"Hey Stockton," yelled the fan from his seat 12 rows back from courtside as the Jazz guard questioned a call, "you want a hanky?"
You can't take those people from Carefree, Ariz., anywhere.Want to stand out in a crowd? Want to make yourself heard? Want to do a one-man wave? Come to a basketball game in Japan, the land of the non-rising fan.
Here in Tokyo, they got their first exposure to NBA basketball this weekend with the Utah Jazz-Phoenix Suns series, and apparently they were happy about it. They sold out the 10,000-seat arena in 72 hours and there weren't any no-shows at the two games.
But you wouldn't have known they were wild and crazy about the NBA just by looking at them. No one was arrested for disorderly conduct. No one was asked to hold it down. Not a single spectator went after the referee.
How quiet was it? It was quiet enough during timeouts that you were able to hear the NBA office people from New York talking about their dinner plans. From across the court. New Yorkers are used to having to SPEAK UP.
It was quiet enough even tennis players wouldn't have objected.
"This reminds me of a Lakers crowd," says Rod Hundley, the Jazz announcer. "They applaud a great play and then they sit back and wait for another one."
Joe Hauet and Danny Nevitt, both 16, are American teenagers who, because their fathers have struck it rich here and stayed, have lived the majority of their lives in Tokyo. They attended both of the Suns-Jazz games. They said the crowd's sedate behavior was typical to a point, but even more quiet than normal because of three reasons.
"They're nervous. This is their first NBA game," said Joe. "Plus, this is an older crowd. These are the high rollers (at an average of $80 a seat). And then everybody's neutral too."
"We've been to rock concerts, we saw Motley Crue last summer," said Danny. "They can get wilder than this. I mean, they've got it in them."
Only occasionally did they get into it this weekend. On one Karl Malone fastbreak dunk Saturday, a Japanese fan was moved to leap from his seat and imitate the Mailman's fist pump, the kind made famous by Kirk Gibson after he hit his World Series home run in 1988.
But most of the time it was quiet enough to hear Cotton Fitzsimmons rant and rave.
"It's embarrassing, coach," said Tom Chambers, the Phoenix Suns forward, to Fitzsimmons. "you cussin' at me like that and all those people hearing it."
"Once the game starts," said Fitzsimmons. "I don't even notice it. I just start coaching and tune everything else out."
In both games, the crowd displayed an affinity for the underdog. In a country where Godzilla movies are on the top 10 lists at video stores, the bully is bound to be booed.
When the Jazz slipped behind by more than a dozen points in Game 1, the majority of the arena became Jazz fans. They booed the monsters from Arizona. And among the biggest ovations of the weekend was when The Famous Chicken, on loan from San Diego, brought out a huge inflatable Godzilla and beat it to smithereens.
The reserved nature of the crowd extended to the sporting press as well. Whereas 75 percent of the credentialed media was Japanese, 90 percent of the questions and probes all week came from the American press. After the games, no Japanese reporters went into either locker room.
All this tranquility was certainly not lost on the referees. Lead official Jake O'Donnell, who thought he had seen, and heard, it all in his long career as an NBA official, found out that wasn't the case.
"I've never been involved with a crowd like this," he said. "There's almost no reaction on the fan's part. It's not like if you're in Salt Lake City or Phoenix, I can tell you that.
"There was a lot less abuse. If there was a negative comment from a Japanese fan, I didn't hear it, or I couldn't understand it."
"In baseball, they will yell at the umpire," said Joe Hauet, the 16-year-old crowd expert. "They really get into the game a lot of the time."
But not in basketball. Not yet. They may have imported America's fastest sport and biggest league. They didn't import the noise. This weekend, the 25 fans from Phoenix and the 25 fans from Utah dominated the honorable gym.