Covering my first NBA game, I didn t quite know what to expect. I ve always loved the NBA and so in many ways being able to watch a game from the floor was a dream come true and being able to talk to the players only made the event that much sweeter.
But I have to admit, getting a pat on the butt and a wink from Dana Barros as he and the other Pistons charged onto the court at the beginning of the fourth quarter wasnÕt what I had in mind when I switched my major from history to journalism. I guess I expected something a bit more austere. But still, writing about sports is more interesting than writing about MLG&W so I pressed on.
Besides, maybe BarrosÕ greeting served to prepare me for the events to come. I later learned that the media pass hanging around my neck granted me universal access. So after the game when the rest of the reporters rushed to the locker room, I followed and waited in the hall with everyone else.
After a few minutes the doors were opened and everyone pushed in, all eyes darting past the stew of towels, muscles, tattoos and braids to find the stars. (I was cautioned against describing this scene as Òa bag of mixed nuts.Ó) Someone spotted Shane Battier and all the reporters bum rushed him like he was a free food buffet. Shoving cameras in the obviously off-guard forwardÕs face they started showering him with questions (I couldn t think of any).
ÒShane, what did you think of tonight s game?Ó
But Shane had not even dressed yet. Looking embarrassed and under siege, he was pressed by the inquisitive masses up against the wall. In his boxers and surrounded by strangers (many of whom were bearing cameras, mikes, and very bright lights) - he had to give an impromptu press conference.
ÒIt was intense,Ó said Shane, as he gently attempted to clear enough room in the huddle so that he could get one leg into his pants.
ÒDid you expect StackhouseÕs performance?Ó
ÒStackhouse was tough,Ó he said as he puts his other leg in the pants.
ÒWhat do you think about how the team playedÓ asked the Commercial Appeal s Geoff Calkins.
ÒIt was a tough game.Ó Zip.
ÒIt was a really choppy game,Ó continued Battier, putting one sock on.
At this point he looked resolved. He seemed to understand that this was to be his fate. He will be answering questions on camera, in his underwear, for the rest of his basketball career. Other reporters began yelling questions from the back of the herd.
ÒWhat about scoring, Shane?Ó
ÒNeither team shot very well,Ó he said as he put on another sock.
ÒHow does the NBA differ from college.Ó
He slides his shirt over his head. ÒIt]s different, but not in a bad way.Ó Shoe.
ÒWe let this game get away.Ó The other shoe.
Perhaps a now fully dressed Shane can also get away.
A television crew from Spain was also in the locker, presumably to get post-game comments from Pau Gasol. But not being able to the find Pau, they reluctantly join the group of pushy local reporters. When Battier was first surrounded, the Spanish crew shoved their camera and mike on him too. Then, probably realizing that no one in Spain cares about Battier, they turned the camera and mike on me - apparently not yet realizing that no one in Spain cares about me either. So with a mike, camera and bright light in my face, I got my first question.
ÒWhat s it like to be a woman in the locker room?Ó
ÒHonestly, it s a little overwhelming,Ó I say, thinking that I never realized just how tall these guys were until I saw how much flesh they actually have.
As if on cue Grizzly guard Nick Anderson squeezed behind me, rubbing his damp towel (the only thing heÕs wearing) against my arm. I ve just learned that I m about ass-high to an NBA baller. This being the fourth time Anderson had brushed by me wearing only a towel I began to realize that this could be the hazing female sports reporters often say they must endure in order to be accepted. That or he was taking laps around the locker room.
The test, apparently, is this: How many times can a nearly naked man pass your sight line before you just give in and drop your eyes?
Trailing behind Anderson, MemphisÕ favorite son Lorenzen Wright eased through the crowd , also wearing only a towel.
ÒRen, how about a statement?Ó shouts George Lapides.
And all the cameras turn on Wright, now that Battier is dressed his post-game thoughts are no longer interesting.
Wright, however, is still naked, so itÕs his turn to get dressed on camera.
ÒIt s a disappointment,Ó Wright says, sliding his underwear on underneath the towel.
ÒWe really wanted to win,Ó as he leans over to put on both socks.
ÒI don t think I ever wanted to win a game as much as I wanted to win this game,Ó his words beginning to flow readily. Wright seems almost comfortable talking to strangers wearing only slightly more than his birthday suit.
In fact he and Anderson seem to have decided to forego clothes for the moment. Presumably giving interviews au naturel is not so awkward after all.
A girl could get used to this.