimes blood and words and championships. The only thing that separated them was a tie-breaking series record and a state line. One team spent most of the year on top, the other wallowed in mediocrity, scratching and crawling its way back up the standings.

And then, just like that, after 48 games; after 23 home games and countless player changes; after ten face-to-face matchups; the two teams run side by side, sprinting for the finish. Only two games remained until the end.

The teams won’t face each other again. The Dakota Wizards have two games on the road, the Skyforce split their time between home and the road. With the series tie-breaker, the Skyforce control their own destiny. Win, and they’re just one game away from leading then division and playing their first-round playoff game in the friendly confines of Sioux Falls Arena. Lose, and they’ll have to hope for the impossible – two losses from Dakota against one of the worst teams in the league.

I haven’t written about the Skyforce in a while. Let’s face it – after 35 to 40 write ups over the past two years, I’ve kind of run out of things to say about my home team. It hasn’t helped that our season ticket appearances became sparse, thanks in part to Sierra and her uncanny ability to drive us toward home somewhere in the 3rd quarter.

But after a run up the standings – and after an exciting home win against the Wizards last week – there is a new electricity in the building. Something wonderful is happening. We’re not the best team in terms of records – in fact, we drop to the 5th seed without the benefit of a division win – but we’re hot as hell and we’re ready for the playoffs. In fact, for the first time in a long time, we seem unbeatable.

The collective “we” is back, my friends. The Skyforce, after a slight downturn, are back in the front of my mind. The story this morning may have been full of suspense, but after tonight’s game, it’s forging forward on its own energy, seemingly unstoppable, a train that no one wants to look at, let alone face in the playoffs.

Tonight, the Skyforce hosted the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Yes, those Mad Ants. A surprise announcement informed us of Kasib Powell’s newest accolade – NBA D-League Most Valuable Player. Imagine that – our first MVP! Our first best player, a guy who just a week ago was filling in for Dwayne Wade, who is now cheerleading and slaming down terrifying dunks and being the player that an NBA D-League team needs: a leader who just so happens to be able to play.

In celebration, the Skyforce decided to knock out one of the most dominating games of basketball I’ve ever seen. I mean, seriously – it was never even close, with Powell and company simply decimating the already decimated Mad Ants, a team that slides toward the off-season with one of the league’s worst records. The Skyforce had fun. They let everyone play. Kasib showed his dominance, while everyone else drafted off of his greatness.

Sure, Kasib Powell’s MVP award simply cements him as the best American player not in the NBA. He’s a big fish in a little pond, a player benefiting from the lack of talent around him.

But he doesn’t play that way. None of the Skyforce guys do. Throughout this season, we’ve been seen as the also-rans, as a team that could achieve greatness if they could simply play consistently, a team always in Dakota’s shadow, regardless of the Skyforce’s history of dominance of their northern brethren. And now, on this our last home game until the playoffs, we were treated to the kind of clinic that we’ve been looking forward to all year – a game that got everyone involved, that got a little chippy and high flying and, for once, comfortable.

For a while, it felt as if I had kind of forgotten the Skyforce altogether. They fell off of my memory, like snow melting off of a roof.

I don’t know if it was the surge up the standings, or the recent buzzer-beating win over Dakota, or Kasib’s sudden national attention, but a blizzard of Skyforce basketball blanketed my periphery. And tonight’s home closer did nothing to quell the wind and the snow, and I realize now that my mind was never quite rid of the Skyforce, that my season tickets will indeed be renewed next year and that, win or lose, I’ll be sitting in section P (or somewhere close by) cheering on a band of players who may never have played together before in their lives.

Champions or not, division leaders or not, professionals or not, the Skyforce have proven to be more than just a passing phase – a “something to do” from the days before fatherhood.

We’ll see you in the playoffs.

Skyforce 125, Fort Wayne 90.

This was lovingly handwritten on April 6th, 2008