Season Ticket Review: Two nights of entertaining
The last Skyforce update came nearly a month and a half ago.
Games 12 & 13: January 15 & 16, 2008
Fort Wayne (5-11) at Sioux Falls Skyforce (12-8)
It’s not that we haven’t been going to games this season. It’s just that, you know, we’ve been pretty busy, what with the world continuing to spin despite the continuation of the NBA D-League. Imagine that – even in the wake of a new season, life moves on.
Actually, I should be fair. If we’ve been missing games, it’s our own fault. We can no longer blame Sierra – especially since the advent of her willingness to hang around for the entire contest. To begin the season, we were wary of her attention span, assuming she’d be out around half-time – her natural bedtime. But, thanks to a couple souvenir balls we’ve snatched out of the air, and owing a lot to her advanced patience with daddy’s favorite sport, we’ve gotten to stay longer and longer each game.
Unfortunately, this added attention has come as the team began its decline. We began the season with a 9-2 record, losing only the season opener vs. Iowa and a lopsided contest in Austin that sparked a 9-game Toros winning streak.
But then Christmas happened – a two-point loss to Dakota at home – and then 3-6 happened.
And that’s the story of the first half of the season. After 20 games, the Skyforce were a disappointing 12-8. Looking for a spark, they sent longtime guard Carl Elliot to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants for longer-time-guard David Bailey. Things seemed as though they’d be okay – after all, we had a weekend home series against the last place Mad Ants, and we just brought back one of the most popular players of recent memory – a player who, theoretically, new the opponent about as well as you possibly could.
At both games, we were joined by company. We were surprised to see our friends Eric and Tony at the Thursday game, and just the next day we invited more friends (Jim and Mel, Sara and Ryan) to join us.
It was a different feeling to have friends at the game. For so long, we have simply made the Skyforce our little thing – never making the connection between the pastime and the friends we’d visit after the games. The Skyforce are our vice, and by having friends at the game it felt as if we were entertaining – as if we were responsible for how the team played. After years of being a hardcore fan, we found ourselves passing that fanhood on.
What’s refreshing is that our friends look at the game from a different angle. To them, it’s still fresh and somewhat exciting. They question the conventions, and they ask about things we’ve long held as truth.
We talked about half-time shows. We answered questions about the league itself, and about the team, and about the NBA affiliate system and how NBA players are sent down and D-League players called up. We went through the subtle nuances of the league and discussed the mundane nature of the Arena’s pretzels. We were Skyforce experts, and, while we might not be proud of that fact, it was fun to inform instead of grumble silently.
It was like rediscovering the game we had become so numb to, looking at them from a fan’s perspective, and not from the chiseled glasses of a bitter, long suffering cynic.
“So, who’s the go to guy,” Eric asked on Thursday.
This question stopped me. I was stunned, actually, that I couldn’t think of an answer. I didn’t know, I said. The Skyforce have never really had a go to guy. It changes daily, the team turning toward whoever had the hot hand.
On both nights, it turned out to be Frank Williams, averaging 26 points over the two contests. Newcomer/old favorite David Bailey poured in a few of his own, sure, but it was Frank – seemingly absent from the games we had attended previously – who put the team on his back and charged forward.
He was really the only consistent bright spot. As is the team’s custom, we took a lead into the half both nights, and, as is our habit, we promptly lost it in the 3rd quarter both times. The refs could be to blame – both nights saw an attempted comeback thwarted by tic-tac fouls called by a greenhorn ref – a ref who called loose in the beginning and tight near the end (the exact opposite of what you’d expect). But really, it was Carl Elliot who took the wind out of our sails, leading the Mad Ants to two straight wins on the road, sending our record to 12-10, lovingly giving us a little payback for sending him to one of the worst teams in the league.
It was the Carl Elliot we had ourselves enjoyed. And while both nights were cold, and much quieter than usual, we were torched by a Mad Ants team that simply wanted to win a lot more than we did.
It wasn’t the best face to show a set of visitors. But we couldn’t take it personally. After all – we’re merely visitors as well: visitors that show up more often than most, often leave early, and occasionally consider ourselves proud fans – fans that always end up looking on the bright side, who always enjoy the game for what it is.
It’s simply basketball. And it’s for all of us to share.