Close to the action

After defeat at the weekend, Blues fans will hope that our trio of remaining matches in March, in three different competitions, will give us something to cheer.

Here in New Orleans, however, I had a sporting distraction because after 14 years of living in the States, I finally went to my first professional basketball game. It was at the Smoothie King Center and featured our hometown team, the Pelicans, against the LA Clippers.

I saw my first NFL contest 18 years ago and I’ve been going to baseball since the nineties, while the one professional ice hockey fixture I’ve seen was, ironically enough, in Northern Ireland. I’ve been to high school basketball but my first experience of the NBA left me with a few major impressions.

The first thing was that the Pelicans’ kit (or uniform as we say here) was a special edition. Because it was around carnival season, they wore an outfit in the traditional Mardi Gras colours of green, gold and purple. Imagine Chelsea playing in red and white for matches at Christmas, in green for a fixture on St Patrick’s Day or wearing yellow at Easter!

The next surprise was how big the players looked. Not in height - we know professional basketball players are all ridiculously tall - but how close we seemed to be. I was in the cheap seats in the highest tier, but compared to watching the New Orleans Saints when you are approximately eight miles away from the field, it felt like we were right up in the action on the court.


However, our view paled in comparison with the seats I saw court-side. By that I mean chairs right on the touchline, side-line, out-of-bounds line, or whatever it is called in basketball. I’m not exaggerating when I write that those fans could reach out and touch the athletes if they wanted.

Also, while the contest was still going on but the action was at the other end, a guy would rush onto the court and wipe down the surface. I’m sure the players sweat a lot but it was still a strange in-play sight - imagine the Stamford Bridge groundsman running onto the pitch to replace divots while the ball was down the other end.

The Pelicans’ mascot won the Mascot Lip-Sync Battle but the team lost the game. Here’s hoping both them and the Blues get back to winning ways soon.