Fans at the United Center need a new free throw distraction technique. (Anthony Souffle / Chicago…)
Hi folks. Jack Silverstein here with some important thoughts to share on the game of basketball and our role as spectators/game-influencers.
It all started Thursday, when my friend J.P. took me to the United Center for a Bulls-Knicks game.
"We'll be sitting behind the basket," J.P. told me when we got through security. "So it might be difficult to see at times."
"Pish posh!" I told him. "You are taking me to a basketball game to revel in sport. Let me buy you a beer."
The seats were in section 106, a fantastic court-level view that gives fans a detailed look at the game's intricacies. Indeed, I spent much of the first half studying Carmelo Anthony, watching his technique in gaining position for rebounds, putbacks, and his own trusty turnaround.
"God damn, these are great seats!" I told J.P. when the first half ended. And they were.
But then, out came the balloons and the Thunder Stix. I had completely forgotten that the behind-the-basket seats are not defined by their proximity to the court or their offering of an up-close basketball tutorial, but rather by their role for one half of basketball as the designated "let's try to distract the opposing free throw shooter" section.
After another half of basketball + an overtime period in this sea of flapping balloons and reverberating plastic, my head felt like it had spent an hour in an airtight chamber of ringing gongs. I was agitated and jittery. I believe J.P. felt the same. Had it not been for Nate Robinson's 35 points and the Bulls' eventual victory, we both may have abandoned the cause & scrambled for freedom.
The problem is all this crazy crap doesn't accomplish the supposed goal of distracting the opposition into missing foul shots. The Knicks, for instance, shot 6-for-9 at the line in the first half, and then went 11-for-13 in the second. From my observation, it seems as if players are able to zone in even more on their athletic task when a bunch of bellowing idiots are attempting to create emotional and atmospheric chaos.
J.P. was on the same wavelength. "I think we should all just stand perfectly still, be absolutely silent, and stare deep into the eyes of the foul shooter," he told me. "That would be much more effective."
"You're right!" I said. "Let's try it." And we did, standing upright, stiffening our backs and slicing straight through Carmelo's sightline with our collective piercing gaze.
It didn't work, of course, since there were only two of us, and we could never convince others to join in, lost as they were in their own frenzy.
So I am using a more public avenue now in hopes that Bulls fans will consider our approach as a thoughtful and cunning alternative to the ineffective noisemakers.
And if you don't like the thought of abandoning your right to swing balloons and clap plastic, just think of them as you would an ineffective player on the court. Bench him and see what happens! After all, the playoffs are coming, and the Bulls will have an uphill climb just to escape the first round. We don't have any room for error, and fans must support the team in the most effective way possible.
So do your duty and help Chicago create a smothering layer of silence that will revolutionize the way fans impact the sport. Go Bulls and carry on.
Jack M Silverstein is a RedEye special contributor. @ReadJack
Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye Sports' Facebook page.