SO I got playoff tickets to see the Warriors host the Nuggets in game 4 of their first round series last week. Normally the build up to a game like this is super exciting for any sports fan—playoff games are tighter, there’s much more on the line, and every play has that extra spark. There was just one snag attached to the excitement though—I’m a Nuggets fan in the Bay Area.
From the ages of 2-15 I lived in Boulder, Colorado. I grew up watching John Elway win back to back Super Bowls, the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup twice, the Blake Street Bombers play baseball the way it was meant to be played at Coors, and Melo turn around a terrible Nuggets organization.
Then in the summer before 10th grade, my family packed everything up and migrated west to the Bay Area. Being 15, I hated everything about it initially. No friends, no familiar scenes, and generally just a bad attitude. The three years before I started college consisted of a lot of grasping back to the bulk of my formative years, and one way to do that was by going to see my teams play on the rare occasions they came to town.
I tell anyone who listens that my sports hierarchy is as follows: NHL, MLB, NFL, NBA. I grew up playing street hockey on hot spring afternoons with a couple of old computer boxes as goals, and when my friends and I were exhausted, we’d come inside, suck down a couple Capri Suns, and tune in to watch the Avs contend for another championship in a heated playoff battle. When we got a little older, we signed up for ice hockey at the YMCA, and literally breathed hockey every day during each season.
As hockey is at the top of the hierarchy, I made sure my dad and I always attended the two games every season where the Avs visited the Sharks at HP Pavilion in San Jose. Since 2005, I’ve missed just two out of a total of 14 games. The Avs’ record in the games I attended? 2-10. I’ve been to a few Rockies-Giants games at AT&T Park as well. The Rockies’ record in those games? 0-3. I won’t even think about going to a Raiders-Broncos game in Oakland as a Broncos fan, and in Warriors-Nuggets games at Oracle arena, I’m 0-4 after Sunday night.
The combined absence of a competitive Avs team since 2009 and surprising performance of the Nuggets since Melo whined his way to New York has increased my love for Denver basketball. Even though the NBA was at the bottom of my hierarchy growing up (and still is), I love watching any competitive team sport and when it comes to the NBA playoffs, the intensity is almost as high as the Stanley Cup playoffs.
So color me excited when I locked up two 7th row tickets to see the Nuggets play in a must-win game 4, down 2-1 to the hometown Warriors. Of course I was nervous, doubly so because I was going with a friend who was a Warriors fan and home teams win something like 65% of games in the playoffs—the chances were high I’d be the one of us going home pretty bummed. But I came to have a good time, and figured a close battle to the very end would be rewarding to watch regardless of the outcome.
I was wrong. Instead of a 57-win, third seeded regular season team winning a game they NEEDED to have, the game was over before the fourth quarter. I got to watch one of my favorite teams completely lose the identity they had built up over an 82 game season, and it sucked so much that I became glad it was a blowout so I wouldn’t have false hope and suffer more. The Nuggets were sad, demoralizing, and honestly a little pathetic. And there were 19,000 fans relishing in every bit of it, just by default because they were cheering for the team that did the real damage.
Cheering for your team in an away arena is a weird feeling. You get a little slice of what the visiting players on the court feel—it’s you against thousands. Sometimes, drunk home fans will even jeer at you, adding insult to injury. So it’s that much more exciting when your team is winning, because you feel like a genius in a sea of idiots. Sadly, WAY more often than not, all you can do is sit while they stand, pout while they shout, and groan as the home team feeds off their energy.
What I’m trying to say here is that home court advantage is definitely a real thing—try seeing your team lose in enemy territory to fully understand why.