Only the amateurs enter the arena before the game. The pros linger outside swilling Coors Light and eating nachos. Occasionally they check the score on the televisions hung outside the stadium, but they’re not concerned about missing their favorite player score a basket. They’re engaged in their own gameplay.
Welcome to basketball at the Barclay’s Center. The Barclay’s Center is an anomaly for the neighborhood and to overhear the conversations between attendees proves they aren’t from the surrounding areas. Is there a Starbucks nearby? Where can they nab dinner after? But first, game time. It’s a college exposition game on today. Nothing is at stake but the fans parade the hallways decked out in their blue UK gear and equally blue Hofstra kit. Scan your ticket and enter—it’s a different world and what an entertaining world it is!
Start at the bar, the one over on the left is fine—but wait. Do you want a Coors or would you prefer a Corona? Because if you want Corona head to the bar on the second mezzanine (that’s the one that sells imported beers). You could also get a Gin & Tonic from the kiosk by the Men’s room or a glass of Cab Sav from the bar behind section ten. Then there are the milkshakes and sodas and special drinks at the food stalls. Don’t worry if you can’t decide—you can always get a can of Brooklyn Lager or Heineken from a roaming vendor during the game.
They won’t be selling food though, so get yours now before the hoards arrive for Nathan’s hot dogs. You could also get a slice of pizza or a knish or, to ruin the Brooklyn theme, a bucket of chicken from Carla Hall’s Southern Fried Chicken. But this is Barclay’s world where a hotdog costs $9 and there are only three types of pizza, none of which have pepperoni. Remedy the stale aftertaste of disappointment with a trip the pick and mix store for team pride boxes of Junior Mints and multi-colored M&Ms (yes, they use lever operated machines that inevitably pour the entire column into your plastic bag as you pull the handle down oh-so-carefully in a vain attempt to get just a few. Discretion be damned). You have sugar and you have alcohol and now you’re ready for your seat.
You arrive for half time. The cuter-than-cute cheerleaders fluff their ringlets and polish their sequined dresses. They turn and twirl and tumble. Yeah, you came for brawny ball bros, but their smiles remind you that diversions deserve pomp too.
Then they appear! The view from your couch might surpass your current seats, but then you wouldn’t feel like a giddy dwarf next to the players’ hulking frames. How tall is number 11?! 6’ 11”!? He probably wants to be a ball player just to have enough money to never need to buy a cramped economy airplane seat on ever again.
Gameplay begins and your team makes some shots, though number 11’s performance is inversely proportional to his height. What’s the score? Your team is winning?! Your friends do a coordinated handshake and appear on the TV hanging down in the center of the court. You’re on the “Dance Cam.” Your enthusiasm teaches apathetic fans to party.
Pass the junior mints! Or actually—are there team color M&Ms left? Toss them back and forth (John is weirdly good at throwing them in his mouth. Except for that time it fell in Stacy’s drink). The other team scores a hoop and then a foul and the M&Ms are done.
Which means beer. The vendor is coming around right now and there’s five minutes remaining—with a score this close, there should be plenty of time outs for you to finish your beer. People return to their seats. The other team scores. Yours retaliates. You’re in the lead! Another point! Yell and tell ‘em how it’s done. You participate like you never do at home or work because here it’s okay. So you let loose and scream and comment and feel
Thirty seconds left. The other team shoots. And score! Your team retaliates with a time out. You drink beer. This is it! They shoot. They miss. The other team nabs the ball but your team grabs it back. And, sprint. Shoot. Score! Buzzer. Done. Game over and won.
Cheer before decorum returns. After two beers you wobble to the bathroom. On line you resituate yourself for society, where there can be no skipping or yelling or jumping up and down. Where tossing M&Ms into your mouth isn’t a skill and where no one would spend $10 for a slice of cold pizza.
The game is over, but the game lives on in you. In the team of viewers who comes together to watch and cheer and participate in a society where fun and entertainment are the most important values. Welcome to the real world.