We had to roll the windows down to see the arena. We knew we were close, but we did not know how close. The ice had made the windows opaque and frosted like the glass doors of some hotel showers, eating the car the whole trip, this hand swallowing up my friend Shawn’s hatchback Chevy, coming down on the windshield like the cartoon face of an eagle. The ice coming to a point, the nose, and flaring out on either side. Eventually curving up toward the roof.
The drive from Chicago to Milwaukee is not particularly scenic, but it is quick. We did it in the cold dark, after work, and really only ever considered stopping once on the way up: at the Mars Cheese Castle, because that is as enticing a name as you can give any one place. Not that any of us are just all in on cheese, but it’s hard to drive by a castle full of the stuff and not raise an eyebrow. There were five of us in the car: three Bucks fans, a Suns fan, and me.
My Bucks fan friends are interesting to watch games with because on some level they are rooting for losses. Not openly – openly they’re letting out deep, wide groans when Giannis gets to a full sprint with the ball in his hands, those mantis limbs – but the losses don’t really hurt, they don’t destroy them, because they would like one more trip to the lottery. One more foray into the top five to grab hold of another Jabari, another Freak. So I like watching games with them, and talking to them, and seeing their eyes glint a little when John Henson starts to figure things out.
Right now the Bucks feel like that seventh grade football player who has a mustache. The one where you’re like, man, be interesting to see what he’s like in three years.
At Bucks games they have this area of the Bradley Center called Sector 7 where several diehards sit. I should say, actually, it was once called Sector 7. I didn’t see it explicitly called that during this game, but I’ve seen it called that before and I liked it so I’m keeping it.
Last time I was at a Bucks game David Stern was in attendance and the sector booed him, which was brave. They have a DJ set up in the walkway right above them, the illuminated apple on his computer screen floating in the dead space like some of them just got an idea that was good, but not great. There’s a guy who is very clearly in charge of the sector. He wore glasses, a green Bucks flat-bill, jeans, white mock turtleneck underneath a Bucks shooting top, and he was carrying a cane. He’s probably somewhere around forty. He led all the cheers – I’ll just call him Cane from now on – and he stomped around with such assuredness it was like he was Tommy Frazier strolling around Nebraska in the mid 90’s. He would take brief, labored sips of bottled water and generally looked very tired, which is how you need to look when you are in charge of something. You need to look like this thing is a burden. You stop uprisings that way and it lessons the number of coups you, as the boss, have to deal with.
An example: Eric Bledsoe fumbles the ball out of bounds.
Cane, his eyes the sizes of coasters behind those glasses, the rest of the sector sort of feeling him with the edges of their eyes, comes to a stop in the middle of the aisle. He shouts. Which way? The section responds. That way.
Everyone points their arms in the other direction. Then the repetition begins. Which way? That way. Which way? That way. It’s a lot like a high school student section if they had access to flags from other countries, could toss shredded newspapers into the air whenever they wanted without the administration getting mad, and had beer available to them.
We were a couple sections over from Sector 7 and I swear to you I watched Cane every bit as much as I watched the game. His face after every cheer was so sure, so confident. It was the face of someone who knew they were being watched, and who was ready to fight whoever thought it was funny that he cared this much. He did everything but pound his chest after big plays, and generally walked around like if you said something to him, he would pick his cane up and beat you with it, a can version of a Yastrzemski special, to borrow from Pynchon. At the end of every cheer he would tie it off by shouting, “Lemme get a ‘Go Bucks Go!'” and his followers would give him one. It was quite a button. Afterwards he’d stand over the whole section like he’d just dunked on all of them.
I have lots of questions for Cane that I did not have the journalistic integrity or intensity to follow-up on and ask:
1) Do you get free tickets?
2) How long have you been doing this?
3) Has there ever been or will there ever be a practice for people to learn these cheers?
4) Do you control who sits in the sector?
