Two or three times a year, I catch a break and receive free tickets to see a Utah Jazz game. It's always a last-minute, nobody-else-at-work-can-use-them situation, but I'm comfortable being the lowest form of life on the corporate food chain -- free is free, baby.
I mention my good fortune not to boast, but to relate that I observed something unexpected on a recent trip to EnergySolutions Arena. And, no, the fact that the Jazz were drawn, quartered and served up rare at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers -- a 32-point loss -- wasn't the thing worth mentioning; I'm a die-hard Jazz fan, and by now I'm immune to seeing them beaten like Grandma's dirt-filled rug hanging from the backyard clothesline.
What I was completely unprepared for: the awe-inspiring sight of gigantic new high-resolution video screens that dwarf the old 10-by-10-foot low-res panels that had long ago been bested by the video displays in some high-school gymnasiums.
How amazing are the arena's new screens? The word Jumbotron does not do them justice. There are four of the giants -- two behemoths running lengthwise above the court that measure 42-by-24 feet each, or 10 times the size of the old screens. Then, facing the ends of the court are 26-by-17-foot monsters, almost five times the size of their predecessors.
Now, I was seated in a suite -- again, not bragging, just lucky -- which is situated about halfway to the arena's roof. And it wasn't until sometime midway through the second quarter that I realized I hadn't watched a single live moment on the playing floor. Instead, my eyes had been glued to the video screens, in all their crisp, clear, vibrant glory, with players 20 and 40 feet tall, instead of the distant, teensy, life-size figures on the court.
And I haven't even mentioned the rest of the Larry Miller organization's $15 million worth of arena upgrades. There are more, albeit smaller, video screens beneath the big ones so the folks in (even more) expensive courtside seats can watch replays, still other monitors in the upper corners of the auditorium that were displaying statistics and advertisements, three rings of LED screens pulsating with ad copy and images, and a sound system that's at least as loud as a mid-1970s Who concert.
I used to wonder how a Utah Jazz game's presentation could get more Vegas-like. These upgrades have answered that question with a vengeance.
I spent the game's second half actually forcing myself to watch the players instead of the video screens. And I gotta say: I'd rather watch the monitors. Which is all kinds of ironic, especially for the paying customers.
Think about it: I'm not sure how much the two tickets I had that night cost, but it had to be hundreds of dollars. Each. Granted, the experience shared with my wife included an impressive feast and the opportunity to sit alongside a co-worker and his wife. But as for the game itself, I could have been watching it at home on my 45-inch Samsung. (Insert your own having-to-suffer-through-Craig-Bolerjack-calling-the-game joke here.)
I'm not saying I would pass up Jazz tickets in the future if they happen to sift through company management and float all the way down to my humble cubicle. It's fun to experience the sensory overload, the Jazz Bear's stunts and the adrenaline-juiced buzz of a communal roar when Derrick Favors takes an alley-oop pass and jams it.
But in making the EnergySolutions Arena closer to a man-cave experience, I wonder if the Jazz organization has made paying that kind of money for a game MORE attractive, or LESS.
Email Don Porter at firstname.lastname@example.org.