Up close and personal
Spent Saturday afternoon/early evening with my son watching Leicester Riders in the semi-finals of basketball's play-offs. I watch a lot of sport, but there is something special about basketball and it's to do with the closeness of the players and fans and the way the fans are invited into the game. Ok, it's very American - and very loud - but you do feel part of what's going on.
The players are no more than a few yards away and you can hear everything that is being said - and like rugby, there's no reason to worry that your 11-year-old can hear it as well! The respect between the players and that shown to the referee is also clear - I watched as a couple of Riders' stars went up to the refs before the game started: it wasn't a perfunctory shake of the hands, it was a genuine mutual respect, a hand-shake, a hug, a shared joke and a shared wish that all would go well.
Earlier in the year I went to the BBL cup final - the Riders were there as the support act - and enjoyed my day just as much. I've also been to a couple of games during the regular season. Tony Paternostro has done a great job hauling the the Leicester team to a top 4 finish - he and the players deserve a lot more support from the city.
Don't get me wrong: the Riders were the best supported team at the play-offs by a country mile, but it was interesting to note that both the Newcastle team and the Everton team were sponsored by the same big businesses as their premiership football teams. Leicester have great local sponorship from Jelson Homes and DMU, but a few more fans and some more cash from our major sponsors would be welcome.
Well done Riders - and thanks for a great day out.