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i was a virtual fan at an nba playoffs round 1 game

basketball, which is basically the perfect sport and something i am quite fond of, was paused during the quarantine for obvious reasons. fortunately, the nba figured out a way to bring it back safely via a resort bubble in cahoots with disney – someone please go back in time one year, read that sentence to me and let me know my reaction.

lil wayne as virtual fan

i got into today’s game 2 with the nets and raptors. the nets are my team, and the raptors won the playoffs last year, so i was excited about the match-up. to be honest, i’m not taking these play-offs too seriously — i mean, they’re all in a bubble, there are no fans in-stadium, not all of the players opted in to playing in the bubble, and there is still a pandemic happening. i’m just happy to be getting any basketball.

getting into the virtual seats is like waiting to get on a plane; you end up in arbitrary groups that they say you get seated in order, but you get the sense they’re just trolling you. i had to upload a photo of my id and show my webcam setup, then waited “in line” for like a half hour to even get into the microsoft teams meeting (yes, i downloaded microsoft teams for this). all of a sudden i was in a group video call with over 100 basketball fans, video and audio on.

it was pure, fun chaos until someone working at microsoft temporarily muted us all so they could show us how to set stuff up, which stressed me out way more than 100 sports fans talking shit all at once. i was using a mac, and i don’t think the microsoft folks even acknowledged us - they were describing clicking buttons that i couldn’t find anywhere, and i was worried i’d not get on screen.

but then i saw myself in a virtual seat and was like “oh, i guess it just works!” here is the screenshot of teams showing the fan board, and also the live broadcast we got to watch alongside it. notice how there were like 32 spots in this section and over 100 in the chat.

screenshot of microsoft teams call with nba virtual fans

if you turned your video off, it would open a spot for another person in the chat to show up in a seat. they tried to get us every quarter to turn off our cameras so that others can come in. many outwardly refused, so a microsoft person would force everyone’s camera off. here i am hydrating with water i got for free from my sink, instead of an $8 12 ounce bottle from a barclays center stand.

virtual fan stands with me drinking water

everyone was having a blast! the shit-talking was minimal, but about the normal, reasonable questioning of whether the raptors actually earned their win last year or was it just because of the warriors’ injuries. regardless of the hard truths, the most important thing is that halfway through the game someone had finally brought a dog.

virtual fan stands and one of the fans above me is a dog and i

i was very happy that everyone followed the code of conduct; i saw zero dicks on stream. once in awhile a kid would show up in a chair, and they’d get so excited to see themselves on a screen! one kid asked everyone what their favorite cereal was and someone said “joe harris” which is of course the best, correct answer.

the nets lost but it was a super close and entertaining game the entire time. i often get very stressed during the last quarter of games, as you can tell here during the last several seconds (at this point i switched my cap to a new jersey nets one): virtual fan stands with me having my hands on my face because i

i think that basketball games are too long to sit in a video call for, so i probably will not sign up to be a virtual fan again unless the nets make it to the next round. the teams chat is definitely not the same energy as being there in the stands, but i think it was a nice adaptation given the constraints. when the game ended, we were told that we were part of history as one of the first groups of virtual fans, which is hella cool but holy shit do i wish it was under different circumstances. and also that the nets won.

xoxo jenn aka Pg9s5fan20

this was published August 19, 2020 under living tech sports basketball nba