Monday, November 1, 2010

Foul!

It was the opening night season premiere game for the Orlando Magic in the brand spanking new Amway Arena. As I walked toward the venue, two hours early, I saw small crowds of fans dressed in blue and white all along Orange Avenue. Several news helicopters hovered over the city most likely shooting footage of the gathering crowds around the Amway Center. I wasn't going to sketch the game, I was going to catch Brian Feldman as he read the NBA Rulebook to the crowd. At just about any sports or theatrical event in this town there is always a person on a soapbox shouting hell and damnation to the crowd. Brian's performance didn't offer salvation, but enlightenment regarding the rules of the game.

When I arrived, I unfolded my compact artist stool and leaned against a metal pylon getting to work. Brian's father was using his iPhone to shoot continuous video footage of the reading. The sun set behind a bank of deep blue clouds. Brian shouted the rules into the megaphone. The rules are amazingly repetitive. I thought at first that Brian might be reading the same rule over and over, but listening closely I found the variations in the pattern. Erin Volz in a blue jersey rode up on her bicycle. After listening for a while, she relieved Brian's dad by taking over the iPhone and shooting video. She remained there listening intently, a true Magic fan.

A policeman approached Brian and the two of them spoke for a while. I couldn't hear what was said. As Brian got back on his crate, he looked at me and shouted, "Incident!" I started sketching faster adding color to Brian and his dad in case they were told to move along. So far I had escaped detection. A female security officer rode up on a high tech electric tricycle. She spoke to Brian and when he showed her the rulebook, she smiled, laughed then drove off. A third officer, a huge muscular fellow with a motorcycle helmet also approached. He insisted Brian move his crate a foot further west. He said to Brian, "You are blocking pedestrian access to the curb." He also insisted Brian not use the megaphone. He complied and continued reading and shouted into his cupped hand. I couldn't hear a thing he read from that point on and I was only ten feet from him. The Center was blasting the insipid commentary from two announcers who were predicting a stellar season for the Magic. The crowd rushed past me growing thicker and louder. I wanted more rules.

I think it was Erin who thought of rolling up a Magic poster, creating a crude paper megaphone. Brian shouted into it, "Thor! Can you hear me?!" The second time he shouted my name, I looked up and gave him a thumbs up. The paper megaphone was only a minor improvement. A couple of times fans paused and listened, never for more than a minute. Perhaps two people ever noticed what I was doing. One woman walked up and said, "Look at you, Mr. etch-a-sketch!" I cringed but gave her the blog address. I finished my sketch long before Brian finished reading the rulebook. I patted Brian's dad on his shoulder and waved to Brian who continued to read valiantly. I made my way East on Church Street a lone fish swimming against the school of blue and white all heading to the game. My job was done, a slam dunk. Brian said this might be his final Orlando performance in 2010, so something big must be on his horizon. I think route 66 is calling his name.


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