The Barcelona Experience
This is my first blog post since running a Hornets based Polish fansite back in the early 10′s of the 21st century so I might be a little rusty on that part. I hope this will be readable.
Everything started last year in Rome where I was watching the Toronto Raptors take on the newly formed powerhouse of the Boston Celtics. My whole experience with the Nba Europe Live Tour was incredible, even though it was just a preaseason game I still felt I had a chance to touch the nba for the first time, Live.
When I heard about the Hornets coming in to Europe in the 2008 I already knew I would be there rooting for my team wherever it would be. First I wanted to visit both the distant Spanish Barcelona or the close to home Berlin in our neighbour Germany. But I’ve chosen to go to Barcelona with my friends.
When many people say they are dedicated fans they think it’s insane to just go to games and scream, well I guess I was on the other side of that “dedication”. I started my trip on Wednesday, October 16th on the train station in Gdansk-Wrzeszcz, and for those who don’t know the Polish reality this might be suprised that getting to my captiol, Warsaw took a total of 6 hours. 330 kilometers (around 120 miles) laying on the floor because all of the people suddenly wanted to get there during the cold Polish October night. But at 5am I was at the central train station and just a cab trip away I was waiting for my plane to take me to the sunny Spain. Well and 5 hours later I was in the Boeing 737 on road to my first ever live Hornets game. Althought the first part of the trip was hard and exhausting I knew I was ready for this trip. I had a backpack full of posters that I wanted to get signed by the players and my Hornets flag and a heart full of enthusiasm for Basketball based weekend.
We arrived in Barcelona, quickly checked in the Spanish hostel, fortunately people over there were talking in English so there was no problem in getting the reservations approved. Couple of minutes later we were ready for the trip to Palau Saint Jordi. Once again we had a long trip on our hands, thanks to a guy working in a store that was selling F.C. Barcelona merchendise we went to the arena from a different way than all the other fans were going, hence almost an hour trip up the hill additionally with no idea if the game was at the time we thought it was. The Spanish weather wasn’t helping at all but still we knew that the higher goal of the night was seeing the New Orleans Hornets.
Once at the arena sight we saw a big line which in the upcoming 30 minutes got longer and longer to the point of fan frustration from many of the nba supporters. On the other hand we were able to see all different fans from the Celtics to the Warriors but most importantly we saw number of New Orleans jersey. Who would have expected this at the moment OKC official were claiming that there was no market in New Orleans? How come from a team that was unsure of their future, Jeff Bower built a championship contender? We could ask a lot more of these questions but there will be just one answer in the end, Chris Paul. He did all of this with his court vision, with his charisma and the way he is professional about what he does. Adding all the pieces around this player made me proud of seeing New Orleans on chests of those spanish and international fans waiting there.
Minutes after getting the tickets we saw another line, this time to get into the arena, well it was already time to celebrate for me because I was so close to fullfilling one of my life dreams. I took out my Fleur-De-Bee flag and started walking around, an nba photographer was going around and was kind enough to take a picture of me with the flag, I told him I had posters and we would make more pictures. That’s when i was able to meet one of the die hard Hornets fan, England_Hornet. After a brief chat and some “bloody” english wording we were ready to get in the Palau Saint Jordi.
Inside I was already on a mission, getting as close as possible was just a phase one. Sitting in the 6th row wasn’t enough so we got real close to the fence, seeing that Chris Paul was already sitting there with his brother/manager CJ. We were able to talk to CJ for a moment and he helped us get CP3 to sign my poster and my friend’s cards. After that I already said to myself “it was worth it”. My plan was to get atleast one autograph from my favourite players Chris Paul / Morris Peterson. Fortunately right after Chris went to the locker room other players got to the court. First I tried to talk some Serbian to Peja but he wasn’t responding, and right after that second part of my plan was in the works. Mo Pete was shooting his 3′s and I was screaming after each made one and putting my poster up, Mo was in a shooter’s coma, couldn’t hear all the fans shouting. After a few minutes he actually looked our way and saw my friend’s Toronto Raptors jersey and I think that was the moment when he snapped and decided to get some autographs our way. We were lucky enough to get his signature on our stuff and later on fans came so close to the Three Point Assassin that the Spanish guard had to do some yelling to not get fired.
I was already insanely happy and then I saw him. Like a knight in the shining armour, my childhood hero, always looking sharp in his white sneakers, the man, the legend, HUGO. I actually have an autograph from him saying “to one of my most dedicated fans” but this experience was a lot more than just signing autographs and seeing the mascot, team, players it was so much more that I can’t even define it in words.
After that we were ready to watch the game, right after the first jumpball we saw how different was Italy and Spain. Over there people looked like they got their tickets at work and would get fired if they didn’t attend the game, in spain they knew what this was about. Little 5 year olds behind me saying millions of ununderstandable words ended their sentence each time with a loud [insert player name here]. They are passionate about basketball, they know why they came there, and they know how to make the mexican wave like no one else. Additionally during one of the timeouts I was lucky enough to get on the big screen with my flag, well me and a bunch of Spanish dudes who then made contact with Joey Crawford that he couldn’t stop laughing.
The game was great, yes I know it’s the preseason but if the last year premonition was true about the Celtics going all the way then I know what is going to happen after this season is over.
I stayed in Barcelona for two more days and my trip home took 22 hours from going out of the Hostel until I was in my bed in Gdansk-Wrzeszcz.
It all was worth it, and I would do it again, let me tell you I would even be crazy enough to take that trip by train for 6 hours sleeping on the floor and then flying for next 10 hours just to get to the New Orleans Arena, and who knows what god or karma has in store for me?
And here is what my friend caught over there by the stands.