The Ballet of Basketball
Last week was a big week in the world of Philadelphia basketball.
First, the Villanova Wildcats won the college basketball national championship in thrilling fashion, and then had a small parade in Center City to celebrate.
(On the lead-up to the game, the big debate on Philadelphia sports talk radio was whether or not the Wildcats were a “Philly” school. Villanova is situated in Villanova, PA, yes, on the outskirts of the Philadelphia city limits called the Main Line. To me, ‘Nova has always been considered a Philly school, dating back to when the “Big 5” was in full swing – the epic battles between the five local schools: Villanova, Drexel, Penn, Temple, and my alma mater, La Salle. How or why this even became an point of disagreement just goes to show sometimes fans can’t even be happy in their success.)
The, Allen Iverson, the fantastic 6-foot point guard who changed the NBA game in his heyday, was named to the NBA Hall of Fame. He ain’t talkin’ about practice anymore.
Finally, Sam Hinkie, the general manager and architect of one of the oddest – though possibly effective – rebuilding plans in professional sports resigned from his post with the Philadelphia 76ers.
With all this swirling around the city, I decided, last Friday night, to head down to Philadelphia and take in the 76ers-New York Knicks game.
Back in my grade school and high school days, I was a HUGE basketball fan. Loved to play it, loved to watch it. College, NBA, didn’t matter. The the last few years, it’s been less so. Hard for me to sit and watch full games, though I still peek in now and again. Having a father-in-law who still watches a lot helps. So, going down to the game was more of a sociological experience for me than an out-and-out fan one. The Sixers are losing at a record level, yet Sixer fans still sound passionate. And the Knicks are always a draw. I wanted to see what I could see with my Fuji X100T.
What I did see was a passionate display of fandom. This late in the season, absolutely nothing for these two teams to play for, I saw the building nearly packed, the fans into the game wearing their jerseys and bling. AI in the house (literally and figuratively).
You’ve have thought both teams were in playoff contention.
What struck me also was the deft movements of these super big men. I wrangled a ticket to the lower level, then moved around pretty freely. Watching on TV, you forget how big these men are. And all taking up space in the same small area, banging bodies, flying through the air. Everyone aware (basically) of their own space in the area, though with some collisions.
And yet, with the ballet of big bodies going on down on the floor, there’s the business of basketball going on as well. The event staff, the cheerleaders/dance team, the Sixers mascot, Franklin The Dog, trying to keep everyone excited and energetic throughout the game with music and smoke and t-shirt tosses.
Because, you know, pro sports isn’t enough anymore.
In the end, the Sixers put up a good fight. Down by double-digits in the fourth, they came back to make it a game, only to lose in the end.
The ballet of basketball was done, the business of the Wells Fargo Center would continue. A hockey game was to be played there the next day, so preparations were in order. Still, fans milled around, getting on the court of a team that has been in the news of late, but with nothing to play for.
Time, at least, for one last selfie before the lights went out…
(c)Mark Krajnak | JerseyStyle Photography | 2016