Thursday, April 14, 2005

MCI sports center, Washington DC Posted by Hello

A day at the races, at the basketball

Yes that is a race-course laid out in the middle of a basketball court.

For babies.

I’m not entirely sure what I expected on going to see a Wizards’ game (Washington’s home team) while I was in DC, but my idea of half-time entertainment had not really extended to baby-racing.

It had been part of a plan to take in some local culture: a Sunday basketball game, what could be more American? The sports complex, near the Chinatown metro station, was a simply enormous affair, and we seemed to go up a gazillion escalators before finding our seats.

So, if you want proof of the short, short, short American attention span: go to a basketball game. Several things astonished me. First, the organ dude didn’t just play the national anthem – he or she provided a continuous sound-track to the entire game, meant to heighten suspense (presumably) but largely consisting of standard riffs, including, oddly, the Addams Family theme. Second, whenever a time out was called – even for 10 seconds – cheerleaders, sorry the “dance team” or some strange blue mascot would rush on court to entertain us. The Canadian was disturbed by Cheerleaders. We were sitting a long way from the ground, but in their initial outfits their cleavage was still visible from about five floors up. Later in the game they came back on in something more like Britney Spears business-wear. Presumably to keep things “wholesome”.

If not being distracted by dancing or amusing mascot-antics in the time-outs, the cameras would sweep the seating and you’d watch the big screens as people were encouraged to dance, or kiss, or wave. I’m not sure if there was a prize beyond your face being plastered on a really big screen.

And at half time? Baby-racing. Kiddies crawling along a strip from one parent to another. Two rounds of heats and a grand final with a $300 prize. It could only have been better if you could lay bets on it. Though my kid would have been the one who crawled half way down the course, took a 90 degree turn out onto the basketball court and sat down and looked bemused. None seemed frightened by the noise.

Oh, and I asked the Belgian to get me “a small sprite”. The smallest available was the size of my head. I had to go the bathroom almost continuously for the second half.

Not that I missed much. It was one of the slowest scoring first halves that either the Wizards or the Pacers had ever had, apparently. There was a cliffhanger in the last six minutes of playing time with the visitors holding a slim lead. The home team, scrambling to catch up, tried to equalise with a 3-point throw in the final seconds of the game, to no avail.

But they weren’t a patch on baby racing.

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