Monday, January 27, 2020

BYU Cougars 82 at San Francisco Dons 83 (NCAA Basketball, West Coast) - January 25, 2020

After the official Club 123 meetup at Chase Center the night before, several members assembled on Saturday afternoon for another basketball game, this time at a much older and more enjoyable venue. The University of San Francisco Dons were hosting BYU at War Memorial Gymnasium, which was opened in 1958, two years after the Dons had completed back-to-back championship seasons.

The venue is nicknamed "The Hilltop" because USF is on the summit of Lone Mountain, just a few blocks north of the Haight-Ashbury district. There are several bus routes that stop nearby, or you can walk from the Muni at Carl and Cole Streets, about a mile away. The front of the building is well preserved, with a repeating triangular awning over the main entrance. The box office is to the right here, and I was surprised to see that General Admission tickets were $30. As I said in the previous post, there's a lot of money in San Francisco, and it impacts everything.

Inside the main entrance, you will find a very narrow foyer that contains quite a bit of history, including a display on the 1951 Dons.

There are several plaques honouring past Legends of the Hilltop, including Pete Rozelle (a photo of him can be seen above) and Bill Russell, who was on those two championship teams.

More recently, Bill Cartwright played here and his plaque is new enough to point out that he coached the Osaka Evessa for one season in 2013, the year after I saw them in Okinawa.

The Dons also have won national titles in soccer, including one in 1966. In those days, smaller schools could compete but these days, Power Conference schools reign in nearly every sport.

You can walk in to the gym at floor level, but nor farther unless you have a lower level seat. If you are in GA, you will need to walk up the stairs to get to the benches there.

The gym is undergoing a series of renovations that are paid for by John and Susan Sobrato. One side of GA seating has been removed and will be replaced by the Sobrato Club. Wonderful, more space for rich people and less space for real fans.

One of the remaining GA sections is along the side with the cameras, which is where I sat (view below). There are just simple benches here and it does get crowded during the games as students show up well after tip off.

There is also a GA area behind one net, which takes a little longer to fill up, but by the midway point of the first half, it was full.

The view from here is quite good, as you are right on top of the action.

Above this section are banners for all schools in the West Coast Conference.

At the other end is a party area that was filled with fraternity brothers enjoying a reunion. Above this are the retired numbers.

This is not the only way that past stars are remembered. In the lower level, where all seats are reserved and cost $5-10 more than those in GA, the sections are given names rather than numbers. So you might find yourself in Smith (Phil) or Jones (K.C.) for example.

There are four video boards in each corner of the venue that are new for the 2019 season. They provide basic stats for the players on the floor, with each monitor focusing on just one team.

Capacity here is 3,005 and attendance was 3,006, though there were some empty seats in the lower level. There were seven of us in the Club 123 group, so we were responsible for putting them over the 3,000 mark.

Overall, I really enjoyed War Memorial Gymnasium. It is an old-style gym, at least for one more season, and has a good amount of history that harkens back to a simpler time in college sports. I also got to see an excellent game too.

The Game

The Cougars came in 15-6 (4-2 in WCC play) while the Dons were 14-7 (3-3). The game was tight early and tied at 20 before BYU went on a 20-9 run that allowed them to finish the first half with a 45-37 edge.

BYU extended that lead early in the second half, going up 54-40 (in recognition of a Canadian band no doubt) but then the Dons began an incredible comeback. They scored 9 in a row, and then TJ Haws of the Cougars committed a silly technical foul after the ball was stolen by Khalil Shabazz. Shabazz sank the two freebies, and after another Haws turnover, Remu Raitanen drained a 3 to tie things up. The Dons potted the next 7 points as well, making it a spectacular 21-0 run. The cheer team celebrated accordingly.

Later, the Dons led 77-67 with 2:48 to go, but the Cougars sank two quick threes, and added four more points after a layup from USF's Jamaree Bouyea. Up 79-77 with 17 seconds left, the Dons elected to foul Yoeli Childs, who shoots at a 56% clip from the line. The strategy worked as Childs missed the front end of the 1-and-1 and the Dons rebounded. This led to the final seconds being a series of fouls and free throws, with USF making all four of theirs. A buzzer-beating trey by BYU's Jake Toolson made the score closer than it was as San Francisco won a thriller 83-82.

This was a much more entertaining affair than the NBA game the night before. Mid-major college hoops is fast becoming my second favourite sport after minor league baseball.


This was my 97th NCAA hoops venue, but only 84 of those count towards the 390 total Division I arenas (which includes four schools joining next season plus women's only gyms). That means 306 to go.



