The Delta Center was alive. Fireworks thundered high above the court, and 20,000 crazy fans screamed as the Jazz took on the Bulls during the first two games of the 1998 Finals.
But outside the loudest arena in the NBA, things were different. Salt Lake City looked more like a ghost town - as if someone had dropped a bomb. Those who couldn't afford to shell out hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a ticket, found a TV.Video stores and theaters were mostly empty. Salt Lakers were more interested in watching John Stockton fly to the basket than in renting "Space Jam." On the night of Game 1, a downtown video store rented half its Wednesday average.
One of the few customers in the store, Dave Strong, was shuffling through videos - for something to watch after the game.
"We're Jazz fans," the 27-year-old said. "We were at a restaurant watching it, but we had to give up our seat because it was packed. We're going to go home and watch the second half. It never gets good until then anyway."
Movie theaters also seem to be feeling the crunch of Jazz fever Friday. Deni Memmott, manager of the Loews Cineplex Entertainment theater in the Crossroads Mall, said movie-goers are noticeably absent during gametime.
"It really has an effect, depending on what time the Jazz play," Memmott said. "On days when they play at 7 p.m., it really slows down our business. Depending on when the game gets over, they may come in for a later show, especially on a Friday night. But when they went into overtime (Wednesday), nobody came."
Tiffany Willden, sales associate at The Gap at Crossroads Mall, agreed.
"We were really busy earlier today," Willden said. "But, with the game and all, no one's been in."
Pausing, she corrects herself: "Ladies. We've had some ladies come in. But when I was down in the men's department, I didn't see anyone for the longest time. I think they're all downstairs watching the game."
And so it was. Gathered in front of the Mall's bigscreen TV, nearly 100 faithful fans cheered their team on, even in the Jazz's losing effort Friday.
Even bookworms pulled them-selves away from the downtown library to watch the Jazz try for the NBA title. The library is usually crammed with people reading the magazines, checking out books and studying for tests. It's a good thing the Jazz aren't playing in the Finals every night, said librarian Sharon Peters.
"It's dead," she said.