By Spike Eskin
My second year at Syracuse University (’96), the basketball team went to the Final Four. Because my roomate and I were season ticket holders, we were able to be entered into a lottery to purchase tickets for the games. We won, and walked out of the Carrier Dome having each purchased a ticket to the Final Four at the Meadowlands.
As we walked away, marveling at our tickets, a man stood about 50 yards away, who was talking to each person as they left the dome. If I remember correctly, he offered us each $1,000 for our tickets. I want to be clear that I remember the offer as $1,000, but it could have been less. It’s one of those things where I think the number grows each year, every time I tell the story. Whatever he was offereing, it was a lot more than the ticket cost.
I was ready to jump at the offer, and Nick, my roomate, looked at me like I was crazy. We both needed to sell to get the money, and he refused. “That money can’t replace the experience of going to the Final Four. You’ll probably never have this chance again, and you’d end up just wasting that money anyway,” he told me. Like the ticket offer, I think Nick’s words have changed and gotten more succinct and wise with time, but you get the picture.
In any case, we didn’t sell. We went to the games, Syracuse beat Mississippi State and eventually lost to Kentucky in the title game. Though losing hurt, the team really had no business being there, and Kentucky was stacked. I was always really glad I went and didn’t sell that ticket.
Fast forward to Memorial Day Weekend, 2012.
My job descrption can often blur who I am. I guess I’m in the media, or a journalist, or whatever I wam. But who I am, is a Sixers fan. I’d rather sit in seats than in press row. I’d rather have tickets than credentials (though credentials are pretty cool, I’ll admit).
So when the Sixers won Wednesday night’s game 6, forcing a game 7 in Boston, my first reaction was to figure out how much it cost to buy tickets, convince my girlfriend it was worth the money (and the 12 hours in the car on Memorial Day), and drive to Boston and get to the game. Though we took 36 hours to really decide, and went back and forth a couple of times, we settled on going. In the back of my mind, I guess I always knew I had to go. Nick taught me that lesson over 15 years ago.
As we wandered outside of the TD Garden hours before the game (and did a little work for CBS 3, there’s that blurry line), I realized we made the right choice. We bumped into some other Sixers fans who had chosen to drive up that morning as well. Chris, who tried driving the night before, had car trouble halfway there, drove back home to Vineland, and then successfully made the journey. Warren, whose girlfriend wanted to kill him for buying the tickets, but found a way to make it to Boston anyway.. Everyone seemed to think the same thing, “how can I not go to this game?”
We settled into our seats, and looked around. We were in the Boston Garden (ok, not the real one, but still), for game 7 of a playoff series between the Sixers and the Celtics. I realized that even though I wanted the Sixers to win this game pretty badly, this was a great experience either way. Just like that Syracuse team in 1996, my team was probably out-gunned, and part of me was just happy to be there; the team, and and me.
Just a few minutes before tipoff, Chris walked over to my section, shook my hand, and said, “we made it buddy.” We sure did.
Thanks to the Sixers, for a great ride this year. I’ll write something about what they need to do in the off-season and blah, blah blah, but that’s for later. And thanks to my girlfriend, who spent her weekend in a car and at a basketball game.
We’re shipping back to Philly.