Couldn’t make it to the MECCA for the trip down memory lane? Fret not! We got you covered on all the happenings inside the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena that had very little to do with the paid professionals on the court.
With the special return to the MECCA the Bucks were willing to go a bit off script in how they handled their game day operations. The game day guide e-mail hit my inbox around noon and as I parsed through the historical tidbits and announcements I saw a tweak to the usual plan.
There’s going to be a happy hour. Bucks making sure everyone gets in the right state of mind for this pic.twitter.com/XycSn87nes— Greg Licht (@Greg_Licht) October 26, 2017
Yeah baby. Miller Lite was only $5 instead of the usual $8.50. I strolled into the building around 5:30 and many a patron were already taking advantage of the happy hour with both hands occupied with the Lite. I demand that this happy hour be the norm at the BMO.
After I found my bearings (read: Miller Lite) I was surprised by how many people were already inside the arena soaking it all in. Maybe it was the cramped concourse (okay it definitely was), but the feeling that a sizable, antsy crowd was already forming added to the buzz of the event - you could feel the energy.
My next move inside was to find the team store and ogle at all the throwback-y goodness. The team store was bursting at the seams with everyone and their mothers grabbing and guffawing at the new variety on the shelves and hangers.
The team store has some real winners pic.twitter.com/WF3v1Pvzdz— Greg Licht (@Greg_Licht) October 26, 2017
After exiting the team store with a very comfortable and warm B Sweater (that I am currently wearing), I headed on over to my seat which was in row 8. Turns out row 8 is one row away from being the top row at the MECCA. This actually was not a bad thing because I was closer than usual, and really, there is no bad seat in that arena.
The banners of the current Panther Arena tenants (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee Admirals, and Milwaukee Wave) all had their banners up and were fairly prominent in the intimate setting. However, the most prominent banner in the building was the one hanging right behind the basket closest to the Bucks’ bench:
The @Bucks also have the 1971 NBA Championship banner hanging from the rafters. A nice touch for "Return to the MECCA" night pic.twitter.com/a3ESnpKmVC— Stephen Watson (@WISN_Watson) October 26, 2017
Poor thing looks a little lonely, how about we give it a partner or two over the next decade eh?
Ben Tajnai absolutely knocked this one out of the park. His 1:45 uproarious and goosebump inducing rendition was the perfect stage setter to get the crowd hyped up before the players would come out in their new uniforms.
The player introductions were more subdued than usual, likely due to the lack of operating space MECCA has compared to the Bradley Center, but OG Bango made an appearance as the team finally revealed their “Classic” uniform sets. OG Bango continues to be slightly creepy by having light come from underneath him. For the love of God get some over head lighting!
After player introductions there was a brief talking to from John McGlocklin. He walked out to center court and thanked everyone for coming and talked about how special the building is. It was a nice speech that got everyone sentimental and slightly jacked up for tip-off.
After tip-off I noticed that the jumbo-tron was using the old school scoreboard lighting visuals and thought that was a nice touch. Nothing brings me back to being a kid more than seeing that scoreboard style.
It’s like I was crying over losing to my brothers in NHL 95 on the Sega Genesis all over again.
The 3 Painters were last night’s entertainment and, of course, their brand of speed painting was to the tune of the 50th Anniversary season. Watching a few people smatter paint on black canvases was not the most thrilling action to watch, but the end result were four murals of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Ray Allen, Michael Redd, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Those paintings on the @Bucks Snapchat were incredible. pic.twitter.com/EThZYKhF4p— DeAngelo Ilion (@franchisechild) October 27, 2017
I have yet to hear any word on what the end game with the four murals exactly is. I would imagine that the murals will be hung inside the Bradley Center entrance ways. That would be nice anyways.
I had the good fortune to be seated next to two old ladies, both of whom were not afraid to let it fly with their commentary:
“We need a really good shooter is what we need.”
As you can imagine they were less than thrilled with Khris Middleton’s performance on the night.
The Stars Hollow transplants were also not particularly thrilled with Thon Maker getting bodied up by Al Horford and Co. An incredulous, “Come on! You can’t be soft like that,” was shouted a handful of times throughout the first half.
There were also some choice words for Matthew Dellavedova and his infamous floater, “What is that crap?! Don’t shot put it at the rim - shoot it!”
Once the second half started and Giannis converted on that and-one, all was well with their viewing experience. One of them got up from their seat and yelled, “See! He wasn’t soft! That’s what we need!”
[after the sixth white kid dabbed on the jumbo-tron]
“Oh give it a rest with that already!”
Not even John Henson was safe from the ridicule of the human versions of Statler and Waldorf. When J-Hook appeared on the jumbo-tron one of them quipped, “He looks like a young, old man.”
I want them to sit next to me for every game.
I was surprised to hear reasonable and measured takes regarding the Eric Bledsoe trade rumors. From what I heard, the consensus was that Brogdon was far more valuable to the team than Bledsoe could ever be. The chemistry and continuity angle was brought up as justification for not tinkering with the roster. The feeling of, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, appears to be the attitude with this team.
There were a lot of complaints about how cold the building was. I was sitting right in between two vents that were blasting the folks two rows in front of me, so thankfully I missed the trademark chill.
I tried to let people know. I brought a jacket. https://t.co/ouhVyxAQ9A— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) October 26, 2017
Looks like more people need to listen to Locked on Bucks.
As the game drew to its conclusion, everyone solemnly bid farewell to one of the coolest game experience I, and probably many others, had the pleasure of experiencing. Walking down the stairs to exit onto Kilbourn, the ushers were handing out prints of the court. This is a great little (and free) keepsake for everyone to remember a wholly unique game experience.
The ushers handed out prints to exiting fans. Very cool parting gift pic.twitter.com/2YTVmHaIbj— Greg Licht (@Greg_Licht) October 27, 2017
If the goal was to share Bucks basketball across generational lines than that goal was exceeded. Seated directly to my right was a man aged late-60s, his son aged early 40s, and his grandson aged 8ish. I overheard some bits and pieces of their conversations and it was exactly the kind of wholesome moment the Bucks wanted their fans to experience.
The MECCA game was like seeing your favorite band after they hit the big time, but in the small, intimate venue that they cut their teeth at before they became famous. Which is to say that the experience will live longer in the audiences’ minds than the quality of what was witnessed.
Since the halftime performers had this absolute banger playing during their performance, I will happily share it with y’all as my send off: