By Keith Forrest
I have always viewed March Madness from an upper-deck perspective. I am not a descendant of oil barons. So a trip to sporting events always requires scaling a height to the cheap seats from where I can easily relay information about cloud formations to the National Weather Service.
But as with someone who has never sat in first class, my ignorance was my salvation.
Sure, I heard accounts from friends who occasionally had fortune shine upon them. "Boy, you can really see the players from there," they remark in a smug tone.
But it was easy to shrug off because for me the good seats were like the unicorn. I have seen them in pictures, but I didn't really believe they existed. But recently my 5-year-old son Kameron changed all that.
We are regulars at Temple University men's basketball games because Temple's my alma matter and because the tickets are well . . . cheap.
Before a recent game, we received an e-mail that Kameron had been chosen as a ball boy. The precise implications of this cyber announcement were lost upon both of us until we actually got to the game.
We started to don the hiking boots and ascend to the upper reaches of the Liacouras Center when Kameron asked how he was going to get the balls way up there. So for the first time ever, we walked down toward the court.
We sheepishly presented a copy of the e-mail to a security guard. We were then ushered to the court as if we were part of a motorcade. When we reached our destination, Kameron and I stood there for a moment to breathe in the good life.
There was a row of about a dozen red metal chairs carefully placed right up to the edge of the court.
"We're sitting here?" I thought like someone who was eating at a fancy restaurant for the first time.
Kameron was so gleeful he couldn't speak. This is fairly noteworthy since he is the world's chattiest 5-year-old under normal circumstances. Our ticket ship had come in.
"Where do we usually sit, Daddy?" asked Kameron.
"Way up there," I said pointing to an area of the arena that would require a canteen for us to get to from our current spot.
Kameron oscillated between sitting in his courtside chair and touching the floor of the court. The expression on his face as he felt the red painted floor boards resembled that of a man counting his first million.
After several minutes of ball-boy training, Kameron put on an oversize Temple Owls jersey. Since mascot duty is usually the purview of 12-year-olds, Kameron's get-up made him look like a floating torso.
His role was to rush onto the court with an oversize floppy blue mop and wipe up the sweat from under the basket during time-outs. As he performed his duties, he was awestruck, like a child prodigy performing at Carnegie Hall for the first time.
As we waited for the next time-out, Kameron and I savored the sights and sounds.
"Boy, the players are big," he remarked.
True. They were not tiny dots anymore, but giants. We could hear every sneaker squeak.
Every once in a while, Kameron extended his finger toward our regular seats and giggled maniacally. Hooter, the Owls mascot, would rub Kameron's hair as he went by. We were insiders.
As the game wound down, I realized it was a fairy tale visit. We may have sat with the big spenders for the evening, but midnight was coming.
As the buzzer sounded, we took one last look around, savoring the moment. We both started to look for stairs leading down, when we realized.
"We need to go up," I said. Kameron just smiled.