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Searching for Rocky

This was originally posted in January 2012 at the late, and great college basketball website "The Mid-Majority". TMM will soon cease to exist, taking its archives with it. I, however, wanted to save this - the story of my son's first basketball game. So I am taking it and I am putting it here. I wrote this two years ago and I still enjoy reading it now. 
My son does not seem to care any more about sports now than he did then.

Fairleigh Dickinson Knights at Saint Francis (NY) Terriers

January 14, 2012 4:30 pm
Physical Ed. Center
BBState Stats/Recap
"We get to take a bus and THEN a train!"
That's my pro tip on getting a 3-year-old interested in going to his first basketball game.

With 30 minutes to get from Flatbush to Brooklyn Heights and a bracingly cold day, Sidney and I hopped on the dollar van for the ride to the train. You don't get a much better deal than the $2 van, including death-defying swerving and the opportunity to debate someone who insists that Kobe was better than Jordan because "he was the youngest player to win a ring" all while holding your son in a way that would get Britney Spears another front-page humiliation in People. The train ride was less eventful, but we did get to see a rat on the tracks. "Do the trains crush him?" Sidney asked, which I liked; a question about rats in danger is a fitting entrée for a Terriers game. Our trip was longer than 30 minutes, but arriving with only five minutes off the clock is still a win in the "traveling with children" game. (Your family may have higher standards.)

By a combination of design and laziness, my preparation for the game involved no research beyond figuring out which subway to take. I didn't know that Fairleigh Dickinson was 1-14, for example, so when we arrived to find St. Francis with a 10-2 lead, I didn't know that I should have expected it nor did I have any idea that the 14-4 run by the Knights that followed was a surprise to everyone. In fact, I was under the mistaken impression that FDU was expected to win, that the second run was a return to normalcy, that Sam Fernley, FDU's pasty English point guard who broke the ankles of St. Francis' Brent Jones twice, was the NEC's Woody Harrelson.

Sidney wasn't watching the game. He was looking for "the wolf." I spent the better part of the first half looking away from the game to help Sidney find Rocky, the Terriers' mascot, even though he was almost always in the same place: hanging out behind the visitor's basket looking as if he was taking a smoke break. Sidney kept asking about Rocky even after the St. Francis dance team came out, so if you were wondering at what age dancing 18- to 21-year-old women are more interesting than a guy in a dog suit, the unscientific answer is "greater than 3 (because he has no idea) but younger than 41 (because watching made me feel like a lecher)." On the other hand, Sidney told me "I want to see the dancing ladies again," which he hadn't said since he saw the Dr Pepper Cherry commercial with Kiss.

Other things Sidney noticed that weren't St. Francis basketball:

- How terrifyingly loud the substitution horn is;

- The retractable hoop, which had been collapsed up to the ceiling for the stanchion baskets with a shot clock;

- That the dance team put down its pompons for its dance interludes;

- The closer-to-3-year-old scale St. Luke's CYO scrimmage at halftime;

- The fish tank near the ticket window.

Anyway, it was 34-32 FDU at the half.

Our seats were as good as you can get at a small gym like Peter Aquilone: second row, center court, behind the injured Lady Terriers' center Kiley Grabbe (who knew the mascot's name) ... and across the aisle from SFC's three-man version of the Cameron Crazies. It had been a rough first half for the hecklers, who were reduced to razzing 6-foot-7 Mouhamed Lo for shooting a layup instead of dunking. Things are not good when you have to insult the way your opponent is scoring on you. The second half would prove more fertile ground for abuse.

St. Francis opened the half with another run, this time 12-,1 but there was no answering run from FDU. The 12-1 run became a 20-5 run. Fernley, the ankle-breaking guard, had to throw up a 3 to beat the shot clock and airballed it badly. (Surprising fact: the only thing worse than having your 3-year-old participate in an "aiiiiiiiiiir baaaaaallllll" chant is having him do it wrong. I had to correct him.) Jones, ankles intact, finished the game as the leading scorer.

In the first half, FDU couldn't miss. In the second, even the layups wouldn't fall, and St. Francis pulled away. The crowd decided that a Kevin Douglas shot that nicked the rim was an airball as well, and the chant rained down again. Sidney got it right this time.

All the while, Sidney was looking for Rocky, who had disappeared. While I would have thought that halftime is when a mascot finally gets to let it all hang out, Rocky hit the lockers with the team and didn't come out for the second half. Maybe the Terriers needed a scapegoat for being down at the half to FDU? Whatever the reason, the game was getting long and an animal-based distraction was required. We went on a short quest to find Rocky and settled for spending a few minutes in front of the ticket-office aquarium.

There was a much larger crowd than I expected, aided in part by a kids-get-in-free night. As SFC extended its lead, the enlivened crowd began exhorting the D. A "De-FENSE" chant is one I could support for a kid, and Sidney perked up when he got to clap along with the crowd. A basketball game is a long event for a 3-year-old, though, and with 59.2 seconds left, he announced he wanted to go. I stalled until the final buzzer, negotiated him into the bathroom and past an alluring tray of muffins, hoisted him on my shoulders and headed back to the train.

St. Francis won 62-51. Sidney wants to go back and see Rocky again.


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