(UPDATE - I have the first batch of photos out on pg 4)
As some or all of you know, a bunch of Area 55 and G2 Zone got together and setup a road trip to the last Detroit game. They had vans rented out and a block of tickets bought and needed to fill them up to cut costs, which allowed me (via Twitter) to jump on board at the last second...like 8 hours before the trip, which was pretty cool of them. Also thanks to Trader Joe for almost going but then not which kinda pushed me over the top.
During the trip I discovered that a lot of A55 and G2 aren't really PD members or only like to lurk, so I was meeting a ton of people that I didn't even know by PD handle. El Pacero of course, and IndySportsGirl Shelly who I met during the SAC/GSW trip, but apart from maybe Kyle that I've talked to when talking to Pacero, I didn't really know those guys and I don't think they really know all of us. Some knew me by name from reading here, but they weren't "fluent" in the nuances of PD personalities and debates.
So normally I would assume that it was almost a moot point to post a thread detailing much of what we discussed and shared on Twitter already since "all of you" were already there or following all of us, but I guess that's not really true. So I'm going to try to knock out a recap from my POV, mostly without names which will have to be filled in later. Hopefully the people that talked to me for hours will forgive me going by "dude with wig" or "Gumby Pacer" or "Airport Crew #1 and #2" for now. I also will get pix up but I'm still sorting some of them out.
Okay, so the plan was a couple of vans that held 12-15 (un)comfortably would meet at 10:30 AM, a few others would go in various cars, and we'd all meet up at the Palace...or something, and we'd figure it out then, or we wouldn't. The 2 vans started around the same time and we didn't see them again for about 8 hours. Ditto most of the car groups. I think by Anderson we were certain that we had no idea where the other van was. I spent most of the time talking to Joe, and a little bit of time talking to son of PD's Hoopsfanatic and time rolled along pretty well.
I'll throw Barb under the bus, err van, and say that Yahoo/Google had "helped" her with directions and had us off the highway to "cut the corner" from 69 to 94. Near Detroit Marcus (right?) made a "recalculating" error that brought us about 8 feet from guardrail head-on "fun", but averted disaster at the last second. Probably thanks to his 3 gallon jug of Hawaiian Punch/return trip pee jug.
So we ended up getting there a bit later and the other van had gone on to Chili's, some local Detroit Tex-Mex place.
We wanted to start the PTO without them (man, I already forget what that stands for...parking lot tailgating org maybe...get ur krunk on is the jist) so we looked for a liquor store. One of the ladies (g/f of Fireman Pacer?) in the van was familiar with all things Michigan and told us we needed to find a Party Place, which to me falls under the "well no s***" answer, but is actually what they call places you buy alcohol, like an ABC store or something. We found one, and that was what it was called. And it's really a party place, it has every single item you ever ran out of at any party ever. When you ran out of bobbing apples and cotton swabs and Courvoisier at that one Halloween party, this place had you covered. Also, slushies.
Beers bought, me with an almost Cuba Libre (lime juice sold out, so just rum n coke, meh) we went to the $10 parking lot and got our drink on. That lasted about 5 minutes and we decided to find Will Call and get some of the tickets that had been left there instead. This brought us face to face with THOUSANDS of people coming 3-4 hours early for a Pistons game!?! WTF ?!? Later we found out that it was partially workers and partially families who had kids there for Hoopers party. You know, the world famous Hooper (so like, Burt Reynolds is here tonite, I don't know). We later found out that a "Hooper" is that lame horse mascot having one of those macot b-day parties that I've now seen about 5 of (seriously, Rowdy had one in Houston last year).
Also CAMERA PEOPLE, while we were up there I asked about my camera and they gave me the "no problem" without even looking at it. I had the standard "BILF approved" short lens that I haven't been able to take to several other arenas, but I wonder if I'd had my longer 200mm if they'd let that go to. Maybe in the "who are we to say no" mode of needing fans. However, NO BAGS. So if you go I think you'll get shut down on a camera bag. I didn't have mine to find out.
Okay, so everything in pre-game lock down, 2 airline rums in coke bottle gone, and 3 hours still to go with the other van and the Pacero car not there yet, a bunch of us trekked across the "highway" to the nearest and onliest restaurant/bar by the Palace. The place was nice and we caught zero grief or stares from people as far as I could tell, which was the theme right up until tip-off. Standard bar stuff and it's actually a pretty nice layout. We did almost die trying to walk across to/from the place due to the whole divided 4-6 lane road thing.
My favorite moment was while drying my hands in the bathroom two guys are talking and one says "if this gets to be another blow out, what do you want to do..." How great is that, they are making plans for the possible destruction.
