SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- Yes, I'm spending a portion of this holiday week in the Valley of the Sun, though there hasn't been too much sun here this weekend and in fact, right now it's about 55 degrees and pouring down rain, just enough time to tell you about the trek my son Mark and I made last night to downtown Phoenix to see the Suns take on the Portland Trail Blazers.
It was worth it in an historic sense. The Suns beat the Blazers 117-98, but most newsworthy was Amare Stoudemire's 50-point game, the fifth in Suns history and the fourth such game in the NBA this year -- they do tend to be about this rare, last year there were six fifty-point or more games, and as such I was pleased to be part of a small bit of sports history. NBA regular-season games don't tend to have that much energy, but toward the end, even though this was beginning to become a blowout, the crowd sensed Stoudemire (who is definitely the real deal, proof that players can come out of high school and dominate pro basketball without sitting around with an attitude while not playing) getting close to that milestone, and erupted when he finally reached it.
This was the first sporting event I had attended since the last day of the baseball season, and it really drove home the difference between baseball, designed to be an everyday event, and other sports, particularly the NBA, which has become much more theater than sport. There were the obligatory cheerleaders, including "junior" versions of same, nine- or ten- year-old dancers, many on-floor contests, indoor fireworks, and even the Suns players getting involved in the loudness of the player introductions, ending them in some sort of dance-around-in-a-circle that reminded me of what baseball players do when someone hits a walk-off home run.
Still and all, we had fun, we both got Shawn Marion bobbleheads, though oddly, instead of handing them out when you get inside the arena, we were handed cards that had to be redeemed at The Sports Authority, where you get not only the bobblehead but a stand that will accomodate the four other Suns dolls that will be given away later this season, none of which we are likely to obtain.
After the game they let kids onto the floor to shoot a free-throw (one, and I got shooed away from the expensive seats when I tried to get close enough to watch), which Mark liked.
Oh, and try doing this in Chicago. I got a free place to park on the street in downtown Phoenix.