RTC was in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the West Regional over the weekend. Here are some of the sights, sounds and impressions of the town, the games and the goings-on while we were there.
SLC Sits Right Next to Those Imposing Mountains
The Trip There. You have to love air travel sometimes. Not so much the security lines, the crying children always scheduled one row behind me or the petulant TSA morons who keep stealing my Right Guard deodorant gel, but the whole concept of it. At 12:30 pm, I was sitting in my office next to the deep blue waters of the Pacific; by 5 pm, I was sitting in a green seat in Utah’s Delta Center EnergySolutions Arena watching the West Regional Semifinals tip off between Syracuse and Butler. When air travel works with such efficiency as that, it still amazes me. Too bad it’s so infrequent these days.
When I landed, I noticed two things immediately. Everything was white: the air, the mountains, even the people. Ok, especially the people. I think the only two nonwhite folks I encountered in SLC the entire weekend were my cab drivers to and from the airport. It’s fairly clear with such a glaring lack of diversity in the area why NBA stars in particular look at signing with the Jazz as equivalent to hoops purgatory. Well, except the white ones (Andrei Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur, Kyle Korver, etc.). The other thing I noticed was that it was cold. As in still-winter type of cold. Snow was on the mountaintops that tower right over the downtown, and here I was with a lightweight hoodie as my only form of jacket. I should have probably checked the weather report before I left, but I made the self-centered presumption that every place is like where I am now, right? And if it’s not, it most definitely should be.
Jazz Heroes Stockton & Malone Outside the Arena
Thursday Night Games. Tickets were aplenty outside the arena for this set of games. The closest school (K-State) was over 1,000 miles away, and the tip was right after 5 pm local time. That said, once I entered the arena, the place looked nearly full. It seats about 20,000 and the announced attendance both days was in the 17-18,000 range . I couldn’t get an immediate sense as to which school brought the most fans because it appeared that there were smatterings of orange (Syracuse), purple (K-State), navy blue (Xavier) and black (Butler) around the arena, but more than anything else, I noticed red everywhere. Quickly checking the google to see if any of these four schools had red anywhere in their complementary color schemes and finding not, I decided that this warranted further investigation.
It turns out that many of the red hats, shirts, coats and so on were emblazoned with a strange word called “Utah,” which makes a lot of sense considering that the UofU campus is a mere two miles up the hill from downtown, but was completely lost on me because I couldn’t factor in that the Utes didn’t make the Tournament this year. I didn’t expect that they’d have so many fans who just wanted to watch some good basketball. I ran into that all weekend long here. The good people of Utah LOVE their basketball. From the youth league level all the way up to the Jazz, they’re extremely supportive of the sport and have a keen appreciation and knowledge of the game. This is in stark contrast to some of the other neutral-site venues where I’ve visited this year and it barely even registers with the locals that there’s something called March Madness going on down the street. In fact, I’d wager that the majority of attendees in the ES Arena over the weekend were simply folks from the surrounding area who wanted to watch the games. I can only imagine the homecourt advantage that BYU would have held there had they gotten past Kansas State in the second round.
Two of the More Interesting Getups We Saw in SLC
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