I've never won a car, a trip or a pot of money even though Ed McMahon still has me on his mailing list. But for what turned out to be the final game of the NBA playoff series between the Utah Jazz and the Phoenix Suns, Marti and I ended up with the courtside seats that go to various members of the newspaper staff during the year.
It was the luck of the draw.Sitting right up front was a heady and confusing experience. For those of you who are both more wealthy and more sophisticated, my observations can be easily written off as simple naivete. But the rank and file who are accustomed to viewing the action from a much higher perspective will know what I mean.
We were almost on the floor. Looking back, we were overcome with self-importance to see many of the movers and shakers of the community behind us. Rick Majerus was on the same row as we were - and the attorney general was on the front row.
Maybe he won the drawing at the State Capitol.
I started fantasizing about the politics of Jazz game seats. Who sits in the best seats all the time and who gets access to those seats when the owners are not there? I became uncommonly curious about the identity and social standing of those I didn't know.
There were two men sitting directly behind us who did not fit any elite stereotype. Initially, they appeared like harmless zombies even though their faces were identically painted half-and-half in Jazz colors. The more they drank the louder and more obnoxious they became as they flirted dangerously with ejection.
In the end their faces - so fascinating to the TV cameras - probably saved them.
Although our screaming was properly restrained, our ears were mercilessly assaulted during the 21/2 hours we were there - and afterward we felt as though we were in a tunnel, doomed to a permanently muffled world.
Still, it was impressive to attend a game with such an incredibly high energy level, not to mention an equally intense emotional level - and since the Jazz started out slowly, that level grew methodically as if predestined.
We were caught up in it and were physically exhausted by the time we filed out.
Up close, Mark Eaton was definitely a giant. He looked immense, even though the basketball standards appeared to be smaller and less significant than they really were. I had the feeling for a few minutes that the basketball floor was only a microcosm of a real one.
In this case, a close-up view was almost too real to accept.
The continual roar of the fans and the music made it appear that the players would be forced to read Jerry Sloan's lips during timeouts. On the other hand, it was evident from start to finish that here is a man who earns every cent of his salary.
He never once sat down.
He not only paced continually up and down the sidelines worrying - he exercised forceful leadership with vigorous hand signaling and arm waving at critical times, sometimes moving briskly sideways as if spontaneously propelled.
It appeared that he called virtually every play.
Usually, I'm vaguely unaware of any coach - unless he argues with officials. Several times Sloan expressed strong displeasure with the officials, but they just acted as though he did not exist. That was probably just as well since the officiating was heavily in the Suns' favor.
The only thing I wished for was just an example or two of the form of "intellectual basketball" unique to the Boston Celtics - unexpected but brilliant passes that go quickly to their target even though the passer doesn't look where he is passing.
But there was some impressive shooting in the second half and it was a very enjoyable game. When it was over, we walked out very slowly, trying to savor the proximity to the action that we are likely never to enjoy again.
We were community movers and shakers for a day.