Rethinking Arena Rock 

Golden State Warriors games need less Kanye, more Mark E. Smith, and no Gary Glitter whatsoever.

The time has come, dear conscientious sports fans, to definitively retire "Rock and Roll Part 2." For decades its rousing chorus (Doot doot-doot doot-doot, hey!) has soundtracked many a touchdown, three-pointer, groin-pull, home run, balk, field goal, face mask, double play, slap shot, high-stick, corner kick, and bench-clearing brawl. But we can no longer ignore that its performer, Gary Glitter, is -- how can we put this delicately -- a convicted child-pornography enthusiast once possibly facing a Vietnamese firing squad for freaking nasty with two severely underage girls aged eleven and twelve, respectively.

Maybe we should stop funding this behavior. "Given that Gary Glitter is compensated each time 'Rock and Roll Part 2' blasts over a stadium Tannoy, perhaps the venue operators could substitute the Fall's 'Glam Racket' instead," suggests Gerard Cosloy, the famed Matador Records copresident, who also presides over the highly enjoyable sports blog "Few patrons would know the difference, and instead of lining the pockets of a convicted child-sex pest, America's sporting institutions could lend some financial aid to [handsome Fall frontman] Mark E. Smith -- a great friend and role model to young people all over the world."

Perhaps this is an extreme solution; perhaps it is not extreme enough. As Can't Stop the Bleeding noted, NBA commissioner David Stern recently espoused cutting the tunes altogether. During an open chat, some guy from Boston complained, "If home fans can't get pumped up and make noise on their own, then there is something really wrong with your league. The game should be the entertainment and able to stand up alone without canned music."

Stern agreed, and mused on the pleasant possibility of a noise-free NBA game. Shortly thereafter, delightfully crazed Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban actually tried it, cutting out damn near everything but the amplified squeaks of the players' sneakers for two games, including a December 30 home matchup against, as it happens, the Golden State Warriors. Everyone hated it, players and fans alike. Too silent, too eerie.

So that's too extreme. But does the average NBA fete overrely on blaring DJ theatrics, ostentatious mascot high-jinks, and weirdo-sired anthems? We traveled to the Oakland Arena to see how the Warriors address these issues. Seemed like a good game for it: Last Friday night's set-to versus LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, a superstar affair that didn't quite score a sellout, but resulted in the biggest crowd of the season and the fourth-largest in Arena history.

Arriving a half-hour early, we encountered the Warriors' rotating house band holding forth from its perch high above one end of the court, plowing through "Jungle Love" and other slap-happy, G-rated funk-pop ditties as though time had stopped the day Purple Rain came out. Now these dudes aren't exactly Mothership-caliber -- it's the sort of Vegas fare you're bombarded with at an off-strip casino as you sip a watered-down rum and Coke, lament the $350 you just lost at the blackjack tables in 45 minutes, and slowly realize you'll spend the next three days playing nickel slots. But they're not that bad, either, and certainly preferable to the Arena's fallback fare -- limp DJ mixes of KMEL jams, painstakingly spliced so Kanye West's "Gold Digger" avoids all mention of broke niggas.

More effectively, the Warriors used Missy Elliott's "Lose Control" (a good fit for Baron Davis' turnover-happy style) for the all-important WWE-inspired starting five introduction, but it's noteworthy that during this presentation the Jumbotrons displayed player highlights from video games, as opposed to actual footage. They're underachieving a bit right now, but Jesus Christ, scare up a real-life dunk or two.

Once the game itself started, it was mostly neutered Kanye fare, sometimes overlapping with actual on-court action -- but happily it more often did not. Occasionally during a Cavs possession the media controllers cranked up the Jaws theme as the shot clock wound down, a high-pressure device that frankly felt like cheating -- they oughta just throw on Metal Machine Music or Merzbow, literally incapacitate the opposing team, and get it over with.

In any event it's worth noting that, record-setting crowd notwithstanding, this hoedown was strangely lifeless. The game was awful. LeBron looked like crap, and thus the Cavs looked worse, and thus it was practically over by halftime -- our very own Mike Dunleavy, ordinarily whiter than James Taylor, looked like an absolute worldbeater. Bad sign; bad game.

So maybe our timing was lousy, but it's still disturbing that all the usual game-day bells and whistles -- free pizzas, sexy dancer routines, the robust drum majors who play buckets -- failed to rouse the crowd. Furthermore, the Purple Rain house band was direly underused. For much of the second half -- as Dunleavy ran roughshod and the preteen girls in the stands danced merrily to Juelz Santana's "There It Go (The Whistle Song)" -- the guys milled about looking frustrated and bored as hell. With five minutes left, a full timeout was called, and everyone perked up and stepped toward the mics ... but suddenly that giant muscular mascot dude was running around on the court with a T-shirt cannon.

Band preempted. Game over. The dudes dejectedly packed up their instruments as the sedate crowd filed out.

Silence won't work. The Fall is still a bit too abrasive. And though it's great that the Arena avoided "Rock and Roll Part 2," I'm sure nobody would've minded hearing Cameo's "Word Up" one more time. The only other thing that would've made it a better game was, alas, a better game.


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