Root, Root, Root for the Home Team

Nov 12th, 2015

The 70th NBA season premiered in October featuring a game between the Chicago Bulls, with President Obama in attendance, and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The 69th NBA season ended four months earlier when the Golden State Warriors defeated the Cavaliers in the Championship Finals.

I was intrigued when I got an e-mail from Inner Bliss the day before the start of the 2014-1015 NBA Finals. Inner Bliss is one of Cleveland’s premier yoga studios.

In honor of our CAVS, celebrate the beginning of the finals at Inner Bliss all day Thursday! Wear your Cavaliers gear to any class, all day long and get $5 off your class! Show up and show our team that we’re #ALLinCLE.

Who wouldn’t want to honor the hometown team? And celebrate, too, although I wondered if celebrating would be appropriate if the Cavaliers lost, which seemed likely since the Las Vegas line favored the Warriors.

After the first game was said and done the smart money seemed to be as true as a Stephen Curry 3-pointer.

The photographs illustrating the e-mail were galvanizing, including a dramatic shot of the hometown team facing a sea of fans at Quicken Loans Arena. Their furry mascot flexed his muscles in a kind of lunge, like Warrior Pose. The last photograph was of meditating yogis on their mats on the basketball floor of the arena. (Inner Bliss sponsors mass participation yoga events at places like the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame and Quicken Loans Arena.)

The last image was the corporate logo of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The difference between Las Vegas and modern yoga is that Las Vegas is more yogic about pro sports than yoga is. The only bandwagon Las Vegas jumps on is the one going down the yellow brick road. It doesn’t matter whose logo is on the side of the wagon. There are no hometown favorites in Sin City.

At the bottom of the Inner Bliss e-mail it said: LET’S GET FRIENDLY!

What could I wear to class to get my discount? I didn’t own any branded gear, not even Cavaliers gear, despite their rumble through the play-offs. I looked up Cleveland’s NBA store at Quicken Loans Arena and drove downtown.

I almost bought the J. R. Smith Adidas Replica Jersey, because J. R. had been my favorite player all year, impersonating Ray Allen behind the 3-point line game after game and a pro player most of the rest of time, and besides, it only cost $69.95.

In the end I bought the King’s jersey, the man who for all intensive purposes had single-handedly willed his team into the NBA Finals. The LeBron James Adidas Gold Jersey was still in stock at $109.95. I snapped it up before anyone else could get it.

On my way home I began to question whether wearing a fan jersey was enough in terms of showing up and showing my hometown team that I was #ALLinCLE.

I should go to the games.

Many of Inner Bliss’s stock-in-trade posts are yogi blurbs titled: WHY I SHOW UP.

Sitting on the sidelines, as they say in yoga class, isn’t going to make you a yogi. You need to show up. It’s all about heart. That’s what players do when they make the big shot: thump their chests.

The first two games were scheduled in Oakland, the next two in Cleveland, then alternating until one team or the other finally won four games, snatching the brass ring.

When I got home I started searching for tickets.

At first I was mildly shocked. The worst seats, in the nosebleed section, started at $400.00. Seats in the lower bowl were $1,500.00. When I spotted what courtside seats cost I was seriously shocked: $60,000.00.

It wasn’t a brass ring the two teams were grabbing for. It was a solid gold ring, encrusted with rare gems, and fashioned by the hand of God.

I would have to sell our house to buy courtside seats, for my wife and myself, for the first two home games. I tried not to think about what popcorn and sodas might cost.

Hopefully, the Warriors would sweep the Cavaliers in four and there wouldn’t be anymore home games. If there were I would go bankrupt trying to show up.

Mysore, India, is one of the birthplaces of yoga. It is where Krishnamacharya taught in the 1930s, Iyengar honed his craft, and where the Pattabbi Jois Institute is to this day.

If my wife and I moved to Mysore an apartment in a nice neighborhood, with a full kitchen, WIFI, and daily maid service, would cost about $600.00 a month. Eating out costs $2.00 for breakfast or lunch and $4.00 for dinner. My wife doesn’t practice yoga, but a daily class at a local studio would cost me $100.00 a month.

In other words, for the cost of two lower bowl tickets at two NBA Finals games my wife and I could live well, and I could practice yoga every day in Mysore, for about six months. For the cost of two courtside tickets we could stay for about twenty years.

Since my wife is not interested in pro sports we finally decided against showing up at the NBA Finals, and also decided that, although Mysore sounded good, especially the daily maid service, we would stay in Cleveland.

I gave my King jersey away to my nephew, who doesn’t know anything about yoga, but does know the world about basketball.

I didn’t go to Inner Bliss’s CAVS! Day. Something bothered me about rooting for one or the other team. Players on both practice yoga as part of their fitness regimen and I thought it best to just wish both teams well.

Instead, I practiced on my own mat at home. The next evening my wife and I went to town and heard Jai Uttal’s kirtan band spin jazzy sing-along chants. Quicken Loans Arena, a mile away, seats 20, 562 fans, which are about 20, 000 more people than were at the show.

On Sunday night, while the Warriors and Cavaliers battled it out at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, we had dinner at a small Thai restaurant in Tremont, a grungy but gentrified Cleveland neighborhood across the industrial valley from downtown.

My home practice doesn’t cost me anything, Jai Uttal tickets were $30.00, and the noodles and tofu were $12.50. The beer from Thailand was $4.50. Our weekend cost less than a box of popcorn and a couple of sodas at Quicken Loans Arena.

We ate on an outdoor patio and all dinner long we could hear the groans and whoops of Cleveland sports fans watching the second game of the Finals unfolding on the flat screens at the Flying Monkey Pub next door.

Somebody on the yellow brick road was winning and somebody was losing. We couldn’t tell who.

EXTRA! EXTRA! EXTRA! The next morning I found out that the last roar of the night was a groan in Oakland and a whoop in Cleveland, as the Cavaliers edged the Warriors in overtime. That’s what world championships are made of: heart-breakers.

Sri Swami Satchidananda once said, “Losses are always great eye openers.” Maybe there is something yogic about pro ball, after all.

Asana Journal

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