Sunday, January 26, 2020

Indiana Pacers 129 at Golden State Warriors 118 - January 24, 2020

Last year, members of Club 123 had their first annual meetup at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, the only new venue in the Big 4 in 2018-19. This year, there are four new spots to choose from, with one of them hosting two teams. Rather than wait, we decided to meet at the first venue to open (which turned out to be a fortuitous decision after the pandemic stopped spectating for 2020). That venue is Chase Center, the new home of the Golden State Warriors, who moved across the Bay from Oakland to San Francisco. Built at the astounding cost of $1.4 billion, the good news is that the arena was privately financed. The bad news is that they are going to make that money back by overcharging for everything.

Chase Center is located in the Mission Bay area of the city, just a few blocks from Oracle Park. The best way to get there is on the Muni, which has a stop right in front of the building. The trams are crowded as game time approaches, so try to get there a bit earlier. Rides are free if you have a game ticket. You can also walk from the Caltrain terminal at 4th and King. If you are looking for a pregame spot, 21st Amendment on 2nd Street is your best bet.

As it was dark by the time we ventured over, I returned the next morning to take some shots in the daytime. As you can see, the venue is very white with plenty of glass as well. There are red lanterns in the two shots above; it was Asian Heritage Night on Friday and I'm not sure if the lanterns were installed just for that, or if they are a more permanent fixture.

Above is the East Entrance, which is right next to the water. If you are taking a rideshare or taxi, you will get dropped off here. There is a ferry terminal here that takes you to Oakland and is a huge boon for those in the East Bay, saving hours of driving and other hassles. It leaves 30 minutes after the final buzzer, so don't dawdle if you are taking it. The huge glass window is reminiscent of Fiserv Forum.

There are several artworks around the venue that deserve to be seen during daylight hours. I particularly liked the five large glass spheres by Iceland's Olafur Eliasson that are set in such a way as to provide endless photo opportunities.

More traditional art can be found in various spots as you circle the outside. Cable cars are a must in any San Francisco theme.

Inside, the whiteness continues. The staircase in the photo above is for entry to the suites or something, so I did not venture in.

 Even the Mercedes promo is white.

Hey, there's some colour. Note all the sponsors along the side. A lot of high-tech names there for some reason.

One of the nice touches was a free charging station, the first I had seen at the pro level. RingCentral recently purchased naming rights to the Oakland Coliseum, though after I visited for the Jays series last April.

There is a box office just inside the main entrance. Note the item of the game on the TV screens above, only $20 for a hat or toque.

Concourses are ample, though somewhat barren. There are dozens of concessions with overpriced food and booze. San Francisco has become a very expensive town (and a result, homelessness has become a real problem, but I'll leave the politics out of this post) and I guess many people have more money than they know what to do with.

However, if you do want something to eat, Big Nate's BBQ is the recommended spot, if just for the coolness of having Nate Thurmond's photo there.

Looking down as you take the escalator to the top level. Seems more like a medical building than a sports arena; very sterile at spots.

Looking outside through that huge glass window. Would be nicer during the day I expect.

More whiteness, this time it is the club level as we are passing on the escalator.

There is plenty of artwork on the inside too, including a hanging light sculpture that changes colour. Unfortunately, I caught it as it was light blue, which looks almost white.

The seating bowl is the first place where white doesn't dominate. As you can see in the photos, it is a typical seating bowl, with a large lower level that stretches way back, a couple of suite levels, and then an upper level that also has a lot of rows, going all the way back to 21. To be fair, in most sections, the first row is actually 6, but regardless, you are far away when you are in the top few rows here.

It is tough to see in the photo below, but there are lounges in between the courtside seats and the actual seating bowl. Prices are ridiculous, but hey, when you are 10-36, you can charge what you want. Capacity is 18,064 and that was the announced attendance for this game, though many fans stayed away.

Behind the net, you can see the narrow end of the scoreboard. This is a good reason to avoid sitting behind the net.

Just above this is the Pepsi Club, which is actually open to everyone, though there are sections off to the side that are restricted. Despite being sponsored by Pepsi, booze is the key aspect of the club, as are very high prices.

Our seats were in the upper deck near the top, and we originally paid $90. After the Warriors realized that they were going to suck this season, there was a $20 refund paid. Still, 70 bucks for this crap? Yep, welcome to San Francisco, Warriors fans. Nobody pities you either because you won three titles.

There is even art in the seating bowl. I have no idea what that blue floating thing is, but it seems to be a mobile that changes shape and colour throughout the game. At one point, I thought I was hallucinating, but the picture proves that there is something there.

There are no trophies on display; I heard from a friend that they were in the "high-rent" district. Not sure why teams hide their silverware from those fans that suffered through the lean years, but it drives me nuts. C'mon Warriors, put those Larrys where every fan can see them. The banners are nice, but it is the trophy that we want to see.

