When it comes to home sporting events around these parts, perhaps there hasn’t been one more highly anticipated than Sunday.
With the Milwaukee Bucks making their first appearance in the NBA Finals since 1974, the excitement surrounding the team — even in the face of a 2-0 deficit to the Phoenix Suns before Sunday night’s resounding victory — had pretty much reached a fever pitch.
It’s hard to go anywhere these days without seeing fans of all ages and backgrounds donning some piece of Bucks apparel. And that’s not all that surprising, as the fandom around a team always intensifies with success.
And certainly, I can count myself among those fans who have followed this team through some great years in the 1980s and into the 1990s, but also some lean times when they were one of the worst franchises in the league.
So, yeah, this trip to the NBA Finals is something special for me as well.
But even more special was the chance to witness Sunday’s home game and the madness that surrounded it first hand as a fan with a ticket into the Fiserv Forum.
And it certainly didn’t disappoint. Not even a little bit.
This was thanks to my amazing and overly generous girlfriend, Katie, who made it all happen when she worked the computer immediately after the Bucks clinched their trip to the finals. With the tickets she secured for Sunday, we found ourselves among the throngs of fans two hours before tip off waiting for entry into the Fiserv.
The whole ticket purchase thing was chaos itself, as they were being gobbled up as quickly as they were made available. But Katie was persistent for sure, and after several tries, the purchase was made and a bucket list item was about to be moved into the “done” column.
Deer District madness
Before we got into the arena, though, there was the whole Deer District thing that needed to be addressed.
As crazy and wild as the atmosphere looks like on television in the Deer District, being just feet away from it, not only coming into the arena but leaving it several hours later, drove that point home.
Oh to be 25 years younger again.
The faces in that crowd outside the arena certainly matched the expected age and energy level, but it definitely was a sight to see with what an estimated 25,000 fans, who didn’t have a ticket inside crammed, on top of each other outside to live and breathe every single play from a number of huge television screens.
While there were more fans outside the walls of Fiserv — which has a seating capacity of just more than 17,000 —than inside, the excitement level in the seats, even perched high up in section 218, was thick and real. And just like you could expect from a home game in the championship round.
The NBA Finals are just like the Super Bowl, the World Series, the National Championship in college basketball. This is the pinnacle of this sport, and to be one of those inside, it’s hard to describe from a fan’s perspective.
Every single play Sunday night seemed to bring the fans to their feet. Strangers exchanging high-fives, waving towels and even getting into mostly well-natured jabs with the handful of Phoenix Suns fans who managed to find a seat all were part of the experience. This certainly wasn’t any normal game, that is for sure.
And they all are moments I’ll certainly never forget.
The other game in town
Not to be forgotten in the excitement was a trip to American Family Field on Sunday afternoon to take in the Milwaukee Brewers — who are in first place headed into the All-Star Break — and second-place Cincinnati.
Those tickets also were a gift from a friend, and even though the Brewers didn’t fulfill their end of the bargain, the buzz around the stadium there, although not nearly as high as in the Fiserv, also was palpable.
Not a bad twin bill of a sports day, I’d say.
The common thread in our day in the big city was that people are excited, people are coming back outside in droves, and people are proud of their two statewide teams that are enjoying huge success.
After the last 18 months or so of despair, hearing the words “COVID-19” and “pandemic” far too many times, that’s more than refreshing.
The city and state is abuzz with these two teams, and with the win Sunday night, the Bucks are back in the conversation for a possible championship. It would be the first since the year I was born. It’s quite the scene to see, read and hear positive news coming out of Milwaukee and out of Wisconsin, that’s for sure.
And for one day, I was right in the middle of it.
Not a bad way to spend a Sunday.
Dan Truttschel is a reporter with the Kenosha News.