I’m a lifelong fan of the Chicago Bulls basketball team, however, things are looking pretty bleak on that front. The way things are going it will be a miracle if they make the playoffs, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying a good couple of basketball games during the week.
I’ve always loved college basketball and Anna suggested we catch some of March Madness, which I’d most definitely be up for. The whole system for the NCAA Tournament is extremely convoluted as you’ll find out, but it was the first basketball event I ended up going to last week that was truly bizarre.
I was asked to cover “Fightball” for epicthings.com on Thursday night (you can read my article here). I wasn’t really sure what Fightball was, but it was basketball related and they had free tickets for me, so I said “Sure.” What I didn’t realise was that I would be attending with the COO and the CEO of Epicthings, plus Howard, a Chinese-American guy from work who I get on well with. I guess this could be some fun…
Thursday, March 10
Thursday nights at work is happy hour; Free beer and wine, plus finger-food, but Fightball was due to start around 7:30. The plan was that myself and the two head honchos would head down to a pub for a few pre-tournament drinks and some food, I’d suck up in order to maintain a job, but at the same time try not to put my foot in it too badly. Howard would then meet us at the pub and we would walk down to the dingy little venue where they were holding the event. That part all went according to plan, we met Howard and walked down there.
We were given our press passes, but it was still a little difficult to get inside. Unless you had tits, that is. There was a general queue and a press queue, but neither were moving, despite the fact that the three of us were the only ones waiting in the press queue. My boss tried talking to some of the people on the door, only to be told that they had sold out the venue and only one of us could enter, meanwhile several girls with ample racks were quickly ushered in. Eventually we got in, saw that there was a free bar and got down to business.
So what is fightball? Well, fightball is described on their website as :
THE WORLD’S MOST INTENSE ONE-ON-ONE BASKETBALL COMPETITION. FIGHTBALL PROVIDES ‘ALL HIGHLIGHTS, ALL THE TIME’, TAKING ONE-ON-ONE BASKETBALL AND GIVING IT A MAKEOVER – PUSHING ITS SPEED AND INTENSITY UP TO 11. HELD AFTER DARK IN A CLUB SETTING, FIGHTBALL PITS SOME OF THE WORLD’S TOUGHEST AND MOST ATHLETIC BALLERS AGAINST EACH OTHER IN A SHOW OF SKILL, ENDURANCE, STRENGTH AND PASSION. AND WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE, ONLY ONE IS LEFT STANDING.
Yup, they write in all-caps, so you know they’re serious, but they mention something about ‘Taking one-on-one basketball and giving it a makeover.” And what is this makeover?
If you’ve even seen a proper basketball court before, you’ll probably notice that this one isn’t even as long as the width of a regulation court, but with no markings at all except for a two-foot wide centre line. As for the other rules?
- 2x 4-minute halves
- 8-second shot clock
- Overtime is 2 minutes
- Baskets are 1 point, except dunks are 3 points and half court shots are 2 points
- Fouls are only called if they are essentially flagrant.
Now, I was there for work, so I had to take a few pics, these are are some of the better ones I got.
If you’re curious how it all went down, take a look at this video:
It was interesting, but I wouldn’t have paid for it out of my own pocket and if you did watch that video you would’ve noticed that I didn’t get any pictures of the ending and there is a very good reason for that. You see, as I was taking pictures from the grandstand area, my phone was knocked out of my hands, it went through the steps and that’s where the entertainment truly began.
Myself and Howard (remember the Chinese guy?) spent at least the next half hour crawling around on a concrete floor under the stands, unsuccessfully looking for my phone. We must’ve been there for a while, because my knees, elbows and palms still hurt. Sure, I know there are a bunch of sexual innuendos one could make about the pain I’m in, but that’s just how it happened.
We were unable to find my phone, it must’ve bounced of something and gone under the court. The event was over, everyone was being ushered out and we were the last two remaining. Now, I’ve worked in the staging industry before, setting up and pulling down before and after events, and I know the kind of schedules they are on. I asked them if they had found anything, to which they said no, but they would keep an eye out for me.
I know he was only trying to be helpful, but that was not an acceptable answer for Howard. “If you want to get anything done in this f___ing town, you’ve gotta start some shit!”, he screamed, before threatening to beat all of the security guards, including this guy (pictured, right) who had to be at least seven feet tall. Even I had to look up to talk to him. At one point there were about eight security guards on Howard, but he didn’t mind, so I attempted the “higher ground” angle and apologised for my friend before speaking politely to whoever would listen. We didn’t get my phone back, I’d just have to try again the next day. Howard and myself then dropped off for a beer or two and then we were off home.