Speaking of banners, screw you Oakland!

The scoreboards are most impressive. In particular, the shot chart on the right of the smaller scoreboard shows makes and misses from everywhere on the floor. Also, there is EFG%, which is effective field goal percentage.

The main scoreboard is immense, with an incredible amount of detail. For every player on the floor, you have minutes, points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, field goals made and attempted, three pointers made and attempted, and fouls. There is also a beautiful video screen showing the game that is often more captivating that the live action much farther away.

Overall, Chase Center was somewhat disappointing, mostly because it ignores the history that the Warriors have enjoyed. Sure, it is beautiful, but there is more to a sports venue than aesthetics. I suspect that I missed quite a bit of it due to not having spent a thousand dollars on a ticket, but I believe that teams should cater to all their fans and not just the wealthy. It will be interesting to see how the Warriors adapt as their team slowly falls from the pinnacle of the NBA.

The game itself was rather uneventful. The Warriors took a 16-8 lead before Indiana (29-16), went on a 21-6 run and never looked back. Golden State got within 2 early in the second quarter, but Indiana's Doug McDermott scored 8 straight points and T.J. McConnell added a layup to make it 50-38. The Warriors climbed within 4 a couple of times, but never closer, as Indiana mostly cruised to a 129-118 win. D'Angelo Russell led all scorers with 37, while T.J. Warren paced the winners with 35.

The Pacers shot over 60% from three-point land and had 15 steals, two excellent numbers that contributed to their win. Interestingly, the record for most steals in a quarter is 12, held by Golden State, who did it against Indiana in January 2008.


On my way out of San Francisco, I had a great view of the city as we climbed. Chase Center is the large, white blob in the center, right on the bay.

A few seconds later, we flew right over the old home of the Warriors (and the old home of the Raiders), with symbolic clouds coming in to cover them up. In case you forgot, the last game played at Oracle was the Raptors championship win.

The moral of the story: always get a window seat and leave those shades up!



Sunday, January 19, 2020

Georgia Swarm 12 at New York Riptide 13 (OT, NLL)- January 18, 2020

The National Lacrosse League has twice before tried to have a team play in the Nassau Coliseum, only to have that team either fold (Saints), or move elsewhere, and then fold (Orlando Titans). Perhaps the league believes that the third time's the charm, because they granted an expansion franchise to GF Sports, a holding company that was created by a private equity firm, GF Capital Management. Known as the New York Riptide, the team had three road games to start the season before playing two more at the Coliseum, drawing 6,000 to their first and 5,000 to their second home games. Unfortunately, they had yet to win one.

It is not worth traveling to Uniondale for just a single game, but last Saturday, there was a doubleheader with the Islanders taking on the Capitals in the afternoon and the Riptide hosting the Georgia Swarm in the evening. I ended up renting a car and spending the weekend in the area. After the Islanders blew a 4-1 lead by giving up five third period goals, I took a break at the Marriott next to the Coliseum before returning for the nightcap. The cheapest tickets at the box office were $18, which put you in the end zone (view above). There was a snowstorm that kept many fans away, as you can see, with attendance announced at 2,351.

I was able to move around a bit and settled on a spot near the non-existent blue line. The Swarm wear bright yellow uniforms that are visible from space, at least according to the announcer.

The team uses the Riptide theme creatively, with the hashtag #GetPulledIn and a party area behind one of the nets known as the Sandbar. There's also a dance team that probably has a catchy name, but not catchy enough for me to have caught it. I was impressed by the work put into the team and hope that they can avoid the fate of their predecessors.

And if they have more games like this one, then they just might. Down 10-6 with about 10 minutes to go, the Riptide scored 5 straight goals in 5:55 to take a surprising lead. But Georgia replied with two quick ones and New York was down 12-11 with two minutes left. With goalie Alex Buque (who is listed at 5'11", 332 lbs) on the bench, the Riptide pressed and found a miraculous equalizer from Gale Thorpe with 1.3 seconds left. This led to overtime and after a couple of stops by both sides, Riptide captain Dan MacRae found himself alone in the Swarm zone and fired a shot that beat Kevin Orleman and gave the Riptide their historic first win.

Afterwards, the players shook hands in a line, something that is unusual in pro sports, particularly in the regular season. But with many of these players also toiling in the MLL in the summer, I think that everyone knows everyone else in the lacrosse world and this is more of a greeting than anything.


For me, one interesting part was seeing Jordan Hall playing for Georgia; he played for New York as a rookie back in 2008 and was with Orlando when I saw them in their only season.

Next Up

The Club 123 meetup is this weekend at Chase Center in San Francisco. I'll also be seeing a college hoops game as the San Franacisco Dons host BYU. Check back next week for recaps.