Back at the parking lot the Airport Crew arrived, Gumby arrived, Pacers Ironman (is that the theme, not sure?), etc. Marcus, who is not driving back, is in the tank as much as me so I feel right at home. Not one person even batted an eye at a new guy joining in. Just biz as usual. The guys wig/mask/suit up and off we go as a pretty healthy group into the Palace. They wand pretty heavily and it definitely seems a bit more security conscious than BILF, but as Pacers fans we caught no extra grief.
So it's 45 min or so before the game. The Pistons come out to shoot...we boo, loudly. Pacers come out...we start going through the A55/G2 player specific chants. We see Danny. He starts getting a chant. How loud are we? Players are giving us waves or point outs for our cheers, and I'd almost swear West was bopping along to some of them (he does headphones I know, but this seemed in unison and only when we were going). Gotta think that got them a little fired up.
This is when the first security girl showed up. We have basically rows 1-4 of a section, about 20 seats, with plenty of people sitting behind us and a few next to us. It's not packed, but even on the end where we were it wasn't empty. So the thing is with A55/G2, you ain't sittin'. That's not going to fly, which is no problem for me. But between "distracting" chants and just constant standing, a lot of fans were getting a non-standard "viewing experience". I have no idea if one of them complained, but I'm betting they did.
Security girl says nothing specific, just "respect those around you" which we took to be a euphemism for "maybe could you sit down", but since it wasn't overt or an order, that's not happening. She leaves. No fans around us have said anything, but some clearly are sensing that moving might be a good idea. There are plenty of empty sections to move to, and on the side at the same row level, so really if I were them that's what I'd do anyway. I'll spoiler this part by saying that by the end of the game the 4-5 rows behind us were empty and no one but us was left in our rows. Just an island of empty seats surrounding us.
Sidebar - A55/G2 are organized as hell. You know that of course, but I mean even on the fly. It's like Operation Wall St. The group has pretty good order and can quickly defer to keep everyone on the same page as needed. Guys have different ideas on how to handle it, but over the course of the game there were no arguments except for fun and really there are no points where the group doesn't act as one unit. That's a big key to how loud it is.
Having said that, I'm a courtside guy so you just can't shut down my instinct for courtside style taunts over chants, so I did a little heckle "jazz" and through out my taunts to fill in the notes between the notes. I'm pretty fond of "its the orange round thing in the middle" after a run of bad shooting by the other team.
And having said "having said that", the other thing they are good about is keeping the stuff pretty positive, not dirty or nasty toward the other team (I'd say I'm way snarkier when I get going, ie a bit mean). This helped later in the night when avoiding a fight was needed.
Okay, so this part is easy enough to fill in. You've been to games, imagine the normal A55/G2. That's what you heard. And that is ALL you heard. I could hear the echo of us at times. The place was far from full, but it wasn't empty. I took a photo from another section over on the side looking back toward our group, and looking from the outside like that our group was pretty small. It's 50 vs 10-15K. So even if they could only put a small group in unison, they should easily be able to out cheer us with just 500 of that attendance. And they did not (but they tried later).
So now you get some more security visits. Again, smiles, just keep it friendly, and the security guy literally walks down our row. Not the aisle, I mean THROUGH US. He's not telling us to stop, he's not looking for anything that I can tell. This is literally just a show of force. Meh, no biggie, doesn't bug me, doesn't seem to bother or deter any of us. However when this guy comes through later in the game he does CROP DUST us. Intentional? Hard to say, but definitely possible.
We've been waiting for Danny to check in. You can feel the buzz in the group even in the midst of this non-normal situation there is this other thing lingering on the edge. We see the sweat bottoms come off and the knee flexing begin. Oh baby. We are pointing, yelling to each other, prepping for it. After the time out he comes in and we go into a massive, loudest-thing-of-the-night DAN-KNEE, DAN-KNEE. Epic. The Pistons have been awful, the crowd is shook, and this really catches them off guard. It's a road game for the Pistons at this point.
Unfortunately Danny misses shots and the Pistons make a run. Here was the first sign that the crowd was angry because they started getting into it. Yes Detroit closed the gap a bit, but they never took the lead and barely sniffed any kind of "back in range" moment where they were clearly better suddenly and had a real shot. This was the bench and Granger just back, not the starters. But man did the fans start getting louder for a bit.
This is what I've seen in DAL, GSW and Sacto where we (Gnome, me, Frezno 4) were at our loudest/tauntiest. You do that and the crowd starts wanting to cheer you down. When it's just 2-6 of you that can be done if the team helps (the Kings didn't). But 40 organized vs random crowd with team not really making a serious comeback? Please.
Fireman Pacer (name please, he was in my van even) reads a tweet - they just showed you on TV, which he yells to us like the excited Nintendo Kid. He gets the expected reaction of "yeah, they put us on TV all the time", especially since with a road game like this you know they are going to. But we are seeing those tweets saying it's coming through on TV and radio in the background. At one point someone tweets that they can hear our "Boom Baby". It doesn't fire us up more because honestly there wasn't a much higher level we could go to, but it's fun to know it's working as well as you could hope.
