I imagine it must feel something like a cosmic gyp to have your birthday so close to Christmas, so I always try to give Noah a memorable gift. We've gone to a hockey game and the ballet in downtown Chicago in past years, for example.
This year the Oklahoma Thunder (my brother's team of preference) and the Charlotte Bobcats were playing on Noah's birthday. My friend Jen offered her apartment as our base of operations, so we drove down and had pizza with her and another friend, Chris, before walking to the Bobcats Arena for the game.
Walking from Jen's apartment to the arena was less strenuous than the hike from the arena entrance to our seats, which were somewhere near the summit of Everest. In addition to being seated so high (a mere single row from the top), we were also positioned next to a large plexiglass wall looking over the concourse below. In short, it took me about 20 minutes to get over the feeling that the Earth was disappearing from under me.
Kyle clapped obnoxiously every time the Thunder scored (which was often), and the halftime entertainment unfortunately featured a well-meaning but Lounge Lizardesque a cappella group singing carols ("Where are the dudes jumping on trampolines and triple flipping into a dunk?!" asked Noah indignantly), but otherwise we were enjoying ourselves.
Just when I thought there was no hope of catching a t-shirt being flung by the LadyCats during timeouts, a Santa-hatted dude carrying a surface-to-air missile launcher staggered onto the court. Hoping his aim was true—considering a misfire could easily cause a death-by-t-shirt—I laughed and egged on Noah, Kyle and Chris as they vied for an overlarge, cheap Bobcats chemise.
Seated around us were two rows of middle school students with a teacher, a few other Thunder fans, and a family with a young teenaged daughter. Naturally, everyone in our section was dying for a free souvenir. I had almost given up hope when, mere seconds before the media timeout was up, the telltale thunk of a launch echoed in waves as a tightly rolled, Hanes brand bullet came soaring right for me.
I would have caught it. I really would have. But Chris, in a valiant display of enthusiasm for Noah's birthday, clambered onto my lap, his fingertips brushing the soft cotton of our collective heart's desire as it sailed over my head. One would assume our hopes were dashed, but that's when Noah flew, slow motion, toward our conquest across a defeated and prone Chris.
The shirt clattered around the feet of the couple sitting behind me. Noah, having dived a good four seats from his own, lost his footing.
Folks, they make movies about this kind of thing. ESPN devotes segments to such incidents. I got a face full of Noah's rear end and the soles of his tennis shoes as he rolled away. "Oh! Noah!" was all I had time to shout while I helplessly watched him tumble downward across the middle schoolers and the family, finally coming to rest on top of the tween two rows below us.
He later admitted that the sight of three rows of fans laughing hysterically—including his own wife, brother-in-law and two friends—was upsetting, and I can imagine it was. After all, he had survived a near-death experience. But what else could I do? Everyone he crushed was a good sport about it, and the two dudes drinking brews next to the girl Noah landed on asked, rather casually, "Trying to catch a shirt?" as Noah recovered himself.
When he finally made it back to our row several minutes later, he admonished everyone in the vicinity, "NOBODY TWEET THIS!"
I only wish it had been caught on camera, but alas. And we know for sure it wasn't, because Noah's made a habit of Googling "Guy falls at Bobcats game" regularly, just to make sure.