This column is about the Phoenix Suns, so if you’re one of those people who focus on granola or worry about Japanese radiation drifting over Tucson, you can look elsewhere for a kindred spirit.
However, I will weigh in: granola, good; radiation, bad.
I went to a Suns game to check on Channing Frye, one of the last of Lute Olson’s guys to go on to the National Basketball Association. Blessed and cursed with height, Frye had always played down low in high school and at the University of Arizona, but when he got to the NBA, he was in danger of falling off the face of the basketball earth and ending up in some country where livestock have the right of way over anything with an internal-combustion engine.
But then he reinvented himself, becoming (of all things) a deadly three-point shooter. Returning to his hometown (where he had attended St. Mary’s High School) when he signed with the Suns in 2009, Frye became an instant smash hit on last season’s team, which advanced all the way to the conference finals.
The Suns got off to a bad start this season, but around the All-Star break, they caught fire and pulled to within a half-game of the playoffs. But then he suffered a separated shoulder, and the Suns lost four straight.
Frye made a surprisingly quick recovery from the injury (only 12 days) and was back on the court last Friday, March 18. It’s been a while since I’ve attended a professional basketball game, and let’s just say things have changed. In the old days, it was like, “Hey, we’re going to have the greatest athletes in the world play one of the greatest games in the world. If you pay some money, you can come and watch.”
Now it’s a nonstop happening. In one night, I saw a gorilla drive a Jeep, then I saw another gorilla (or maybe it was the same one) dressed up as a leprechaun and handing out lottery tickets. (You know what they say about the lottery: It’s a tax on people who don’t understand mathematics.) Then I saw hip-hop dancers handing out free Japanese food and chocolate milk to people, whether they wanted it or not, and grandmothers dressed in gold lamé throwing T-shirts to (or at) people in the crowd.
It was unbelievable, and apparently, they do it at every home game.
I stood next to one of the Suns “cheerleaders.” I didn’t know that adult human beings came in that size. She was cool, though. She let me use her forearm to get a piece of popcorn out from between my teeth.
Right before the game started, I saw a 50-something father and his 20-something son walk into the arena, both dressed in full Steve Nash get-up—shorts, jerseys, shoes. They say that time heals all wounds, but there’s no way I’m living long enough to erase the pain of that visual assault. If they made a movie of it, Will Ferrell would play both parts, and it wouldn’t be funny.
I just thought of something: I hope they were a dad and son. If they were a couple, the argument of who looks better dressed as Steve Nash is going to break them up.
Speaking of Steve Nash, who is, like, the greatest basketball player ever, it’s both great and bad that he wears the No. 13. Back when I was an athlete (and for many years after that), I always wore 13, because nobody else would. Now it’s ridiculous: Half the people at the game were wearing No. 13 jerseys, including a whole lot of people who really, really shouldn’t have.
It was Polish Heritage Night at U.S. Airways Center. Suns center Marcin Gortat, a native of Poland, was honored before the game, probably for being the scariest-looking guy in all of Phoenix. Did you know that “polish” is a word that changes definition and pronunciation when it is capitalized?
For the national anthem, they had some woman who looked like she’ll be on The Real Housewives of Maricopa County. Lots and lots of hair. She sang like Christina Aguilera, except with the right words. Can’t people just sing the damn song? There’s only been one cool version of it, and Marvin Gaye has been dead coming up on 27 years now.
The promotions and giveaways and music never stop, but obviously they’re giving the people what they want. If they can fill that arena 41 nights a season in this economy, more power to them.
In the locker room after the game (the Suns won), I explained to Frye that spraining one’s ankle hurts more than getting shot, and then I asked him where a separated shoulder fits on that scale. He said it hurts way more than a sprained ankle. Good to know.
Then I asked him where he had the UA going in his NCAA bracket. He said, “Wait, this is for theWeekly. In that case, I have them going all the way.”
Standing nearby, Steve Nash, who led Santa Clara to a stunning first-round upset of Arizona in the 1993 NCAA Tournament, smiled but didn’t say anything.