This week, I took a little baby step outside the hermetically sealed world of pro sports by attending Oakland Tech’s home game against rival Oakland High. It was a like going to a Warriors game in that the teams played basketball with five players on either side. In every other respect, it was quite different:
• Tech charged us $5 to get in. While that still struck me as a bit steep for a high school game, it was a nice break from the $20-plus the Warriors charge for what can only technically be described as “professional” ball.
• Let’s give the pros credit for one thing: Upon entering Your Name Here Arena, you are not handed the following list of behaviors “unacceptable at O.A.L. contests”:
-Berating your opponent’s school or mascot
-Berating opposing players
-Demonstrating obscene cheers or gestures
-Displaying negative signs or symbols
-Using artificial noise makers that interfere with the atmosphere of the game
-Complaining about officials’ calls (verbal or gestures)
-Playing inappropriate music
Given the wide range of possible interpretations of the words “berating,” “negative,” and “inappropriate,” that wouldn’t seem to leave many options open, although there was no prohibition on berating your own players, a much more likely occurrence at Warriors games these days.
• As you’d expect, there was a big difference in crowd noise. Yes, the several hundred fans in Tech’s gym easily would have drowned out your average Warriors crowd of 10,000+. Of course, they have a much smaller enclosed space to work with, but the quality of play may have had something to do with it.
• Did I mention the quality of play? When we arrived a few minutes into the first quarter, the game was going at an absolutely frantic pace, with the young men racing from end to end like…well, like basketball players, in sharp contrast to the Warriors, who have failed repeatedly in their attempts to implement a running game. That pace kept up through the first half and slackened only a little in the second half, as host Oakland Tech slowly pulled away from Oakland, turning a close game into a 67–51 blowout. Tech appeared to be both more fundamentally sound than the W’s and more spectacular, playing solid defense and throwing down several highlight-quality dunks off alley-oops.
• Also unlike the Warriors, Tech has a dominant player in Leon Powe, who had 27 points, 7 boards, 4 steals, and 2 blocks. Although he was the biggest player on the floor only by an inch or two, Powe at times appeared to be a foot taller than everyone else, repeatedly pulling down tough rebounds in traffic.
• The home team won. This rarely happens at the Arena.
In short, this game provided more entertainment value than the last 17 Warriors games put together. Having said that, I must now confess that I’m tired of picking on the Warriors; I really do want to see them do well, I’m just fed up with waiting for it to happen. So I hereby vow not to write word one about them until they win…well, let’s set the bar low, and say three games in a row. And then, maybe, I’ll have something nice to say.