Particles of air wisping out of the vents in the car were the signal to a journey's start. Snorting headfuls of the visible mists only managed to kick the brain cells into a snap. At the halfway mark to the Entertainment Centre a hint of gunpowder started and stopped just as soon. Constant adjustments to the temperature managed to get the windscreen fogged up on both sides of the dial. The rotting fruits and vegetables of the above Paddy's Market were negligible yet gaining strength. The Haymarket car park, fragrant in the rotting fruits, a sheer spookiness of the stairwell. A stairwell that led people straight into the oncoming path of one of the city's light rail cars. Friday night and the crowd was in full strength outside of the box office and flooding the nearby burger joints of McDonalds and Hungry Jack's. Picking up fries was faster than collecting two tickets to the game. Tickets, which thanks to the change in the system over to Ticketmaster7 from Ticketek looked like novelty counterfeits.
Filling up both sides of the court, a huge expanse of red seats vacant on the far end sectioned between the two. Less than two thirds of the capacity from the sheer average of figures turned numbers. Nearly a year between outings, it looked like a whole new arena. Last year they were held under naming rights by telecom NTG and this year travel agency Trendwest. The Heydon Harlequins were now the Philips Harlequins and a selection of new stickers adorned the court floor. Announcer Rodney O was also gone in and his place some Grant guy and his roving sidekick in a yellow cap. The lineup it self was slightly altered and tonight marked the debut of fresh new import Chris Carrawell.
Starting off strong, the Kings scored first and ran away to a 5-point lead before the Bullets answered back. Seated up in row R and behind unreasonably fat headed people made for an easy decision to move down a few. Down letters into what was probably G or H, the air conditioning felt colder for those without the benefit of long sleeves. Those with would only feel it after time spent soaking up the cold air through the fabric. As strong as they have been playing the previous 15 rounds, the Kings never at one point looked like they were being threatened by top of the ladder Bullets. Each passing glance at the scoreboard showed a comfortable buffer of at least 10 points and at one stage, 20.
From seats in the upper most section of the stadium, people on the court look small. Though the move down brought the action slightly closer, the cheerleaders still looked oddly perplexing as much as they were flexible. Skinnier, shorter, or younger, the illusion wasn't helped much by the costume worn in the first half of the game. The Harlequins and the Teeny tots were never on court at the same time so direct visual comparisons weren't easy. Breaking out of the first set, the second half saw them strutting out in the Philips colours which ended up making them look like they were the Mermaids of the NRL Sharks.
A pudgy fellow shooting from the free throw line kicked off the timeout entertainment. Sponsored by one of the few from last year, Medallist, each attempted shot brought him closer to the ring. Futility in the charity, missing on all three attempts the arcs got shorter the smaller the gap between the man and his goal. His defeated walk off the court didn't go by without a last throw at the other end where he also missed.
The Lion was jerky and snapped off his sunglasses a few times. Once having the ref walk all the way to the centre to clear them off the court. Making a court appearance, media attention on the King of Pop brought in the strained joke of the night as the Lion pulled out a Michael Jackson face mask when drawing the winner of the free holiday from naming rights sponsor Trendwest. Amongst the crowd a woman was transfixed by his moves and danced with a corporate box barrier between them. On another island, a handshake filled with cheese in both senses.
Done away, the lifeless line of kids at the freethrow during third quarter break. Instead, laid out on the court, 3 shirts, pants and balls. All oversized for the 3 kids facing to run the full length of the court. Liberty, Christopher and the other kid. Crowd fever was up and looked like enough fuel and favour for Liberty to win the race. First leg shots, the shirts were eating up the small children until like a ray of stadium lighting, they made it onto the second leg, pants. Cruel and exploitive fun was not to be had here as the elastic on the waists safely held up and no teeth were sent chomping into the waxed floorboards. Mere metres away from the finish and one of the other boys stole the win and a hushed boo wept across the air.
An alley-oop in the second or third narrowly mistimed and left the crowd hungry for more stylish plays. Plays which when they did arrive seemed infused with the finesse and comic timing of the Harlem Globetrotters. Kings flair and gameplay wasn't troubled at all by the Brisbane Bullets. Left with 90 seconds before the final buzzer, the Kings bench was cleared of the warmers and given chances to clock up a few minutes to their career. Poor acoustics on the post-game on-court interview wrapped up the 118-101 score.
Reviewed on Sunday, 18 January 2004