SALT LAKE CITY —
After front-loading the Utah Jazz's season calendar — something my wife and the team's travel agent can verify — the NBA schedule-maker did something strange this past week.
He actually gave the Jazz — and those whose jobs revolve around their every move — a reprieve from the grind. After playing a boatload of back-to-backs and every-other-night games from October through mid-January, Coach Corbin & Co. only had one game scheduled from Jan. 15-22.
My boss was kind enough to let me burn a week of vacation time during the rare break. With Daddy at home and a rare in-season Saturday off, there were many possibilities for where my family could spend the night together.
At the movies? Ice skating? Watching their favorite writer sleep on the family room couch?
They wanted to go to a Jazz game.
So instead of just taking a laptop, notebook, pen and recorder with me to press row, I hauled my wife, our four rambunctious kids (ages 8 and under), one loaded diaper bag and a clunky car seat to Section 9, Row 18, Seats 1-5.
In Jazz fan tradition, we arrived late, of course.
We also created quite the scene when we made it to our seats in the second quarter — first by evicting two fans in our spot (oops!), then by trying to find enough empty space in the row for the carrier holding our 10-week-old son (yikes!) and finally by spilling my Diet Coke onto the row in front of us (sorry!).
Things settled down for a moment after the kind usher mopped up my mess and the nice baby-hungry couple in the row behind us offered to let us park our sleeping infant under the vacant seat next to them. Fortunately, they want a girl, so they didn't take off with our little dude.
Shortly after we got situated, I logged onto Twitter and was reminded that my seats were just below one of the press sections.
And, yes, they noticed.
KUTV sports reporter Adam Mikulich tweeted out: "@DJJazzyJody has brought family to game tonight it appears. There are A LOT of them. Is sitting with the REAL people tonight."
The REAL people noticed, too. (Sorry!)
Salt City Hoops blogger Spencer Hall posted a pic of my family and wrote: "A well-deserved day off for @DJJazzyJody, but he's still here with his family. #nodaysoff."
Spencer also jokingly asked which is harder — being on deadline as a reporter or managing the kids at the game?
You can guess which is more expensive.
And this was the first time I'd ever wondered if a 3-year-old and 6-year-old would be called for a double-technical foul for bickering over seat assignments or about food or because of fill-in-the-blank reason.
It was also unusual to have the person sitting next to me at a Jazz game tell me I needed to take him to the bathroom.
I've never held Brad Rock's hand while going up and down the arena's stairs, either.
My right eardrum is still recovering from the non-related 10-year-old girl to my left, who enthusiastically (and helpfully, of course) screamed "MISS!" on every Cavalier free throw, but I won't complain. It was a refreshing experience to be embedded in an energetic crowd that cares so much for their team.
We had a blast as a family, too.
My oldest son, Ethan, sporting his No. 40 Junior Jazz jersey, enjoyed watching the game and thought it was cool when the other No. 40, Jeremy Evans, got a chance to play in the fourth quarter (admittedly, long after I thought we'd last).
He loved when DeMarre Carroll had a steal and slam, wondered why in the heck Cleveland's Kyrie Irving was wearing a mask (new Avenger!) and told me he wants a No. 20 jersey (presumably for Gordon Hayward, not Walter Bond or Quincy Lewis).
My daughter, Sydney, and son, Aidan, both clapped and cheered when the crowd did, even though they weren't quite sure what was going on, and were thoroughly entertained when Bear plastered fans with Silly String in the section next to ours (thankfully).
And Baby Jack? He somehow slept through it all — kinda like the Cavs after the second quarter.
My wife enjoyed chatting with behind-the-scenes Jazz employees I work with every day. She also got a good laugh by asking, "Now who's that?" after players passed us outside the pressroom following Utah's blowout win. (Apparently, Heather is too busy raising our family to read my articles or to watch Jazz games.)
The funniest interaction was with Al Jefferson.
Big Al often teases me about how I'm living it up on the road while my poor wife is left behind to take care of the newborn by herself — an inside joke that has Jefferson skyrocketing to the top of her all-time favorite players list, no doubt.
When the Jazz center walked by us after the game, Jefferson asked, "Is that your wife you take advantage of?" We all chuckled and, as he reached down to touch our baby, I retorted, "No. That's a different wife." (It's not, really.)
As Hayward saw my family while I showed them where I work, he joked about how my kids must've had something good to eat. Even an hour-and-a-half later, their pink-and-blue speckled faces had plenty of colorful and sticky evidence of a concession-stand purchase.
To that point, before writing this column Monday, I asked my three speaking children to describe their favorite part of the game.
No offense to the Jazz or Bear or the bucket-pounding drum players and tap dancers at halftime or to their favorite writer, but one by one, my kids each repeated the same answer.
In retrospect, it was also humorous when my editor, Kent Condon, walked by after the final buzzer and had a shocked smile on his face when he saw me at a Jazz game with my family.
"What in the heck are you doing here!?" he asked, incredulously.
It was a fair question. And I turned him down when he jokingly asked if I'd write a C.J. Miles sidebar story while I was there.
To my defense, where else in Salt Lake City sells cotton candy on a Saturday night?
Email: [email protected] Twitter: DJJazzyJody