The Pulse: Lessons from the cheap seats

Sixers' Andre Iguodala on Jan. 13 vs. Wizards - watched from $15 perches high above.
Sixers' Andre Iguodala on Jan. 13 vs. Wizards - watched from $15 perches high above. (STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 27, 2012

I haven't been interested in the 76ers since the run at the Lakers in 2001. However, despite lacking a superstar, this year's young, passionate team is off to a tremendous start in an abbreviated season.

Two weeks ago tonight, I had dinner at a restaurant on Ninth Street in South Philadelphia with one of our sons, who shares my interest. As we ate, he used his phone to keep tabs on the Sixers' score. They were host to the Washington Wizards and were up 54-40 when the game reached halftime, just as I paid our dinner bill.

"Let's go watch the second half," I said as we reached our car. He thought I meant on television. Instead, 10 minutes later, I wheeled into the lot at the Wells Fargo Center. Our late arrival was about to reap some reward.

"I just closed my register," said a woman at the parking entrance. "Just park anywhere."

I figured there'd be somebody outside with tickets at a deep discount, but there was no one around. So we headed into the ticket office where the seats, unlike the parking, remained at full price.

"Just get the $15 seats," said my son. I told him that I could spend more, and we could sit downstairs. He objected. I admired his frugality and did as I was told.

So we rode the escalator up, found our seats, and settled in for the third quarter. The Sixers have been on a tremendous roll lately and were having another good night. The attendance, however, had yet to catch up with their box score. As they continue to win, that will surely change. But from our perch high above, we could see plenty of seats on the lower level.

"Do you want to sit downstairs for the final quarter?" I asked.

"I'm fine," was the abrupt reply.

"But look at all the room. We can just slide down late in the game."

"No, Dad, these are our seats," came the reply. So we stayed put until the final buzzer.

The Sixers won the game, 120-89. In fact, because they also scored more than 100 points, we were entitled to a pair of Big Macs the next day just for showing our ticket stubs.

What a great night: The company of a son. Good food. Free parking. Cheap seats. Sixers basketball. And lunch the next day.

But since then, I've been debating what my son's contentedness with sitting upstairs says about him, and what my offer to "slide" downstairs says about my parenting.

Of course, I'm proud that he wanted to honor his real seat location, because I'd like to think the decision revealed his moral compass. When I told this story on my radio program, a woman quickly called and said, "Get him to run for office." Ethics, after all, will play a large role in his future path.

True, but he will also need to "ask for the order." That's my way of describing a willingness to take some risks, push the envelope, be a bit aggressive and adventurous, so long as it is not at someone else's expense. Some have told me I should be embarrassed for having suggested that we move to a better location - for the record, I am not. (Maybe it's because I remember being a small boy and having my father push my brother and me through the turnstiles at Franklin Field holding only two tickets.) Besides, I was not asking my son to join me in displacing someone from their location - but rather, to watch the final few minutes in a better and vacant seat.

He would have none of it.

On this night, at least, he was more his mother's son: cautious, lacking envy, and uncomfortable at the thought of occupying something that was not his. Those traits are going to serve him well. But hopefully he's got a little of dad's chutzpah, too. Because to fulfill his potential, I'm convinced he'll need both.

By the way, the Sixers are host to the Charlotte Bobcats tonight. We'll be there, sitting on the lower level, which tonight are our assigned seats.

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