It's not often that an NBA fan gets to effect the outcome of a game. 20,000 people are reduced to passive spectators as a select few get to battle things out in the name of city pride. Most of those fans are too far away for the players to even see them, much less hear them.
Of course, there was one fan who did get to effect the game last night. And that fan was me.
It's the third quarter, and I've been sitting behind the basket since the start of the second. I've cheered a bit for my team, while also making a deliberate effort not to cause any ruckus. The element of surprise is key, and the real game doesn't start until the fourth quarter, anyway.
After a few minutes of intense back and forth basketball, it's showtime. Carlos Boozer was fouled driving to the hoop, and he'd be going to the line. My muscles tensed up as I realized how key my next move would be. I had to time my jump perfectly, and shout as loud as possible after having sat silently for minutes on end. I also had to avoid bumping into the people next to me, as most don't take kindly to the presence of of my 6'4" frame. Any slight miscue could ruin the effect, and thus annihilate my best chance at taking down the Chicago Bulls.
Boozer stoops. Prepares. Fires.
In a split second, Boozer's years of basketball training are pitted directly against my element of surprise. As the ball leaves his hands, I jump out of my seat as quickly as possible and let out the highest pitched scream you'll ever hear a man make.
Of course, the shot had no trouble finding it's target. Inherently, I had failed.
But the action was not lost among the minds of those around me. Boozer was taken aback, staring at me for several seconds before quickly dismissing the event with a short expletive. The fans around me were instantly enraged, spitting out several loud insults in my direction for the duration of the game. Some were so impassioned as to stand directly beside me and shout at me for an extended period of time, while I effortlessly tuned them out.
This game of psychological chess between fan and player continued throughout the evening. I varied my routine, sometimes electing to scream for the duration of the free throw, and other times choosing to psyche them out with an impassioned speech.
Whether I had any effect on the outcome of the game is anybody's guess. The Bulls ended up missing two important free throws in the third, but it's doubtful that either of those shots would have swung the pendulum in the opposite direction. The Bulls were 66% (8-12) from the line in the second half, well below their average rate of 77.3%.
At this point, I'm sure there's a large portion of skeptics reading this article. Most would question the value of annoying everybody around you for doing something that isn't proven to have any effect. In fact, I'm sure most would call me downright insane for driving 12 hours to Chicago almost directly after the Mavericks-Thunder game the day before. But consensus doesn't always breed positive change, and I've never seen anyone with the wherewithal to try what I have in a hostile environment.
So I'd like to just take this moment to encourage any Thunder fans out there that might be seeing their team away from home. At the end of the day, as long as you keep it clean, there's absolutely nothing that the opposing arena staff can do to you. This team needs your help, and we can all do our part to make sure that they never play a game alone. Because at the end of the day, it doesn't matter whether the Thunder won the game because of me.
A statement was made, and it's quite possible that I was able to alter the course of the game to a much greater degree than the some 22,261 Chicagoians in that arena.
Cleveland, you're next.