Written by James Brown, Co-Founder of Gatorsfirst.com
With apologies to Bill Simmons: I have a rule in life. Anytime the Florida Gators have their first 2 NBA All-Stars in history, and the game is taking place less than 45 miles from my house, in the most ridiculous sports venue conceived by man, I'm going to attend, and bring you the details.
This happened. Sunday night, Feb. 14, while the rest of you pansies were celebrating Valentine's Day, I was at the Boss Hog Bowl (as Randy Galloway calls it) celebrating the NBA's opulence, as it generally heads toward losing $400 million . That's an interesting juxtaposition with the tab for the hosting venue (open only since May 2009) at $1.15 billion .
I'll also run down the experience of going to a basketball game at Jerry Jones' shrine to himself, in case you want to head back for the 2011 Super Bowl or for the Florida Gators' 2014 Final Four appearance in the same building.
The game set an attendance record- according to the Guiness Book of World Records- at 108,713. I have heard many people wonder how much it cost to attend, etc. for them to break such a record. I bought my 2 tickets on Friday, Feb. 12 (2 days before the game), on Ticketmaster for $70.56, after all the fees. This was for the ''Party Pass'' standing-room only tickets, which were stated to be $30 on the Great Satan of online ticket sales (the rest was fees...). Next time it's bitterly cold, I'm paying the extra $2.75 to print out my own ticket, half of the Republic of Texas was in the will call line. It took forever. As did the clusterfuck at security for the party pass entrance (other entrances had almost zero line, but would not let our kind through).
I know that area of Arlington well, even though I had never previously been to Cowboys Stadium. I've been to many Texas Rangers games, and thought I could use my knowledge of parking in the area to forego the $50 parking pass offered to me by the same ticket-selling website. With a 7:30 tip, I arrived in Arlington at around 5:15. Approaching the stadium, all the no-reservation-needed parking lots off 'Farm-to-Market Rd 157' (yes, in Texas roads are really called this, even though they usually have about 4 other names) had signs for $40, most were marked 'Full'. Unfazed, I kept driving toward my secret lot I use for Rangers games... Upon arrival, that one was listed at $30 (considerably more than the $5 for baseball games). I drove a little further, into the 'official' Rangers lots, toward the whatever-the-hell-they-call-the-bal
lpark-in-arlington-now... found a lot for $20. Not bad. Park, commence walk to the stadium (less than a mile, but in what felt like sub-zero temps to this Floridian). So far, so good. I'm in $45 at this point.
Driving in, we could see the stadium from about 20 minutes away, it's incredibly huge. That's such an inadequate description, but it's really all I've got. It diminishes all other things I've described with synonyms of 'large' more than it inspires the use of some new word to describe its gargantuanism. And yeah, I ended up making up a word, anyway. I spent 30 minutes re-writing different ways of calling this thing 'big', so let's just move on...
Arriving 2 hours prior to tip-off was not sufficient to get any sort of good view with the standing room only seats. Part of this was will call, part was the inefficiency of the stadium security, and part of this is I'm convinced that Jones/Cuban sold 40,000 standing room tickets just to pump up their attendance record. We grabbed a spot on the 5th floor or so (baseline, roughly 900 feet from the court), but at least front row (meaning we didn't have to stand 3-4 people deep and look over strangers shoulders). Except it was by the stairs, and people were walking around non-stop during this game. I walked up the closest ramp near these seats, to try to get an unimpeded picture, and to give you an idea of how far away I was (also, how cavernous the stadium is). This had to be about an hour before tip. You also get to see how the most glorious TV ever built is several times the size of the actual basketball court. The second, smaller 'jumbotron' below the big screen looks so tiny, but it has to be the size of the one in the AAC (where the Mavericks play their home games).
They also thought ahead on this Party Pass thing. With a standing room ticket, you can't walk all the way around the stadium. You have to enter on your end zone (according to your the section of the 'seat' printed on your ticket), and have to pretty much stay in the end zone, and walk only so many sections up the sideline in either direction. Which severely cuts down on the sneakage into empty seats, especially for a game like this one where the seats were pretty much full once the game began.
However, All Star Games aren't terribly exciting. With the high number of people that couldn't see anything but TV screens anyway, the standing room sections turned into exhausted-looking people sitting anywhere they could find, or just socializing and drinking the $15 dollar 'Cowboy-ritas'. I passed on those, as well as the $10 'Cowboy Cheesesteak' (I guess Philly is a dirty word around here). I did have an all-beef hot dog ($5.50) and 2 16 oz beers ($8.50/ea.). So yeah, Jerry Jones 'built himself' a billion-dollar stadium... with the help of Arlington tax-payers... and wasted no time price-gouging fans to make his money back, and more. I saved loads of money over what others were reporting they paid for this experience, and after food and drink I'm in for $67.50. If you can count 1 hot dog and 2 beers a dinner, anyways.
The merchandise store was a must- no Al Horford or David Lee jerseys, though. I did pick up a $20 t-shirt as a souvenir, because if there's one thing I keep accumulating, it's t-shirts. Put simply, if it's from a brewery/bar, a sporting event/team (guess which one has the most?), or has math on it... I'm buying it.
During the 3rd quarter enough people left (making me think the highlights for many were the pregame show by Usher and the halftime show of Shakira and Alicia Keys) that I was able to move as close as possible to mid-court and find some empty seats. I got a great view of the giant screen, but was still on the upper level and very far away for a basketball game. My Spurs-fan friend who came along said, 'I keep trying to watch the court, but just end up watching that screen'.
By the way, that screen meant the inflatable Houston Rockets bear (no idea his name, or the story behind it) was a frigtening 500 feet tall.
Florida Gators Actually Appear in the NBA All-Star Game
Al Horford and David Lee were the first two Florida Gators to be selected to the NBA All Star Game. Largely, the guys played selflessly and deferred to their more famous teammates. Horford played 14 minutes, totaling 8 points (4 of 5 from the field, 0 for 1 from the line), 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, and 1 steal. Lee played 12 minutes, scoring 4 points (2 of 3 from the field), 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 3 turnovers. Lee had some fun with his teammates, trying to make some great plays on a couple passes, and instead led to the turnovers. At least he was trying to entertain us, which is the entire point of a game like this.
Beyond the box score, the fact that the Florida Gators now have players making the NBA All-Star game is not insignificant. With the way that the game holds prestige in its sport (contrast: Pro Bowl) and so few players make the team, it truly is an elite honor. This is yet another example of why Florida Gators fans should be happy for what they have in Billy Donovan, and stop grumbling about the last two years' worth of NIT appearances.
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