[Editor’s note: This post is really old, dating back to January 20, 2006. So, call me a slacker—as you will, anyway, although this time you’ll be justified in the attribution!]
Often referred to as “übergeek,” “LegoDoug,” or, “that dweeb,” I’ve actually attended a professional sports event only one other time in my life. In fact, I can be considered so Geeky that Weird Al actually did a music video about me. Don’t believe me? Look for yourself:
I spent about $30/ticket for John, John’s friend AJ, my friend Phil Luchon, and myself to attend this game of the Celtics (which is universally pronounced wrong—it should have a hard C sound). I should have just gone for the $10 seats, which ended up being two rows behind us. Next time I’ll just cheap out. It was advantageous to have Phil along to answer technical questions. (“What’s that shorter timer that keeps counting down while the ball is in play?”)
There’s a whole lot of stuff that goes on at a basketball game. First were a number of “pre-shows,” some good and entertaining, some otherwise. One that interested me were two choriography teams from one of the local public school systems. First out was a group of 20 or so elementary-school-age girls; their choreography was well-coordinated and quite good, reflecting a high degree of skill and practice, with well-coordinated movements. Then out came junior-high or high school girls: They were terrible. Their movements were uncoordinated, and it was almost painful to watch. I later concluded that the vastly better quality in the performance of the younger students was because they had not yet discovered boys.
The Celtics “mascot”—a person dressed as a leprechaun—and his team did some amazing gymnastic/acrobatic moves, kind of like Peter Pan meets the Harlem Globe Trotters. They set up big mats and springboards, and would do things like a reverse backflip culminating in a slam dunk. That was an amazing display, and fascinating to watch. (In fact, they displayed more skill than the Celtics, and appeared to have a higher percentage of successful shots.) There was also a “ball handler” demonstration, which was interesting, but not nearly as impressive as the mascot’s work.
Then came the game! The players came out and warmed up. There was tension and excitement building in the air. At last, I would experience the action and excitement of a live, professional basketball game!
Except that every single player on both teams stank beyond belief, and they were all the laziest slackers on the face of the earth.
Does that sound harsh? I disagree. Your average athlete ought to be able to maintain a good level of physical activity for twelve minutes—that’s how long a quarter is in professional basketball. In fact, an overpaid, professional athlete ought to be able to “push it” for the 48 minutes that would cover an entire pro game. Now, 48 minutes is generous—the “real” games are broken up by between-quarter breaks, and time outs within each quarter, so 48 minutes would be extreme, but if a zilllion-dollar player can’t hustle for 48, he ought to be thrown off the team so someone deserving can take his place.
Instead of intense action, we were treated to a performance, up until no more than the last quarter-and-a-half, that could best be described as pitifully lethargic. The players were nearly walking around the court, rather than running. Then, as the game approached the 75% mark, the players actually began to hustle in a way that might have been worthy the exorbitant salaries they were earning.
Play Intensity Plotted Over Time
But hustle wasn’t enough. The Celtics (pronounced “kell-ticks,” remember?) missed enough free throws to change the balance of the game from the close match it was to a slaughter that would have sent the Nets home crying. If I had been the coach, they all would have been doing laps every day until several of them collapsed in exhaustion, then suicides until the rest did, and anyone who missed a free throw I’d make walk from city-to-city between games. Inexcusable!
In the end, the Celtics won, albeit just barely. I was disgusted at their pitiful performance. Where has the professionalism of Larry Bird gone? He used to walk every inch of the court before a game to find out where there might be an irregularity in the flooring, and he would endlessly practice free throws.
Other distractions abounded. The guys behind us were constantly yelling profanity. In contrast to our economic stereotypes, they were well-dressed “Yuppies” who must have come to the game from white-collar jobs in Boston. Also, apparently, all it takes to operate the “interactive” things on the big scoreboard is the ability the launch the “DE-FENSE, DE-FENSE” animation whenever the Celtics didn’t have the ball. Duh! Salter once wrote that you never see basketball coaches explain their victory strategy as, “Well, what we really need to do to win is get more baskets than the other team.”
There were, of course, other highlights to the game, especially from an engineering perspective. One of the things I found fascinating was the superbright LED displays that ringed the entire balcony. It was only relatively recently that the semiconductor doping of blue LEDs became commercially practical, which is what enabled these RGB displays to be used for such applications.
The final score was Boston 99, New Jersey 96. There’s a recap available here on Yahoo Sports, but to be honest, reading it is more boring than watching American football.