Yours truly crashed the Nuggets Bowling Ball charity event at Lucky Strike last night and got to see the players and coaches in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. But my first question upon arrival was: why the @#$% didn't Denver Stiffs know about this event?!
Yesterday afternoon, a friend called me and said he had a ticket for me to attend a "private event" with the team. It turns out, the event was the Nuggets Bowling Ball; an annual event that raises money for youth programs throughout Colorado. When I got to Lucky Strike I immediately reached out to a number of people within the Nuggets organization and PR team and asked: "How come Denver Stiffs isn't being notified about these events? We're the most read Nuggets blog by far, representing thousands upon thousands of Nuggets readers and yet we didn't know about this?!" One person with the team countered: "You need to read the website."
This is a continuation of the frustration I've had with the organization in regards to getting notified about events, getting on the Nuggets press release list and getting Nate and I credentials. It's absurd. The Nuggets remain one of the more under-covered teams in the NBA (last time I checked we only have one major newspaper in this city), and yet they're being stingy about credentials for a site that has demonstrated not just an enormous and passionate readership, but knows how to appropriately interact with coaches, management and players. I'll be sending yet another cordial email today outlining these frustrations, and will probably have to get the powers-that-be at SB Nation involved, too. Credentials may be a tall order, but getting notified for charity events should be a no-brainer.
Ok. My rant is over.
About the event...
Not surprisingly, the event seemed to be about half-full attendance-wise from where the Nuggets probably wanted it to be (this is what happens when no one knows about your events). I'm sure they'll spin it as a big success, but growing up in a family that was involved in the night club and events business, I know a sparsely attended event when I see one. The good side of a sparsely attended event is that the players and coaches were able to relax, enjoy themselves and truly interact with the fans. From what I could tell, every player and coach on the team showed up on time and stayed fairly late...most were still there when I left. And that included Carmelo Anthony, who stood up his own charity event over the summer. In fact, Melo was solo and was actively looking for people to talk to and play pool with, which was good to see.
A lot of fans were carrying posters, photos and basketballs to be autographed, and the players graciously obliged when asked. It was different from your normal charity event because all attendees had to be at least 21 years old, so the atmosphere was more like a party than a big autograph session. What I thought was cool was I rarely saw the players clustered together in one corner, but instead saw them spread out and talking to fans one-on-one. I don't know if the players understand this or not (I'm sure some do), but these moments go a long way with the fans and build great camaraderie with the community and season ticket holders.
I'm not big on fraternizing with players while they're being bombarded for autographs by fans left and right, but whenever a player is idle, alone and nearby, I'll almost always say something. The first was Chris Andersen, to whom I introduced myself to as the guy who launched the bringbackbirdman.com petition. When the Birdman heard this, he lit up, put his hand on my shoulder and said: "Thank you so much! I really appreciated that. It definitely helped!" (In other words, when we bitch about Birdman being overpaid in two years, blame me.) When I asked where my percentage is for the contract, he laughed. I then asked how his health is, to which Birdman replied: "I'm banged up, but I'm getting through it."
I then spent some time talking to Nuggets head coach George Karl and his lawyer and close friend Bret Adams. Readers of this blog will remember that it was Adams who hosted me in Chicago and Milwaukee and set up my interview with Karl, and we've maintained a good relationship since. Adams was in town to work on Karl's extension, which is being reported to be "closer" to getting resolved. But from what I could tell last night, nothing is final yet. Karl and I talked a bit, but he was constantly being asked for photos and autographs from fans. Every fan that approached Karl thanked him for the job he's doing, and Karl took the time to talk to each one.
While we were hanging out, Nuggets rookie Ty Lawson (pictured above with me) approached and seemed to be in good spirits. Karl introduced me to Lawson, and then said something like: "be careful what you say around this guy. He's dangerous!" I told Lawson that I don't want him getting a big head over this, but that our readers are very happy with the effort he's put forth so far this season but hope he remains humble. "I'm very humble. Very hungry," Lawson replied. I then asked if he'd be playing on Sunday against the Jazz (a game I'll be attending...can't wait!) and Lawson looked at Karl and said, "ask him!" Karl retorted by saying that if Lawson starts practicing again and practicing hard, then they'll discuss it. Of course, Karl had a twinkle in his eye as he was saying this, so it's clear he's fond of the rookie. How could he not be?
I then went with Adams to the bar, which was being staffed by Nuggets players as bartenders. The bartenders (almost throughout the entire night) were Renaldo Balkman and Johan Petro, with J.R. Smith loitering behind Renaldo. (I couldn't help but comment on the irony of Renaldo being a bartender throughout the night, and everyone I told that to laughed.)
Here's my highlight of the night. We approached Renaldo and asked for two vodka sodas. Renaldo looked dumbfounded for a moment, and pulled out a bottle of Bacardi and displayed it to us. "That's not vodka, Renaldo, that's rum," I said. I then pointed to the vodka bottle and Renaldo grabbed it. "What kind of soda do you want?" Renaldo asked. "Just soda water," I replied. "Oh, you mean like 7-Up?" "No, just soda water." "7-Up?" Finally, I relented. "7-Up is fine, no problem." We drank beer the rest of the night.
My take away from this is that these events are a lot of fun and a great way for the players to interact with the fans...but the events aren't promoted properly. This would have been a great night to get a number of Stiffs readers together with Nate and myself, and I'm truly sorry we didn't know about this beforehand. Moving forward, I'll make sure we're on top of these events and get the word out.
For more photos from the event, please visit Denver Metromix.