Secret Santa, that's how we handle adult Christmas gifts in my wife's extended family. We don't need any more crap so we slim it down to a nice little exchange and post a wish list. That wish list was the first nail in my coffin.
"Tickets to a Kings game in Oakland."
My brother-in-law hooked me up with some nice lower-bowl corner seats at Oracle. Kids slept over at the grandparent's house and my wife and I threw on our Kings gear, hopped on BART from SF and headed towards doomsday. In all my years as a Kings fan - since day one of the Sacramento era - I have never been more humiliated, shamed and beaten down by my beloved Kings. I've seen some real bad basketball up close over the years. I once had court-side seats to a Kings vs. Celtics game as a teenager, a game which they lost by 30. I took my son to his first Kings game, a 40 point demolition by the Denver Nuggets. There's about 10-15 similar games in which I have sat in a seat and hung my head in sorrow. None of them felt as mind-numbingly horrific as what went down last Friday against the Golden State Warriors.
It's now all a blur, but here is what I remember...
6:45pm - Approaching the arena, the sky was beautiful, a broken mix of recently spent rain clouds, sunlight streaming through like a heavenly ray of hope. "SACRAMENTO KINGS WOOOOOO!!!" I look across the lot and see two dudes in A's gear (there's a soon to be canceled A's game getting started in the Colosseum next door, sorry brothers) wandering over. "REP HARD, GO KINGS, SACRAMENTO BABY!!!" We slap five and I wander on, bolstered and full of hope.
7:00pm - Smooth as silk we roll in and see Kings gear right and left. High fives, nods, shouts and good vibes are overflowing. We pick up a couple Ranger IPA's and slide into our seats. Scanning the scene I see the Kings fans scattered throughout, the downtrodden heroes of my night. My comrades, my people. There's some dope Polynesian dancing going down and a lady about ten rows back is screaming, "You get it, girl, you GO! THAT'S SEXY ASS SHIT!!!" We are laughing, loving life. IT steps out in some sweats and is working on some shooting drills. I smile, wishing he was playing but excited to see what McCallum brings to the table against Curry.
7:15pm - I scream so loud when they announce the Kings starters that those around me are getting pissed. My wife tells me to cool it and we bicker. A guy next to her was covering his ears, but damn. This is sports! What will he do when they crank up the Warriors shit? Huh?! Our bickering is short lived though, I'm not here to waste time debating fandom. I'm here to witness glory for Sacramento and to enjoy the battle ahead. And then the game started.
7:37pm - Cousins puts the Kings up 2-0 with a sweet mid-range swish. "OH HELL YEAH! BOOOOOGIE!!!" The highlight of an evening of non-stop lows. Serious lows.
7:40pm - Cousins is on the bench with two fouls in 45 seconds or whatever the hell it was.
7:41pm - 9 - Brick, brick, brick, brick. Steal, dunk. Clinic. Beatdown. Laugher. Mutilation. The woman next to me says, "Sorry dude. Hey, remember that time when the Kings had Webber and Divac, Peja, Bibby...that was awesome." This is the third time a Warriors fan says this to me on this night and subsequently it is uttered more times than I have fingers to count.
9:05pm or so: More Polynesian Dancing. Hips cracking, dudes doing this kooky, rad-ass shuffle dance, beats and fun. A respite from the dull, plodding embarrassment.
Why am I reliving this shit?!
At some point, at the advice of a guy a few seats away ("Dude, you need to go get more beer for this one! HAHAHAHA!") I headed up for a brew. There, in the hall were about 10 Kings fans getting tanked, commiserating. They let out a cheer at my approach. Each patted my back and we all shook our heads. Strangers gave me hugs and I hugged strangers. One guy grabbed my shoulder and said, "I don't know you , man, but I got love for you."
I looked him in the eye. "We are all here. And our team stayed. We believed and it happened."
He shook my hand and patted my back. "Man, I love this team."
"Me too. Can't help it."
A high five and I was off, back to my seat to watch the rest of the drubbing. On and on it went.
As we left Oracle, I saw a police car right outside the gate. There was my man, the guy I spoke with in our moment of community. He was in cuffs, staring ahead blankly. This was the shitty cap to a shitty night.
Long. Live. The. Kings.