The Complimentary Spouse and I went to an NBA game Saturday night. It was my first basketball game in more than two decades — my brother and I went to an Orlando Magic game sometime in the ’90s, but I don’t recall exactly when. After this weekend’s experience, I’m hooked on live basketball!

In general, I prefer live sports to games on teevee. Being at home is more comfortable, to be sure, and close-ups, color commentary, and replays are great. But there’s nothing like being part of a communal experience.1 And, at live games, there’s no filter between you and the game.

Live basketball games are fast. They’re fun. They’re fantastic. The thing I enjoyed the most was the music — it’s played throughout the action, which does three things:

  • It creates a party-like atmosphere
  • It provides cues about which team has the ball
  • It keeps people engaged during those lulls when the gameplay isn’t so thrilling

Compare this to hockey, football, and baseball. Music is reserved for the period between plays or used as walk-up songs. Basketball uses music to heighten the experience in a way those other sports don’t.2

What made Saturday’s game extra special was that we went with my cousin and his daughter, who were visiting Tampa for the weekend. Regrettably, we couldn’t sit together. We got our tickets before they made their plans, and Ticketmaster wouldn’t let us add two adjoining tickets to our seats for Rich and Sabrina. When we got to Amalie Arena, we found out why. To deal with Covid, the arena has locked up most of the seats with plastic ties. Therefore, the ones next to Britt and me were unusable — even if Rich and Sabrina snuck down to our section, they wouldn’t have been able to unfold the seats.

I was impressed with how Amalie Arena has responded to Covid. Seating is limited, concession areas have dividers between the staff and the customers, and mask rules were enforced.

You might wonder how Britt and I could see a live basketball game in Tampa when our area doesn’t have a basketball team. Well, since Covid has restricted travel between the United States and Canada, the Toronto Raptors have made Tampa their temporary home. We’re good hosts: We’ve gone all out with Raptors digital signage, including ads for Canadian and Toronto-based businesses. Lots of Raptors fans were in the stands. The only things missing were poutine, Tim Horton’s, and people saying “aboot.” 

Britt and I already have tickets to another Raptors game. And I think we’re going to try to work some games into our future travels.

Here’s a video and some photos:

1 This is also why I like seeing movies in the theater, even though it’s expensive.
2 I wonder if the players like it. I think it must be distracting for them.