Free Admission to the Salt Palace

In the 1982-83 season, the Utah Jazz weren’t a very good basketball team. The only time they’d sell out was when a great team came into town, like the Lakers, Celtics, or 76ers. Even though they were the local team, it was difficult to support them. They just had poor luck at that time, it seemed. During that season, they drafted Dominique Wilkins. He was traded for a couple of mediocre players and some cash, though. Midway through that same season, the high-scorer on the team, Adrian Dantley, was lost because he tore some ligaments in his wrist. The Jazz finished 30-52 that year, 5th place in their division.

Also during that season, a friend of mine told me about a way to watch the games for free. Whenever a great team came to play, I’d go to the back of the Salt Palace, just before the game, and get a soft drink t-shirt from a guy, along with a full tray of soft drinks. I got to keep ten percent of whatever I sold. I didn’t really care about selling soft drinks, though. I just wanted to watch the games for free.

I had the privilege of watching the Philadelphia 76ers play against Utah. Philadelphia went on that year to win the NBA Championship. (I had been a Sixers fan since ’81.) I stood at just off midcourt, on the Sixers side, and witnessed all the sideline action between Dr. J, Moses Malone, and the gang.

It was a great experience, but somewhat annoying as everyone kept blocking my view of the game, trying to buy soft drinks from me. And to justify just standing there, I had to go get another tray of drinks whenever I sold out. I made twenty bucks that night, without even trying.

The whole vending operation is probably unionized by now, and little sneaky twerps like I was can’t get into the games for free anymore. Sadly, time has a way of complicating things.

After that game, I stood by the exit to the lockerrooms, with a rolled-up life-sized poster of Julius Ervine in one hand and a permanent marker in the other. I stretched over an extended rope to try and get Dr. J to sign my poster as the team jogged to the lockerroom, along with dozens of other fans holding various pieces of 76er memorabilia.

Sadly, I was unsuccessful in getting the autograph, as none of the team members were signing anything that night. Malone was the last one to make it into the locker room, lumbering past the waiting crowd a good two minutes after all of the others. As he ran past me, he brushed up against my extended hand, getting it wet with his sweat.

I remember going home and telling my parents how excited I was, because I had Moses Malone’s sweat on my hand. It was as if his sweat was magical and would catapult me toward great things. I did wash it off later, but under protest. Maybe I shouldn’t have, though. Maybe if I had given the sweat ample time to soak into my body, it would have magically enhanced the rest of my life with success upon success. I’m only kidding, of course. Or, am I?

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