Thursday, January 9, 2014

Golden State Warriors 98 at Brooklyn Nets 102 - January 8, 2014

Now that I live in New York, the plethora of sporting events available to me is staggering. As I've mentioned, I have friends that see a game nearly every single day, if not more often, but that is not something of which I am capable. When an intriguing team comes to town though, I will try to attend, and that was the case last night as the Golden State Warriors came to the Big Apple to take on the Brooklyn Nets.

I had another reason for visiting the Barclays Center. Recently Stadium Journey released its Top 100 stadium experiences and the Barclays Center came in at #72 overall, finishing 4th in the NBA. Personally I found this surprisingly high because the arena gets a lot of bad press from sports travellers for being dark and expensive, points I made last year, but the Nets were surprised that they were not #1 in the league and rather irate at this perceived snub. As such, I will be conducting another review for Stadium Journey in the near future (probably when the Raptors come to town), but wanted to see the arena again with a competitive team instead that might spice up the experience. As well, the Warriors are great fun to watch, so after stopping in to catch the taping of the Late Show with David Letterman, I boarded the B train to Brooklyn and returned to the Dark Barc to see the game.

I picked up a cheap ticket outside which put me in row 5 in the corner of the upper deck. The end zone seats here are a better bet here because they are closer to the court than the upper sidelines and cheaper as well. I walked around the lower concourse which is spacious and has tons of local food options, most of which are overpriced. Fortunately, the designated driver program here offers a full tub of popcorn which can be washed down with water from many fountains around the concourse, thus eliminating the need for a food purchase.

No need to write more about this place other than to say my original post is still accurate. The venue is beautiful but dark and the upper concourse is quite narrow in places so a halftime walk takes longer than it should as concession lines block much of the space. The ushers have a bad reputation here but I have not experienced anything negative in my two visits, although I don't like the fact that I cannot access the lower bowl for pictures before the game. On the positive side, the Nets have one of my favourite gags, the Oblivious Cam as you can see above. This guy (checking his phone, not sleeping) was on screen for a minute without noticing, even more surprising is that he had no idea there was a dummy making faces behind him!

I don't want to recap the game. ESPN had a good article on the Nets' keys to victory. The Warriors were attempting to become the first team in NBA history to go 7-0 on a road trip and they had a 93-89 lead with 4 minutes to go, but they tired down the stretch, scoring just 3 free throws and a last second bucket from Steph Curry the rest of the way. In fact, the last four minutes was all about the charity stripe as the Nets went 11/11 with only Andray Blatche (above) sinking a shot from the floor in that time.

Curry (above, about to turn the ball over to Kevin Garnett) led all scorers with 34 points but he was only 2/10 from three-point land, an uncharacteristic performance from the best pure shooter in the league. The interesting stat is that all Warriors starters were positive in their +/- while all their bench players were negative, despite only being on the floor for a combined 50 minutes. Coach Mark Jackson kept his starting 5 out there for much of the game and after 7 games on the road, they just ran out of energy. Interesting game, but not particularly entertaining.

Late Show

I mentioned that I attended the taping of the Late Show with David Letterman and want to give a bit of advice to those interested. There are two options: ordering tickets in advance or standby. Standby is the better option for locals and one I recommend to visitors who would be OK if they did not get into the show.

In my case, I phoned the standby ticket number starting at 11 and got through after about 5 minutes. If you try this option, make sure to keep redialing and don't give up until you hear a recorded message - in that case you are out of luck as all standby tickets have been given away. Fortunately I got through quite quickly. My name was taken, I was given the number 6, and told to show up at the Ed Sullivan Theater at 3:30. I arrived a few minutes early and there were a few other people waiting in the standby line. As it was cold outside, we were quickly escorted inside and told to line up in order of our number. Numbers 4 and 5 didn't show up, and interestingly numbers 1 through 3 were also Canadian. They were visiting New York and had been stranded by the JetBlue fiasco. Even more of a coincidence, the guy next to me had been in San Diego two weeks ago and had attended the same Chargers game I did. Small world.

Anyway, the page was very energetic and made some silly jokes as others filed in to keep everyone loose. After a few minutes of nervous waiting, we were told that we would get in to the show! We were each handed a ticket with S on the back and then taken over to the Three Monkeys Bar where the other ticket holders were waiting to get into the theater.

Inside the bar, there was a guy getting the crowd ready and explaining the rules (no cameras, no restroom breaks unless you are in the balcony, pretty common sense stuff). Eventually those with B tickets were escorted back to the theater, then C tickets, then the standbys. If you order tickets in advance, you will get one of three types: A, B, or C. I don't know the difference, but it seemed like A seats were being let in to the theater at 3:30, so they get the best spots, while B might mean Balcony, C might be those who showed up late. S obviously means standby. However, the standby number you get doesn't matter after you receive your ticket as everyone just lines up randomly when they call "Standby". Best to be close to the door I guess.

When entering the theater, you must pass through a metal detector first. If you have a bulky bag, you can check it at the bag storage area. You then walk into the actual theater and are directed to a seat depending on how many in your party. Being solo, I was fortunate to get an aisle seat in the center section, although I don't think there are any bad seats down low.

As we sat down, the warm-up comic was finishing his act and giving out final instructions, mainly encouraging us to make noise and applaud at the appropriate time. The CBS Orchestra was introduced and performed for a few minutes, then announcer Alan Kalter appeared. Paul Shaffer came out followed by Dave, who talked with the crowd for about 5 minutes. Just as he finished up, the taping began, and he ran backstage to put on his suit jacket before reappearing to start the actual show.

During the taping, it was very interesting to watch how everything operates, there are a couple of dozen stagehands and other people running around, especially during the breaks. The lovely Scarlett Johansson was the guest (which is why I went) and the musical act was John Grant, who sang his song GMF. This stands for Greatest MF and that particular lyric is used in the song. Grant had a brain fart and actually sang it during the first chorus before replacing the naughty word with "living creature" in the remaining two choruses. Dave had fun with it, saying it was "the loveliest song I've ever heard about a MF" that made it onto the final show, bleeped out of course. Watch the performance here and note the silence early on as the first MF is simply muted.

Overall, I highly recommend the standby option if you are pressed for time and you would be OK with missing the show. As mentioned, I showed up at 3:30 and the show ended around 5:40. Of course, standby doesn't guarantee tickets, but you can pick which guests you want to see as the Letterman website lists that week's guests every Monday. Remember no taping on Friday but on those other days, just start phoning at 11 am. If you get a standby number but don't get in, you only lose 30 minutes waiting in line. And it costs nothing. Great fun, and I'll definitely go back.


Speaking of coincidences, on the train over to Manhattan, I saw a guy with a Vancouver Grizzlies hat. This was a good omen for the day as I lived in Vancouver when they began operations and saw their first two games, including their opener in Portland. I always get a bit sad when I see the old logo as this is one of two teams to have relocated on me, with the other being the Expos. Of course, to complete the circle, I then saw an Expos' cap at the Nets' game.

Finally, I got a mention in USA Today in relation to the Top 100 Stadium Experiences. So a pretty good day overall.

Next Up

Boston! The scheduling gods helped me out with the Patriots hosting the Colts in an AFC Divisional playoff game on Saturday night followed by the Celtics taking on the Rockets on Monday and the Leafs visiting the Bruins on Tuesday. Those two games at TD Garden will be my first visits there (I saw both teams at the Boston Garden in 1988) and get me two steps closer to Club 122. Updates next week as usual.



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