Pacers get it going again with the starters and by halftime the outcome is looking certain. The Pistons have an epic fail first half of scoring going, it's a disaster these fans have seen before. I thought this would break their spirit. I was wrong.
Anyway, we go to half and as I mentioned it's Hoopers b-day. So Boomer (the uniform) is there along with the 1/2 size Benny the Bull and a few others. Standard stuff, but it was ultra bizarre seeing Boomer there with how we were cheering all game. But you know it's not the real Boomer or tied with Pacers (I assume) when he doesn't come up to our section at any point. I think the real Boomer would have done that, so it was kinda like seeing a con-artist. Still that didn't stop us from doing Boomer chants and cheers during the routines. Mascot dunk - we cheer Booomer. They gang tackle Boomer - we boo. Inflatable Boomer (yep, they had him too) gets his own Boomer chant. So even the mascot party is kinda being ruined. It's epic. It's turning into Brawl payback a little, it's that bad.
TIMEOUT for COCKTAILS - I can't skip halftime without giving the Palace huge props for some outstanding mixed drink bars. Not just some 10 bottles of various standard rums, vodka, etc, but actual cocktail stuff with actual cocktails listed. Classic and crazy stuff. I see El Presidente on the board. I see Hurricane on the board. El Presidente is rum, vermouth, curacuo, touch of Grenedine. It's as old school as they come and you have to explain it at most bars. But here it's a main menu item. Now when I order it the girl has to ask for help from another bartender because people never order it I guess (like 2 in the last few months), but still it got made right and was on the menu.
Later I came back for a Hurricane, also not from mix which kicks butt in terms of bar coolness. And a DIFFERENT drink stand (ie, BILF has like 3 identical "mixed drink" vendor spots) right next to this one has stuff listed like Gin Martini (vs non-standard Vodka martini). I get one and they even ask if I want it dirty (I don't). Holy s***, I love this place. It's like Ball and Biscuit but in a freaking arena concourse. The martini is in a plastic martini glass. The guy has me sip off the first pour to empty the rest off the shaker like a real bar.
So say what you will about Piston fans, but their actual arena is pretty awesome. I happen to be a cocktail fanatic so this stood out, but trust me that the concourse design, color schemes, paint, seat quality, everything was pretty top notch. Frankly the fans deserve less. There will be photos. It's not retro cool like BILF, but in terms of glossy new arenas it's pretty sharp.
Okay, so during the 2nd half it started getting chippy. Peanuts got thrown toward us. Ushers were told. One guy just before half started talking s*** to us and got chanted down with a 30-40 strong "Scoreboard" chant. He's still yapping coming out of halftime but none of us are paying attention to him at this point. Kinda sad.
Another guy behind us is trying to shout out stuff about the game, and is starting to turn on us basically. "PEYTON MANNING SUCKS!". I laugh thinking that his "Danny Granger" sounded like "Peyton Manning". Hey, did he just say Peyton Manning, ha ha. Then someone else says "did he just say Peyton Manning" and you realize that it is what he said. This makes it so much funnier. This gets taunted with "he's in Den-ver" or something. Also there is some single cat calling going out from our group which gets reigned in so this doesn't turn into a real fight.
He switches to "Championship" and "Tayshaun Prince" as a reference to the Prince block of Reggie, 2 guys no longer involved with these teams. This does not work in his favor because it breaks us out into "Where is Tay-Shaun" loudly. The more he presses us the more it gets us back on our game. We are back into full-on "Dee Dee Dee Dee-fence" and a slew of scattered Ric Flair "woos" which is my favorite because it's not all at once but just 2-3 people at a time feeding off each other so it just keeps going and is so freaking annoying if you aren't involved.
But this dude doesn't stop. More peanuts, ice or stuff. Not "holy s**, we are in trouble". This is the sneaky, cowardly, every now and then style. Harmless but douchy.
PERSONAL TAUNT MEMORY - I don't know how much the rest of the group was paying attention or really understood my sense of humor, but I swear the following is true and is right in line with my "don't take that s*** Larry Sanders" right before he lost it last year. For whatever reason after a Will Bynum foul or TO with our group cheering, I went into a loud, sarcastic "You shut up about Will Bynum, he's my favorite, you leave him alone" rant. I've just randomly decided that now I'm a massive Will Bynum fan. Why? Because they are getting killed and Bynum is an odd guy to like and it just feels silly.
Maybe 1 minute later Will punches Tyler. I am loving this, I can't believe it just happened. Now I get to go into even more "Will Bynum, you're my favorite" taunts. The court probably couldn't hear me even, but god I'd like to dream that they could. Maybe I'm just entertaining myself and confusing everyone else, but I can't get over the timing and randomness of my choice.
