Originally posted Feb. 1, 2012.
I read an article by Jeremy Gordon titled “I love mediocre sports teams” about going to a game early this season between the Brooklyn Nets and the Charlotte Hornets. If he loved that one, he would have loved the game Suzi and I saw between the Phoenix Suns (who ended the year 33-33) and the then-New Orleans Hornets (who finished 21-45).
In all likelihood, you probably won’t even notice the Suns-Hornets game when you’re checking out the scores in the newspaper, or there will be a short recap on SportsCenter that you have to sit through while you wait for the news you really care about.
After all, the only really noteworthy thing about the game was Steve Nash’s 30-point, 10-assist performance (by the way, he’s going to be 38 next week), which put him into first place on the Suns’ all-time assist list. And, being classy, right after the game, he gave kudos to the guy he passed, Kevin Johnson, on Twitter, calling him “Historically underrated, one of the all time greats.”
But my wife and I were at the game, so for us, it was a fun night out on our vacation.
Not being the high-roller types, we got the cheapest decent seats we could find, and I would say we did pretty well for ourselves.
There was the fact that the Hornets, since it’s New Orleans after all, had a house band.
A guy played the national anthem on a harmonica, and the intros had their share of indoor pyrotechnics.
Each team had someone we were fans of from their college days, Emeka Okafor for New Orleans and Hakim Warrick for Phoenix. Plus we found a new favorite player, Gustavo Ayon of New Orleans, a 26-year-old rookie from Mexico who we hadn’t even heard of before the game (not the only Hornets player with that status, by the way).
According to the program, he had trouble earlier this year because his English was so bad that he couldn’t understand the coaching staff’s directions, but he works hard and is learning. Against Phoenix, he scored 10 points in the first half, causing multiple playings of the “Ole, Ole, Ole” song. (Note from 2020: Ayon is now playing in Russia.)
(They were actually pretty sharp in the game operations department in New Orleans. When Italian Marco Belinelli hit a three-pointer, they ran down one side of the arena waving Italian flags,)
My wife and I both have fairly skewed views on life, so we found it someone ironic that on the night the Hornets were having some kind of fitness promotion, they also had a shrimp-eating contest won by some guy who looked like he stuffed Chris Paul under the No. 3 jersey he was wearing.
Halftime featured a “world-renowned” handstand artist whose name I don’t remember, but let’s just say the dude clearly works out.
And the game actually wound up being a pretty good one. For the casual glancers, the 120-103 Suns win may have looked like a blowout, but it was close through 3 1/2 quarters until the Suns went on a big run down the stretch.
Too bad there weren’t many people there to see it.