Let's see if I can squeeze this in. Must... use... brevity...
OK, so I managed to score a ticket to the Wizards-Bulls game last Friday night. The Wizards managed to put together a non-offensive season, and they made perhaps the smartest move any Washington team has ever made when they suspended the awful and childish Kwame Brown for the rest of the season.
Going to an NBA game by yourself is not the most fun thing in the world, but at least [product-placed phone company] Center was packed and somewhat loud, instead of half-empty and eerily quiet like it usually is. And although I'm Just Not That Into the NBA as I used to be, I was happy enough to be there. I had a fairly good seat in Section 400. There was a Friendly Black Guy sitting to my right who was there with his wife and daughter, and they were way too into the game to listen to his deep insights on the game, so I got to listen to him instead (No, really? They need to rebound the ball more? You don't say). But that was OK, since at least that gave me someone to crack jokes to at the expense of fourth-quarter-opening-act C&C Music Factory. ("Everybody Dance Now!" I would have been really impressed 13 years ago. Or if they had gone with "Things That Make You Go Hmmm" instead.)
Anyway, it's a decent game, although nobody on either team wants to hit any shots. Jared Jeffries makes an impressive steal and dunk for a two-point lead, and there's a time-out. The Bulls are inbounding the ball to try to tie it up with about 30 seconds left.
And that's when a guy fell on me.
The family of six in the row directly behind me had inexplicably left the game early; dude came crashing down on me from two rows back, so he had some good momentum going. Thanks to my lightning quick reflexes, I managed to grab on to the guys on either side of me... that was Friendly Black Guy on my right and Random Other Alone Guy on my left. Also, fortunately didn't hurt the sprained ankle any worse. ROAG on my left and I took most of the impact, but we weren't hurt and didn't fall.
The guy who fell on me really looked like a choad. I don't even know how to describe the jacket he was wearing. It had like these... weird bulgy patches, like elbow and shoulder pads. Oooh, you know the Wizards' NBA standard-issue trampoline-jumping mascot, G-Man? He's got this suit with comically inflated musculature:
Imagine a jacket that has that bulgy, plastic-ish material at the elbows and shoulders. Really bizarre, and surely some kind of suburban fad the kids are into these days. It almost looked like someone was trying to create the Jacket Of The Future, and this kid got a hold of the prototype and decided to wear it to a playoff game. For that reason... his nickname is now "Jackoff."
Anyway, Jackoff falls on me and ROAG, and it's clearly an accident. Nobody goes tumbling forward two rows in a basketball arena on purpose. Luckily, we weren't hurt, just a little surprised. And, after regaining my balance, the close game had already started back up, so I basically was trying to keep one eye on the game and one eye on Jackoff and ROAG to make sure they were OK.
However, apparently ROAG was not willing to take being fallen on in stride as I was. Jackoff apologized, I think, and said something to the effect that his buddies had pushed him and he had fallen. This was not enough for ROAG, who, after a few more words spoken between the two, threw a punch at jackoff.
Now, this is already not a smart move by ROAG. Jackoff is half his age, and has a distinct height and reach advantage. Nevertheless, he says something to effect of "Fuck me?! FUCK YOU!!!" and throws a quick right hook into Jackoff's chest. Jackoff responds by punching back. A couple more quick blows are traded, and I'm looking on, half in shock, kind of wishing I had gotten between the two to try to smooth things over before they had come to blows... but honestly, I guess I thought ROAG was going to let it go, and he threw a punch before I realized what was happening.
Then Jackoff uses his momentum to shove ROAG over the seats in front of us. ROAG tumbles down, partially lands on the girl in front of him, and then down one more row of seats before coming to a stop on the floor, thanks to some more people who broke his fall.
I'm basically standing there not believing what I'm seeing. This was one of the stupidest things I'd seen at a sporting event... and I had seen the RFK grounds crew fail to pull the tarp over the baseball diamond during a rainstorm, causing the infield to be covered in a foot of water, just the week before. Who pushes somebody downstairs in a crowded arena, where they're surely going to land on and hurt somebody? That's just hugely stupid. Somebody could have gotten seriously hurt.