Friday, March 11
Friday was pretty simple: I went to the venue before work, they still hadn’t found my phone. I went back after work and they had it waiting for me in the office. Maybe it was my polite attitude, maybe they were just terrified of Howard, but I got it back.
After work I met up with Anna and a bunch of her friends for drinks and had a great night.
Saturday, March 12
Anna had mentioned a few times about going to watch an NCAA game with me if I wanted to, but she seemed to be even more interested after spending some time at Duke University several weeks ago. I mentioned the NCAA tournament earlier, so for those who don’t know, here is what it is and how the teams qualify:
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament is a single-elimination tournament played each spring in the United States, currently featuring 68 college basketball teams, to determine the national championship of the major college basketball teams. Played mostly during March, it is known informally as March Madness or the Big Dance, and has become one of the most famous annual sporting events in the United States.
The tournament teams include champions from 32 Division I conferences (which receive automatic bids), and 36 teams which are awarded at-large berths. These “at-large” teams are chosen by an NCAA selection committee in a nationally televised event on the Sunday preceding the First Four play-in games, currently held in Dayton, Ohio, and dubbed Selection Sunday, as detailed below. The 68 teams are divided into four regions and organized into a single elimination “bracket”, which pre-determines, when a team wins a game, which team it will face next. Each team is “seeded”, or ranked, within its region from 1 to 16. Lower-ranked teams are placed in the bracket against higher ranked teams. Each weekend eliminates three quarters of the teams, from the first round consisting of 64 teams, to a “Sweet Sixteen”, and for the last weekend of the tournament, a Final Four. The Final Four is usually played during the first weekend of April. These four teams, one from each region (East, South, Midwest, and West), then compete in one centralized location for the national championship.
Gee, that looks easy to corrupt! The NCAA Tournament is being held in Houston this year and it is extremely expensive to get tickets, so this would probably be our last chance to get to see a game. Fortunately, the conference finals for the Atlantic 10 Conference were being played at Barclays Center in Brooklyn and Big East Conference finals were on at Madison Square Garden. The Big East has better schools and MSG is about a 20-minute walk away, so we picked up some tickets and were off. We were going to see Seton Hall versus Villanova.
First stop was coffee, then we had some of the greatest tacos I’ve ever had at Oaxaca Tacos and we were on our way. Tip-off was at 5:30pm, so we tried to get down there a bit early and we were instantly inundated with scalpers trying to sell us tickets to the game. These were some sketchy looking dudes, too. I’ve been burnt buying tickets from a scalper in the past, as well, so I’m glad I didn’t have to deal with these guys. Hopefully they’re not the ones I’ll be trying to get Ween tickets from later this week.
Once we were inside, there were performances in the lobby by the school bands, as well as the cheerleaders. Anna was curious as to why the Seton Hall cheerleaders were so covered up until I pointed out they are a Catholic university. We eventually made our way up the five escalators to where would be sitting, I went to buy a beer, but couldn’t justify pay US$11.50 for a Budweiser, so instead decided to drop US$5.50 on a bottle of water. God, I’m getting old.
There was still about 20 minutes until tip-off and neither of us had ever been to Madison Square Garden before, so we decided to walk around and check out the banners.
We got back to our seats in the nosebleed section and couldn’t figure out why there was so few people, until it came time to do the national anthem, then they came rushing in with armfuls of food. Yup, they were all in the lobby buying ridiculous amounts of snacks. All of them.
As seems to be the case with attending any event in the US, there were some extremely drunk people next to us. Americans just can’t handle their booze and with the MSG prices it was impossible for Donald Trump to get drunk at the game, so my guess was that these guys must’ve been drinking most of the afternoon. They were college kids from Seton Hall and they were douchebags! In fact, most of the crowd were Seton Hall fans, because the school is in nearby New Jersey, whereas Villanova is in Pennsylvania. They were screaming about every call, abusing Villanova fans, even the adults, and were kicking and hitting the glass barrier that was preventing us from plummeting to our deaths.
It was cool, though. They got kicked out three seconds before the end of a two-point game.
I took a few pictures from our seats, check them out:
It was a great game and a lot of fun. I know people really get into college sports here, but the conference championships are something else! Especially the old guys that went to the school 50+ years ago, jumping and screaming.
In the end Seton Hall won, booking their spot in the NCAA tournament. Here’s how that all happened:
The whole game is on Youtube if you’re bored, too. It was a great couple of days, besides the phone debacle and the dude who nearly dropped a cheerleader on the back of her head during a routine, now we have Noel Fielding tomorrow night. Can’t wait!