Also for their Russian (or whatever) center I basically went through all the names of other Russians I could think of when taunting him. "You're the best Garry Kasparov".
A section on the other side of us organizes and starts some chants. It's about 8 people, not as organized and with no specific chants. We crush them like Drago on Apollo.
But we've stirred up the animals and it bears a striking similarity to the Brawl. Their team is getting killed and most fans of most teams would just be sick of the whole spectacle. People in other cities would be more like "well at least your team is good and you support them, I wish our team was good". Like we hate the "fake" Miami and NYK fans and get a bit annoyed with Bulls fans. But if Squad 6 or some OKC fan group or Memphis fan group came to the BILF a few years ago when JOB was coaching, how angry would you be at them vs sad that our own team was crap.
It would bug you, but it wouldn't make you want to fight those people. To some extent you have to admire fans that travel, and I'd say that Gnome and I have gotten nothing but that wherever we go. Even on my solo games I end up talking to fans about their team, their arena, etc and they are amazed to find out that you travel to see your team.
But these Piston fans are pretty hateful. Not all I'm sure. I'd say that at times we ran into fans in the arena/concourse that were way more friendly about it like Gnome and I are used to. But the people that are hanging around to jaw at us with the game way out of reach...that's where it's Brawl like.
A dude on the lower level right near the baseline (ie, pretty nice seat) is standing looking up at us FLIPPING US OFF during the 4th. Your team is getting crushed, we are a 50 yards away, and you are flipping us off. Haters gonna hate...or maybe it was KStat. zing
So when it comes time to leave security has returned and is hanging with us. We've all agreed to stay as a group to let the others clear out, and then to travel as a group, and it seems like security has something similar in mind. When we finally go they wait till we completely clear out and then FOLLOW US in the concourse "just to make sure". I don't think they were there to keep us from hurting others, I got the sense that they knew their fanbase or that section of people (gasoline alley fans vs snakepit fans).
We get outside and go over to the team bus area to wait. It's setup so one of the main parking lot exits is right by it. People left the game early and we didn't run right out ourselves, but there is still a surprising number of people still leaving. Constrast this with our PD talks after the game and the empty garage by the time we break it up.
The problem with this is that windows come down to flip us off or Pacers sucks or whatever. They get the same treatment as the rest - Scoreboard or Go Pacers. It's a wedding reception line of haters getting dumped on one last time. It takes forever the bus to come out and by the time it does we are freezing. I don't think either bus (media/team) even acknowledged us which was a bummer, but the wait allowed us to taunt every single Piston player as they left, or most of them. We started joking that seeing our dedication vs their fanbase had them calling agents looking for a trade.
Also a guy that Pacero ran into while smoking came up and started more friendly taunting while we waited for the bus. Again, he got the same treatment as the rest though he was a lot more fun about it. Pacero said he was his favorite of the night.
At some point Pacero called into the Eddie White show while we were waiting I guess, but I didn't hear it. Maybe MagicRat or someone else captured it because that would be great.
When we left we had the same broken groups, vans headed back to Indy, some cars going to the hotel (SportsGirl and Pacero group went there for sure). Note about the hotel - when they checked in the clerk first tried to say they didn't have any rooms and when he gave them a room he said "it's down there and I hope you die tonight". Oh Detroit, the charms of Savannah with the weather of Hawaii. PS - they didn't die so in your face.
Our van wanted to find a restroom before we settled in, maybe some food for some of the group. This began the Voyage of a Thousand U-Turns, followed by the sequel, Journey to the Center of the Ghetto. Or maybe that's just Detroit. All I know is that when they give you your food using a protective glass lazy susan and buzz you into the restroom, it's probably not the place for out of towners to be at 11:30 SAT night. They had a ghetto White Castle that we didn't go to because of the bathroom aspect. What I mean is that this WC was specifically designed like an army bunker and was drive-through only. It looked like a photohut with a cement food storage area added onto it. All the regular fast food places were closed, so we really had no choice.
I didn't have anything except a few fries, but the reviews from those who ate were pretty thumbs up all things considered.
And look, I'm a downtowner. Just being inner-city isn't ghetto. But places that are clearly designed to stop gunpoint hold ups...they don't make them that way just for laughs.
The drive home was long, boring and somehow more uncomfortable than the drive up. But everyone was great about it. No complaints, not even from the small girl (4-6?) that handled it like a champ both ways.
The main theme for the van was "Punch it", meaning punch the gas. We got a lot of comedy miles out of that one, even at 4 AM.
Anyway, not a smooth ending but I just did a few hours brain dump of all I could brainstorm. Others had different stories so this gives them a jump off point to add them in or to remind me on twitter if they want to keep lurking. I'll do photos tomorrow, at least some of them. I'm trying to go through the game photos mostly to see what's worth showing and what's just more of the same.