Despite my better efforts and the mild protests of this site’s editor, I have occasional tendencies to slip profanities into my writing. Always tasteful profanity, of course, but profanity nonetheless.
So when I took my son to his first Pistons game last week, the team’s season-opening win over the Washington Wizards, the last thing I thought I’d be doing is arguing about swear words. But there I was, in the third quarter of an exciting game, distracted by two goons sitting next to me who were colorfully voicing their frustrations throughout the game. Now, they would’ve been annoying without worrying about my son’s uncanny ability to repeat every word he hears — the objects of their derision happened to be two of my favorite Pistons, Greg Monroe and Will Bynum. Obnoxious fans are always terrible and every team, to some extent, has their own unique breed — let’s be honest here, sports fans in general are the worst, and I include myself in that broad generalization. But what makes fans extra intolerable are when their insults have no merit. Monroe’s defense has never been good, but if you were paying attention against Washington (and in the subsequent two games), his focus at that end of the floor is drastically improved. He’s moving his feet, he’s playing more physically and he genuinely looks like he’s put time in to learning how to be at least an adequate defender, even if the results aren’t perfect yet. Bynum is occasionally a volume shooter, and he was shooting against Washington. But he also made more than half of his shots. So two bozos sitting and yelling tired talking points they gleaned from the most basic scouting report is bad enough, but when the results of the game are actually contrary to what they’re complaining about, it’s even worse. “Hey, stop shooting so efficiently, Will! Where do you get off playing with effort on defense, Greg?”
The ignorance had me frustrated, but the swearing was too much. It’s always weird as a still newish parent to be confronted with a moment when you have to act like an adult, especially if you’re like me and mature decision-making isn’t always second nature. But I was pretty sure that a competent parent in this situation would step in, and I’m an aspiring competent parent, so I leaned over and said, “Sorry to bother you, could you please not say f— so much in front of my three-year-old?”
I was a little nervous about the interaction — I typically try to avoid confrontation with dudes who, A. have goatees; B. have Brandon Inge-style forearm tattoos; and C. wear necklaces. These guys hit all three of those criteria. Luckily, they were peaceful about it, apologized and the rest of the game proceeded f-word free.
That’s typically the type of experience that a parent would write about as ruinous for trying to get their kid excited about a sports team, but the opposite is true — the Pistons did just about everything possible to ensure that people like my son and I had a positive, memorable time that not even typical sports fan drunken belligerence could ruin. Hell, the fact there were people even sitting next to me was an improvement — the last three times I’ve been to the Palace, there were few signs of human life in the cheap seats sections I sat in.
I didn’t go to a live Pistons game for the first time until I was in high school. The team featured Grant Hill, one of the most exciting stars of the 1990s, they won 54 games during the season and the game I went to was a playoff game. It was also super boring. It could’ve been the teal jerseys, the fact that the arena wasn’t even full in a playoff game, the fact that Don Reid and Michael Curry were both rotation players … but after spending my childhood idolizing the Bad Boys, particularly Isiah Thomas and Dennis Rodman, and dreaming about going to a game and being part of what looked like insane crowds, my first experience just couldn’t live up to the hype I’d created.
The game experiences got better, obviously, and the Pistons had arguably the best, most intimidating home crowd in the league during the peak of the Going to Work era. I have some amazing memories of going to games during those years, particularly being at the game six clincher against Indiana in the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals, a beautiful 69-65, physical murder-ball fest.
I hope my son loves the NBA, particularly the Pistons, someday, but I was still hesitant about taking him to his first game. If I remember being slightly bored at a playoff game that featured Grant freaking Hill, the Pistons of recent years have been only slightly more preferable than watching C-SPAN. Or worse, hockey. I was worried that my son’s first experience with live NBA basketball would feature horrible shooting, uninterested defense, a washed up halftime act (as Paul Kampe of The Oakland Press abbreviates them, “Hacts”) or worse, Charlie Villanueva.
I decided to take him anyway — those opening ticket prices were too good to pass up — and it was a great decision. There was energy and interest in the Palace, both because it was opening night and because the Pistons, as we saw, played impressively (and continued to in the subsequent games). And as much as the cynical wannabe tormented artist elitist sportsblogger guy makes fun of so-called “in-game entertainment,” it is particularly important for families, as I’m learning. Kids get distracted easily. The Pistons had a constant flow of dance teams, music, giveaways and an impressively elaborate halftime show that combined like 74 dance teams, trampoline dunkers and what, as far as I can tell, were either Storm Troopers or laser tag players running around the court. There wasn’t a single instance that I looked at my son and got the impression he was bored. There was always something going on to catch his attention.
I don’t know if my son will be into basketball or not when he gets older, but when he left the arena, he said, “That was fun daddy.” After the last few seasons of dwindling, uninterested crowds and perhaps even more uninterested teams on the court, that’s a major win for the Pistons organization.
In case the impressive, fun style of play the Pistons have displayed so far doesn’t have you excited enough, I came across this gem of a Tweet from Spencer Percy, writer for Charlotte Bobcats site Queen City Hoops, on Saturday:
Ben Gordon is clearly at the end of this bench and isn’t coming off.
— Spencer Percy (@QCHspencer) November 2, 2013
So every time you get slightly annoyed at Josh Smith’s shot selection or Monroe’s defense or Chauncey Billups’ oldness or whatever other pet peeves develop about this Pistons team, remember how bad we had it very recently and how bad it could be if you were still rooting for a team that had Ben Gordon on it.
From the Vault
I might as well get this joke of a column I once wrote for MLive out of the way if I’m going to continue reliving the low-points of my writing past. Let’s just say I got a little too excited about the Michael Curry hire:
But when we think about Curry, trying to figure out if he fits somewhere between Tim Floyd and Red Auerbach on the scale of NBA coaches is pointless. We need to go outside of the world of sports to find an apt comparison. Michael Curry is the Barack Obama of the NBA.
Frankly, I don’t know whether that’s more embarrassing for Curry or Obama today.
Get your Mailbag questions in
We debuted the PistonPowered Mailbag last Wednesday and had a pretty good response for our first run. If you have questions about the Pistons, the NBA, the appropriate age to expose your child to the f-word or other politicians who are like NBA coaches (Stan Van Gundy is totally Chris Christie, right?), send them to patrickhayes13(at)gmail(dot)com or tweet me @patrick_hayes.