Scenes From the Draft
The draft crowd at Madison Square Garden consists of five main groups: Knicks fans, often wearing Knicks jerseys without any t-shirts underneath allowing them to showcase impressive amounts of chest hair; fans of the Chinese National Team; Florida Gators fans carrying boxes of Florida Wheaties or pieces of the Final Four floor and demonstrating an odd compulsion to slam their arms together; people in formal wear talking on cell phones; and others.
I assumed that the "Others" would, as a matter of course, include one or two Washington Wizards fans. Working in my favor: geographic proximity, an interesting enough draft slot, and dumb luck. Working against me: well, you know. They're still the Wizards.
So I've been wandering through the crowd, and this is what I've seen: jerseys--not mere t-shirts, but real jerseys--paying tribute to the Knicks, the Nets, the Sixers, the Celtics, the Heat, the Bulls, the Rockets, the Mavs, the Wolves, the Warriors, the Sonics, the Blazers, the Spurs, the Magic, the Hawks, the Hornets, the Lakers, the Suns, the Raptors, the Nuggets, the Pistons, the Cavs and the Jazz. That's 24 teams.
There were also fans clad in the merchandise of Syracuse, Ohio State, UNC, Duke, Manhattan, Georgetown, Texas, Memphis, U-Mass., Wisconsin, Duke, Michigan State, Marist, the Patriots, the Titans and at least seven Major League Baseball franchises. But not a shred of official Wiz clothing in the house, at least not that I saw.
Outside of the theater, I did run into one young chap from New Jersey wearing a Gilbert Arenas t-shirt made by the Wizznutzz, which, by that point, was good enough.
"I hate the Knicks, right?" the chap said, as if that should be obvious. But why the Wiz, I asked. "They're local, right?" he said.
Not exactly, but before I could argue the point, two people began strolling by: Jeff Green, who had just been drafted, and a man in a tan hat and a bright orange polo, carrying a video camera in his right hand, wearing a sock puppet on his left hand and screaming at the top of his lungs.
"Jeff Green, I'm Stephen A. Smith, do you like Cheez Doodles????" the man screamed, or something close to that anyhow. "It's very important!!! Everything I say is important!!!!"
The person, as you surely realize by now, was Martin Bell, a 26-year-old New York lawyer whose YouTubed video mocking Stephen A. Smith became a minor Internet sensation after last year's draft, logging nearly 200,000 views.
This year, Bell took his video camera to one of the endless Madison Square Garden back hallways, following each drafted player to the press conference area, in character, yelling his head off, or yelling his puppet off I guess. He was trailed by Ben Collins, a reporter from SLAM Magazine, and various fans, including 15-year-old Sivan Yacobian, who kept saying "he's the man, he's the man." Others were less impressed
"I would punch that guy," one passerby offered, as Bell chased after Yi Jianlian, shouting "I would like to welcome you to our foreign land!!!!! I know your handlers are handling you, but you are being drafted because you know how to handle yourself!!!!"
Then he wandered back to his post to wait for the next player.
"Stephen A. Smith's just kind of ridiculous," Bell said, during that brief down moment. "He needs to know. This is my way to communicate it to him....I actually admire the man a great deal. I just think it's important that he has some sense of perspective. I like to think I'm doing him a favor."
The YouTube of this madness will be online sometime on Friday, and it's sure to be quite the phenomenon. Bell thinks it'll be one of the Top 30 videos of the day; if not, he said he'd be "incredibly disappointed. More disappointed than when the Knicks took Mike Sweetney."
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