Friday, December 17, 2010

Barkley's Balls

Several years back I sued the Chicago Bulls and the old Chicago Stadium. The old stadium was built in the 1920s, before the first cripples arrived in America. So there was no accessible seating so if you were a cripple and you wanted to see Michael Jordan play, the only place they could seat you was courtside on the hockey ice. (I have no idea where they put you if you wanted to see a hockey game.)

This was a sweet vantage point but the problem was they insisted we pay a sweet price for the tickets, like the courtside price, the Jack Nicholson price. But I figured out that if you showed up with the cheapest nose bleed seat ticket they had no choice but to put you on the ice anyway, though first I usually had to endure a lecture from an usher about how I better pay full price next time.

So one time I’m sitting on the ice and this stern security guy with a clipboard and pen demands to see my ID. I ask why. He says he’s going to give my name to the ticket office so next time I call they’ll make me pay full price. I wouldn’t show him my ID so he berated me before he slunked away in defeat.

I filed a complaint with the Chicago Department of Human Relations. (They use the word Relations because I guess the word Rights is to controversial, too threatening.)In addition to winning an agreement that the ushers would stop hassling me and other ice sitters, I also won free tickets to a Bulls game versus the Phoenix Suns.

This was hot currency. Whom would I invite to join me? It had to be someone who would immensely appreciate the chance to see the Jordan Bulls live.

I decided to invite Marty, my ex-marine friend, mainly because Marty spent most of his days watching every imaginable sport on TV. That’s about all he could do because when he cashed his monthly Social Security disability check, once he paid his bitter mother rent and bought himself several cartons of Pall Mall cigarettes to last him all month, he was broke.

Taped to the walls of Marty’s dark, wood-paneled bedroom were pictures of women he cut out of magazines. Some of them had the pupils of their eyes burned out by Pall Malls. But Marty always seemed harmless. “I go to the doctor once a month and he gives me a shot in the ass,” he told me once. As long as he kept up religiously with his monthly shot in the ass ritual, his restlessness and paranoia subsided enough to where he could function in the world, at least enough to watch sports and chain smoke Pall Malls. (How did I meet a guy like him? He was my attendant years earlier at Jerry Lewis summer camp for cripples.)

So when I called Marty to invite him to the game, he was excited like he won the lottery. And I told him we had courtside seats, right on the ice, and we’re playing the Phoenix Suns too.

“Coooool!” he said. “I’m gonna kick Barkley right in the balls!”

Marty was appreciative all right. He was way too appreciative. In the days leading up to the game he left me several phone messages thanking me profusely for inviting him and reaffirming his solemn vow to kick Barkley in the balls. I was starting to worry that Marty might actually run out on the court and kick Barkley in the balls during the game. Or maybe he might pull a sneak attack during the national anthem. Maybe I should tell Marty the game was canceled. But he’d know better. As jacked up as he was about all this, there was no way I could pull it out from under him now.

We met at the stadium. An usher escorted us to our place on the ice. It was way early. The stands were practically empty. Marty wore his Bulls shirt. He was jacked. “Where’s Barkley?” Get his mind on something else, I thought. So I asked him to come with me and help me in the men’s room. We headed for the men’s room just as the Suns came out of the locker room for warm ups. They ran right across our path. Barkley was the last one out. He literally had to stop in his tracks to keep from running into Marty. There they were, face to face.

This was the moment Marty had dreamed of. Barkley’s balls were two feet away. I wanted to scream out a warning! COVER YOUR BALLS! But it all happened so fast.

Barkley looked at Marty. Marty looked at Barkley. “Hey, how ya doin'?” Marty said. Barkley ran out on the court.

Marty and I proceeded to the men’s room. He never said another word about Barkley. When presented with his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to kick Barkley square in the balls, he choked. I could tell he was profoundly disappointed. I have to admit, I was too.