Monday, November 20, 2017

Miami Heat 103 at Detroit Pistons 112 - November 12, 2017

I first met Andrew and Peter from the Ultimate Sports Road Trip in 2001, when I was in the middle of my season-long MLB road trip. At the time, they were on their own quest - to see all of the 121 major league sports venues at the time. They reached their goal in 2002 at Ford Field in Detroit, receiving some media attention. In 2003, on a 35-day trip during which I saw 40 games, I met Gary and Mike from Royalty Tours. These two NYC residents had also seen a game in every big league stadium, though without the publicity. After that, I returned to Japan but continued with the occasional sports trip stateside, though without any rhyme or reason, other than to see every new ballpark that was opened. After the NBA expanded to 30 teams, the total number of venues became 122 and somebody coined the term Club 122 for those who had seen a game in all those places. Living overseas, I never considered that I would become a member, but then I moved to the States and did my NFL road trip in 2013.  With those 32 venues checked off, I only had a few NHL and NBA stadiums left, and I completed them with a visit to Orlando's new Amway Center in 2014, making me the fifth member of Club 122.

Since then, all five of us have visited every new stadium in the Big 4 sports to retain our membership, occasionally running into each other along the way. This season, the NHL expanded to 31 teams with the Vegas Golden Knights, so we updated our moniker to Club 123. Four other teams also moved to new venues, making for a busy fall for members and those striving to join. Along with the Chargers moving north to StubHub Center and the Falcons opening Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Red Wings and Pistons both headed to downtown Detroit and Little Caesars Arena.

It was for this reason that I found myself in Detroit this past weekend. Having seen the Red Wings on Saturday, I would enter Club 123 with the Pistons game on Sunday. As it turned out, Andrew and Peter were in town as well to retain their membership, though they would not see in the Red Wings until Wednesday, giving me a few days as the sole member of the Club.

Having described the venue in some detail in the Red Wings post, I'm not going to say much about it here.  I have added a few pictures of the seating bowl and the concourse that give you a better idea of the layout for basketball. Below is a shot of the roof above the Via portion of the concourse.

The Pistons, despite getting off to a 9-3 start, are not nearly as popular as the Red Wings and the atmosphere here suffers. It is possible that after so many years out in Auburn Hills that the fan base is now suburban, and it simply isn't worth making the trip downtown for many fans. But the sparse attendance does have a positive side as it is easier to walk around and take pictures of the various historical displays.

The most impressive one for the Pistons is behind Portal 71 on the upper concourse, where their NBA trophies are displayed.

As the Pistons were not originally slated to play here, only deciding to join the party in November 2016, they are clearly the second tenant. Hence, their three Larry O'Brien trophies are relegated to the relative backwaters of the venue. Many fans who don't venture upstairs will never see this important part of franchise history. Below are the back-to-back "Bad Boys" titles from 1989-90...

...while the 2004 title is shown with the Finals VP trophy awarded to Chauncey Billups. I always enjoy seeing the actual trophies on display and think more teams should do this. Of course, the Red Wings can't display all their Stanley Cups, but the other three sports do have new trophies made every season and fans should be able to see them.

Pistons banners are shown along one side of the ceiling. The picture below is from my seat just inside Portal 71, so it seems like this side of the arena is more Pistons-heavy.

I was really impressed by Little Caesars Arena on both visits, but you should see a Red Wings game there if you can only choose one event. Gates open 90 minutes before, so get in early and take your time to fully explore both concourses. Both franchises have a storied history and kudos to the Red Wings for ensuring that the Pistons got their due here as well.

The Game

My buddy Mike, a Detroit-area resident, joined with his wife and two kids. He picked up a Sprite Family 4-Pack, which is four upper bowl tickets for $129 ($32.25 each), with each ticket coming with $11 in concession credit. I got a seat next to them for $37 with no concession credit. What?! How can I pay more for less? How about a Friend-of-the-Family one pack? Anyway, we ended up in the second row, with the view below and Mike had enough concession credit left over to get me a hot dog. Though it took us about 10 minutes to get all the food due to a technical problem at the concession stand - the vagaries of a new arena.

The game itself was actually quite entertaining, with 8 ties and 7 lead changes. Midway through the third quarter, Miami had a 73-62 lead but the Pistons went on an 11-2 run to get close and after a Heat hoop, finished the frame on a 10-4 spree to take an 83-81 lead to the fourth. Halfway through that, with the score 93-92 Detroit, Pistons rookie Luke Kennard made a two and a three on back-to-back possessions, followed by baskets from Ish Smith and Reggie Jackson to make it 102-92. A free throw from Andre Drummond gave the Pistons their biggest lead of the night and the Heat never got closer than 8 as Detroit moved to 10-3 with a 112-103 win. Kennard was the key, ending up +21 on the evening, while Miami's James Johnson was a dismal -23 during his 26 minutes off the bench.

To me, a good basketball game is one that is close for most of the contest and moves quickly with few turnovers and few fouls. This one had all that, taking just over 2 hours to complete, and a home win as well. A nice way to enter Club 123.


Afterward, I met up with Andrew (2nd from left) and Peter (right), along with Andrew Van Cleve (2nd from right, now at 116 venues), Scott Bultman (left, 111), and Jim Vigeant (a 30 ballpark member who took the picture) at the Town Pump for a few pitchers and some sports travel talk. Great fun and I look forward to our next new venue in Milwaukee sometime in 2018.

Next Up

Nothing. At least not in the realm of sports road trips. With Club 123 done, there is nothing to get excited about. I'm going to be seeing events in the NYC area now and again, but other than that, waiting for the summer to see the Blue Jays in a few road venues. So check back in April once I figure out what I'll be able to do.



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