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Sports Commentary: Life at the top

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I get to live large at UVa

By Mike Forster

    Ah, 'tis the good life.

That is, 'tis the good life when you're sitting courtside at a University of Virginia basketball game.

You might be thinking, "Hey, sports guy, you always sit courtside, taking pictures and so forth." 

Ah, my friend, that's inaccurate on a couple of counts.  First, any courtside pass I get is to high school hoops, not to ACC games.  Second, my courtside seat usually involves my posterior being planted on said high school hardwood, trying to get said photos.

This time was different.  My pal, Bob, invited the wife and me to the UVa–Boston College tilt last Saturday afternoon.  A friend of his had bestowed a pair of primo tickets on Bob.  By primo, I mean first row, right behind the television broadcasters.

For a cheapskate like me, this was akin to drinking champagne on a beer budget.  For you teetotalers out there, that's the equivalent of eating filet mignon on a hamburger budget.  For you vegetarians out there, it's similar to eating macadamia nuts on a peanut budget.  For those of you allergic to peanuts...well, you get the idea.

Simple math, however, showed that when four try to share two, you have two left out.  So, I purchased a pair of nosebleed seats.  Criminy, that set me back forty-four clams.

The wives went up to the rafters while Bob and I took our places among the royalty.

Man, courtside!  I felt like a taller, paler and less profane version of Spike Lee.  I felt like a younger, less squinty-eyed, less profane version of Jack Nicholson.

I'm not sure what these tickets cost, but I like to think I got the money's worth for whoever paid for them.

The action is darn fast; the play is intimately close.  During time-outs you might have your mug shown on regional television, serving as backdrop for the color commentator.

For nearly everyone else there, the game won't be logged in the memory bank for long.  Nothing spectacular happened.  No records were set.  It was an above-average game for a UVa team that is having an above-average season.

I suspect, ten years from now, few in attendance will have remembered it.

But I will.  In addition to being exposed to a superb level of basketball, there were other things that made the experience memorable.

First, at halftime, Bob walked me through a corridor.  Off to the side sat a ticket-taker.  Bob handed her a pair of golden ducats and she admitted us to:  heaven.

It was a room filled with food stations of every type.  At them, guys in chef hats were preparing everything you can imagine:  shrimp, tortellini, tortes.  At a mahogany bar, young women poured top-shelf liquors and decanted fancy wines and beers.  Huge televisions lined the walls for broadcasting the game.

Ah, so this is how the 1% live, thought I, a lifelong member of the 99% Club.

Having eaten earlier in the day, Bob and I passed on the array of delectable delights, opting for a couple of soft drinks.

Returning to our seats, we noted that the wives had joined us, taking advantage of the vacant seats to either side of us.  They hadn't moved swiftly enough to have joined us in the aforementioned palatable paradise, alas.

Then Bob pointed toward a fellow and said, "There's John Grisham."

Whoa.  I have read nearly every John Grisham book:  The Client, The Firm, The Pelican Brief.  With the exception of his most recent novel, I've read 'em all.

Knowing I must say hello to this man, I envisioned how that encounter might go.  I came up with two scenarios.

-Dream scenario:  I introduce myself to John Grisham.  He asks whether I'm the same Mike Forster who writes for the Bedford Bulletin.  He then tells me how much he enjoyed my coverage of last week's Bedford County wrestling meet and asks me to collaborate with him on his next novel.

He tells me that I'd get top billing, given that "F" comes before "G."

-Nightmare scenario.  I introduce myself and tell John Grisham that I've read nearly all of his books.

"Nearly all?" he asks.

"Well, I'm on the waiting list at our library for your latest," I say.  "Can't wait."

"And how many of my books have you bought?" 

"Um.  None.  I get them from the library." 

"Hah," says John Grisham.  "The same place I read my Bedford Bulletins."

Actually, I did get to meet the man and tell him how much I've enjoyed his work over the years.

He shook my hand and gave me a smile.

That's how things go when you get a chance to live the good life.