April 9th. Funabashi Arena - I get my wish. This is the home of the Chiba Jets and proudly holds first place in the B League for average attendance. The Jets are rapidly ascending like dragons climbing into the sky, and I wanted to watch one of their games while enveloped in the atmosphere of a fully packed arena. A black and white poster of Yuki Togashi and the Chiba Jets logo dance before me as I exit Kita-Narashino station.
The first thing I feel as I walk through the Funabashi Arena entrance is "wow, this is a basketball arena." It felt similar to the feeling you get when stepping foot in an NBA arena. Of course there is no comparison in scale between the 5000 person Funabashi and the 20,000+ NBA. But from the entrance in, this arena was at nearly a "Basketball Purity Index" of 100%. That's the reason it felt like all the NBA arenas. I have only been to about half of the B League arenas so I can't say too much, but I don't think there are many arenas in Japan that have been able to get to a "Basketball Purity Index of 100%".
I coined the phrase "Basketball Purity Index" to refer to the passion of fans on that day, at that venue, who were there for "for basketball"/"for their team's home game that day". I have high expectations for the type of play that will be on the display and the type of game that we will be shown with such a high "Basketball Purity Index". I am a little disappointed that I wasn't able to see the food or goods for sale. That's also an important part of the basketball viewing experience.
Their opponent today is the Tochigi Brex who hold first place in the East and are known as a team doesn't lose consecutive games. The Chiba Jets, third in the same league are coming off a win last night and are looking to make it 2 straight at home. Tabuse vs Brex, a battle of the top PGs. Chiba still has a chance to pass second place Alvark, and this will be their last home game this season at Funabashi. Before the game was a presentation ceremony for the Championship rings from the Emperor's Cup; there was a projection mapping show during halftime; ... and more; and it was a game full of attention grabbing acts performed at a high level.
It was a dead heat, highly contested from the beginning, and at the end Tochigi showed the the high level of their true skill and pulled out the win. It was a thoroughly satisfying and interesting game that displayed their prowess.
One thing that is becoming unique to the B League is how close the bleachers are to the court. Here, the physical distance as well as the emotional distance was small. As they put on a professional show with flair, it felt like we were parents or close relatives cheering them on within a minibus sized arena. That feeling of being so "directly involved" from the bleachers left an impression. The cheers were coming from a passion that was not your normal off-the-shelf emotion. Chants were coming from all around the court. The fire and light shows were great, but I was pleased to have my ears left ringing from the cheers that were as hot as the boosters themselves for play after hard fought play on the court.
Of course you could hear such comments for the home teams' plays, but amidst the boos for the guest team, Tochigi, you could hear pure admiration like "Tabuse is awesome", "Furukawa is great" and "Gibbs is dangerous".
All eyes were turned toward basketball. For a basketball lover it was a welcoming place to be. That being said, I feel that this is season is just a sign of things to come. In a few years, we might be saying thing like "Funabashi was so quiet then." The Chiba Jets are a team that are continuing to improve on the court, in the bleachers and with their performances.