Jackoff bounded back up to his seat two rows back, probably to avoid trouble. ROAG stood up and was OK. The girl he landed on was in some pain, but was able to stand up.
The two combatants stayed at their new seat locations and didn't threaten to resume the fight, which was good. I asked the girl if she was OK; somebody said "no", but she was standing and seemed all right. Of course, there are no ushers to be seen, and since the game was about to end anyway and the fight had stopped, there was no reason to go get them.
But, man. The whole thing was just head-shakingly stupid. And even more bizarrely: Friendly Black Guy missed the whole fight, because he was so locked in on the game.
"What happened?" he said.
"They were throwing punches," I said, still concerned about the girl who might be hurt.
"Oh. ... Juan really needs to make these free throws."
So, that's how the game ended... everybody else celebrated, while I was somewhat in a state of incredulous shock and looking to get out of there as quickly as possible. I walked outside, down F Street, past the victory party, still kind of in a daze at the ridiculous behavior I had just witnessed.
Now, I know that fights at sporting events happen. They're stupid, but they happen, especially in the North, where fans tend to take sports way too super-seriously. People drink and get into fights with rival fans. And, since we tend to encompass everything bad about the North, that's on the list. We're like Philly, but without the delicious cheese steaks. Or we're like New York, but without the everything awesome. Or we're like Detroit, but without the... um... uh, or we're like Detroit.
But this was different. Neither of these guys was drunk, and they were rooting for the same team. This was just... awful, hateful behavior. "Oh, you have the nerve to fall on me? I think you deserve a beating!" "Oh yeah? Well, let's see how the people in front of us feel about that after you fall on them!"
Now, a word about this blog. It should be noted that I occasionally go through phases where I Think I'm Wrong. Sometimes, I'll think... maybe it's me. Maybe I'm being unreasonable; plenty of people live in Washington all their lives, and they like it just fine, and they don't go into conniption fits like I do. Maybe my expectations for people and big cities are just too high.
That's why, for the past four months or so, I had resigned myself to just complacently living out the rest of my term in Washington, which I expect to last the rest of the year. Basically, I've been coming to work, sitting at my desk, going through the motions, trying not to think about any hopes and dreams I might have once had, and trying not to let crappy Washington bother me too much.
I, basically, forced myself not to care. I stopped thinking about my crappy apartment. I stopped thinking about the boring dead-end bottom-feeding job I've been working at. Stopped thinking about all the unique things I love about living in cities. Stopped thinking about the high cost of living. Stopped thinking about the poverty and the suburbs and the politicians and the way we treat each other. I tried to put out of my mind.
As I walked back to the Metro on Friday, still angry about the game, and I witnessed two car jockeys arguing over who had the rights to an empty street space, it all came rushing back: all the anger and desperation I've felt since Day One of living here. I was re-reminded of it. I've had a ringside seat to all of the hatred and injustice for nearly four years now, and, for some reason, I expected to be able to reconcile living alongside it for a little while.
There's no way. I can't do it. I can't wrap my head around Washington. This place is too fucked up.
Ultimately, I'm glad this happened. Because it reminds me that I'm Not Wrong. All you people who think this is a great place to live? I have to say, and I mean this in the nicest way possible: OPEN YOUR FUCKING EYES. It's FUCKING AWFUL, and it doesn't take a whole lot of work to see that. We have, somehow, created a city that encompasses everything bad about living in a city, with almost none of the good things. I thought I could be one of those people who sits around contentedly, ignoring how the people around me behave, trying to deny what I've observed. But that's like trying to get excited about eating at TGIFriday's. I can't do that. And I can't say it any more clearly than this:
NORMAL PEOPLE DON'T BEHAVE THE WAY PEOPLE BEHAVE IN WASHINGTON. PERIOD. The only way I'll be able to survive is if I make that my mantra.
OK! Well, so much for brevity. Everybody dance now.