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And Now For Something Completely Different

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This being a slow time between the end of the World Series and the beginning of the free-agent signing period when we'll have more baseball to talk about, I decided to take Mark and head down to the Bulls' home opening game last night.

The Bulls lost an eminently winnable game 89-88; I don't claim to know as much about basketball as baseball, but a team that commits 23 turnovers, including two in the critical final seconds, probably does NOT deserve to win -- even though they are clearly a superior team to the Sacramento Kings.

So, a few comments about the experience. If you've been to an NBA game recently, you know it is a nonstop light-and-sound show. It's as if there were one second of silence, that'd be a bad thing. From the video montage they showed of Bulls history (Note to video editors: you misspelled Tom Boerwinkle's name as "BOERWINKE"), to the light show that accompanies the team introductions (I have to say, this is something invented by the Bulls during the Jordan era that has been copied by many, many other teams, and they do it well), to the myriad games and performances during timeouts, there is not a second unaccounted for.

There are also myriad ways of separating you from your money on the concourse; Mark pulled me over to a "Charitabulls" table (the Bulls have to thank their lucky stars that they can make so many words including "Bulls", such as "Luvabulls", etc.) where they were giving chances to spin a wheel to win various minor "prizes" for a $25 contribution to the charity. OK, for a good cause I now own a Bulls T-shirt, a CD containing some music and highlights from the title years, and a bumper sticker.

Hey, all of it worked on the 11-year-old in my presence. But, he also enjoyed the game action, and since he plays the game, he does know the rules and strategy and the fact that it was a close game. Maybe that was my fault. I had told him on the way there that I wanted a close game, since most NBA games I've been to in the last few years (maybe one or two a year) have all been blowouts. And, he also enjoyed waving the "MISS" paper sign that they hand out to people sitting behind the baskets, which is where we were.

I got one, but as noted, not with the result I would have wanted. Ben Wallace, who was "honored" last night with "Ben Wallace 'Fro Night" -- they gave away silly-looking copies of his hairdo, which they had run out of by the time we got there -- is rapidly becoming the most popular Bull, perhaps even eclipsing Kirk Hinrich. These two got the loudest ovations during introductions, and both are team leaders in their own way. Not having watched all that much of the Pistons during Wallace's time there, I was impressed with the way he clears out rebounds -- he had 13 last night. Hinrich might have been more effective if he hadn't gotten into foul trouble halfway through the third quarter.

Ron Artest, NBA villain, naturally got the loudest boos whenever he was either introduced, or stepped to the foul line, and of course he and Wallace were involved in the ugly incident in Detroit two years ago that led to Artest's season-long suspension. Artest finished with 22 points, but Kevin Martin had 30, including the game-winner with 6.4 seconds left. Luol Deng had a very quiet 28 for the Bulls.

Apart from the big names mentioned above, I have to say that one of my favorites is Andres Nocioni, who always seems to put passion and intensity into every play he's involved in. Of the newcomers, Thabo Sefolosha, I think, has a chance to be a special player once he gets a bit more experience. In his limited minutes he didn't score, but hustled after every loose ball.

Anyway, this isn't going to be a regular thing here -- especially because NBA tickets are even MORE pricey, comparatively speaking (half as many games, but MORE than twice the cost) than baseball tickets -- but I thought it'd be a nice change of pace here, in baseball's brief interregnum.