I couldn't find my usual seat at the Delta Center on opening night because, well, it wasn't my seat any more. I told the usher it was nice of the Jazz to install high-backed leather chairs with cup-holders in the media section, but he didn't even smile. He seemed to want me out of the area.
I decided against saying, "I must be up in the front rooooow!"
Back in the pressroom, I checked the seating chart and found the team had moved the media. My new seat was in the corner above the tunnel, a fair distance from my old location down in front. It's really not a bad spot. In fact, it's right next to the players' wives which could prove problematic if I have to write bad things about their husbands. But it's not down in the middle of the action, either. Which brings me to my point: I'm going to miss the old place.
When it comes to watching the Jazz, I'd grown accustomed to their faces.
Before continuing, let me make it clear I'm not complaining that the Jazz have sold the press seating area to higher bidders. It's happening at other venues around the league. Nobody who has seen hundreds of games from close enough to hear them breathe free of charge should complain too loudly. Larry H. Miller can put me in the mop closet if he wants. It's his house.
But that doesn't mean a person doesn't get used to things. For instance, it was always entertaining to see Jerry Sloan up close when he got in Greg Ostertag's face. I could see the spit flying. And the floor-level view of Miller talking trash with Elden Campbell or Dennis Rodman was always amusing. I could even read what it said on the players' tattoos. I got so used to the vantage, I probably didn't appreciate it.
So I'm not expecting sympathy, especially from those who paid $103,000 for four seats ($628 a game, per seat) where I used to sit.
But that doesn't keep me from feeling a little nostalgic. I'll miss the days when Jeff Hornacek would nod almost imperceptibly at me, or Jeff Malone wink as he brought the ball in-bounds. It makes me laugh remembering how John Stockton would accidentally make eye contact, but stare right through me as though he didn't see anything. Maybe he didn't.
Basketball was one of the only sports where the media were so close to the action, anyway. Football, hockey, soccer and baseball all position the press far up in their stadiums. They may as well be watching on TV. In fact, TV has a better view.
Basketball, though, was up close and personal. At varying arenas, I almost always sat on the first, second or third row. I remember Michael Jordan pacing near the sidelines just before tip-off, eyes flashing with anticipation. Dan Majerle would stretch his legs along the edge of the press table and chat with the writers before opening tip. Charles Barkley would toss insults at fans as he checked in. Jeff Malone would make his shooting hand tremble as he came back to the huddle for a timeout, to alert amused writers that he was on fire.
Then there was the action. Unless you sat at floor level, you could never fully appreciate the geometry of Stockton's game, the elegance of his passes. In some arenas, they would put the visiting press along the baseline. Seeing Jordan dunk from underneath was like witnessing an eclipse. Observing Karl Malone throw an elbow inside was downright frightening.
One night in Portland, I was late to the game; a snowstorm in Salt Lake had delayed my flight. I found my courtside seat midway through the first quarter. Sloan had been ranging along the sidelines, railing at the refs. He crouched near the press row, appearing immersed in the action.
But suddenly he turned to me and said wryly, "So, you decided to show up, eh? Nice of you to come out."
I won't get that from my seat above the tunnel.
I always viewed my close-up seat as a chance to pass along to readers what I was seeing, hearing and feeling. Besides, I can always get my old seat back. All it will take is $103,000.Sure, I'll miss some good stuff. But what bothers me most is that now, so will you.