Communal experiences in San Antonio
These are the good days, or at least the hopeful ones. The lockout is all but over (fingers crossed) and everyone is undefeated. Even the Cavs. There are so many things to look forward to with the upcoming season, not the least of which are the experiences we as fans get with watching and attending NBA games.
Over at TrueHoop, our good friend Kevin Arnovitz wrote yesterday about several of his tips for attending NBA games. Things like seeing the the floor from different vantage points in the arena, random bets and going sans smartphone. He also had another tip about taking public transportation to the arena, to soak up the atmosphere with other fans.
Sports is still a communal civic outing in many cities, but in a lot of places it’s becoming less so. Hopping the subway in New York, BART in the bay, the T in Boston or light rail in Salt Lake will remind you that cities and the commonalities of the people who live in them matter. In an era when modern convenience has provided us with a lot more solitude, it’s fun to reacquaint yourself with that idea, even if it adds a few minutes to your trip.
San Antonio, and Texas in general, is pretty weak when it comes to mass transit. Every city has the bus, in San Antonio it’s VIA, but that’s not always the best option from going from home to arena. Otherwise, you’re stuck carpooling with friends at best.
But I have one memory from my childhood of that common experience fans get from making the voyage to and from the game together. When the Spurs played at the Alamodome, as bad of a venue for basketball as it was, many fans essentially hiked to the game from an offsite parking lot. I remember the walk from the lots near the Institute of Texan Cultures, dodging traffic on the access road and then walking under the highway on the way to the Dome. That trek from the parking lot to the Alamodome was the closest thing Spurs fan had to a city-wide carpool.
The trips back were even better, assuming the Spurs won that is. Fans filed out of the arena at full throat, with chants of “Go Spurs Go” and, if it was playoff time, “M-V-P.” There was also the fan-favorite “Lakers suck” chant that encouraged an enthusiastic crowd no matter the opponent. I went to several playoff games against the Utah Jazz when a chorus of “Lakers suck” went out and reverberated loudly from the underside of the highway. It was a short trip, but it was something.
These days the AT&T Center doesn’t have that same feeling. There’s a nice, clean courtyard area out front of the arena that encourages fans to hang out and mingle, as does the bar and patio near the club level, but the courtyard is usually filled with radio stations and other companies hawking products or encouraging sign-ups.
The organic experiences that broke out of that hike from the cheap parking area to the Dome have all but disappeared.