You won't see this on TV

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class William O'Brien
  • 95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
I've been a sports enthusiast for as long as I can remember, from reveling in glory as the only person in New York who wasn't pulling for the Buffalo Bills to win a Super Bowl to cringing, as the only person on the planet who didn't want the Chicago Bulls to win the finals year after year.

But despite the vivid recall I have of the games that defined the decade of my youth, the closest I've ever been to a real game before was a National Hockey League game I attended as part of Air Force Week in Los Angeles. And while the action was good, we arrived quite late and missed most of the game. Not to mention, that was my first time ever seeing hockey at all, so though it was exciting, I had nothing to compare the actual play to.

However, Game 2 of the 2009 National Basketball Association Finals changed that. I was finally going to see a sport that I followed closely, live!

I showed up at the Staples Center two hours early, giving myself time to tour the arena. Walking around was interesting, but being around large unruly crowds was nothing new for me. But when I walked into one of the lower level seating areas and caught a glimpse of a 6'6" man wearing the same shirt as I was. This wasn't the first person I saw that night wearing that jersey and to the untrained eye, he could've been just another guy wearing a jersey with a big number 24 across it. But when I looked, I saw an 11-time NBA all-star, 7-time all defensive first team player, calmly shooting free throws as if it were just another day at the office. And at that point it hit me; I'm seeing the man my best friend and little brother emulate, in person. In fact, I'm within 100 feet of him, the experience now differed from just watching it on TV.

That moment quickly ended as an employee nicely reminded me that I wasn't seated courtside and I would need to find my way to the upper deck.

I proceeded to my seat, making it there just before they introduced the players. As I sat in anticipation for the game to begin, I noticed something I've never seen before -- player positioning. Usually, just before the tip, they show close-ups of select players and then pan out as the tip happens and the players scatter, only allowing a glimpse of how the players were actually aligned. I've never had the chance to actually see how they're lined up.

As I continued watching, I enjoyed the freedom to watch what I wanted as opposed to being tied down to the camera angles chosen for me as seen on TV. I was able to see how players worked without the ball in their hands. I could see off the ball defense being played by true professionals.

I also got a behind the scenes look into what happens during commercial breaks and halftime. I got a firsthand look at everything that's done to make the game happen. I watched as personnel rushed to clean the floor after every time anyone fell to the ground. I saw maintenance members inspect and fix the backboards during every stop in the action. And security guards stand between the players and the fans maintaining safety and security for everyone on the court.

Going to an NBA game for me is likened to a civilian visiting Edwards for the Air Show. They come and they're excited for the opportunity for an up close and personal look at what they've only seen from afar or on TV. Just as I watched in awe as Kobe prepared for his game 2 match-up, they too stand in disbelief as they see the bigger picture, our personnel do the unglamorous work every day the security forces Airmen maintaining safety and security and our maintainers inspecting and repairing our aircraft or they talk to our Airmen and hear all about the different jobs that are done on base to keep things going, that go unseen.

What they get is a whole lot more than they bargained for; a visit here gives them all a front row seat to the professionalism and behind the scenes work that goes into the finished product - Air Superiority.