I hope the answers to those questions are:
3) We have Google Hangouts twice a month to go over old cheers and brainstorm any potential additions. It’s typically me that comes up with new ones, though. Everybody else’s ideas are trash.
4) Not yet.
The only fan that has ever mesmerized me more than Cane was Jimmy Goldstein, before I knew who Jimmy Goldstein was. Some years ago I think I tweeted he was Bob Dylan’s brother, Flob Dylan. I stand by that joke. Goldstein is the aurora borealis. You should travel great distances in order to see it in person. The guy looks like the word “relax” became a person. He is the human embodiment of a beach mansion. Goldstein will always be first on Superfan lists, but Cane now resides in the two-hole. It’s something to watch a person fulfill a destiny. I figured it out. He looked a little like a high school science teacher, and a lot like white E-40. Like if you stepped to him he would ask that you go running naked backward through a field of dicks and you would only be sort of surprised that he heard that song.
Bango is a quality mascot — great at fan interaction, true commitment, goes hard on people rooting for the road team — but they are doing him no favors with his outfit. He has no jersey number. It makes it look unfinished, and empty, like everything you’re watching is still in previews.
Brandon Knight is becoming something to be afraid of. When he scores the game ops crew at the Bradley Center plays a few seconds of Lionel’s “All Night Long.” Sector 7 sings along. He went for 26 on this night, and got the Bradley Center up in arms twice. See, Brandon Knight dunked. Twice.
The first was on PJ Tucker aka Chats aka Please Stop Talking. Giannis got it to him around half-court – chased down the rebound and wrapped it around to Knight, even without Parker these Bucks are an amusement park in the open floor sometimes – and when he got to the lane he took off. Knight is really pulling these things back, cocking them all the way into the past, then the arm time-travels to the year 2015 and I’m palming my friend Jorin’s head trying to make sure my popcorn doesn’t spill. People who have not yet moved are standing and doing dances in the aisles after these. They are aggressive, these dunks, and done with a personality you did not know Knight had. He’s flexing more than you thought he would. These things happened without warning to. I’m shouting down the row to my friend Mike, “I did not know he had it like that.” The second was caught off a cut and Knight got that thing and came straight down Main Street. Bledsoe only kind of jumped. He knew it was already over when he left his feet.
Knight doesn’t look particularly athletic during the game. He gets to where he needs to go, but it’s all done in a straight up and down sort of way, like he’s Point Guard Eric Dickerson. To be clear, if any player put people in a poster like Knight did, it would shake the building a little, there’d be some vibrations regardless. But somebody of Knight’s size breaking the rim made the crowd take on another attitude entirely. After the first people were standing, swaying. After the second there were shouts to God.
A friend of mine told me he had a college professor that said the design of the Bradley Center was patterned after several maximum-security prisons. That’s a rather dark and easy metaphor to grab hold of, based off recent Bucks teams, and seems like a joke. A Google search didn’t confirm or deny the claim. All I have to go off of is a brief conversation on an escalator while the rest of our party was deciding which stadium vendor to eat at, and I don’t suppose you can trust those.
I took a picture during the impromptu standing ovation the Bradley Center gave Knight when the Suns called a timeout after his second dunk. Then I posted it to Instagram. My friend Allison, who is a Bucks fan, saw the picture, and texted me.
You’re in Milwaukee?
Yea. Came up here with Brunlieb and some guys.
Brandon Knight is an All-Star.
He played like it tonight.
He’s been playing like that. He’s an All-Star. If he’s not one it’s bullshit.
Knight has been quietly having himself a nice little year. Averages of 18.2ppg, 5.1apg, 4.2 rpg and 1.4 spg are not at all laughable, and he plays with scrap. It’s the East. You could slide him into a reserve spot and I don’t think too many folks would cry. But this isn’t about that. This is about those dunks. Something about them – their rage, maybe – made them feel like exorcisms. Like he was getting something out.