Jul. 20—The Milwaukee Bucks can win the NBA Championship tonight with a victory over Phoenix in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
I have to work, so I won't be one of the 75,000 or so fans in and around Fiserv Forum.
But I was one of just 11,000 or so that was at the game the last time the Bucks had a chance to win the NBA Championship at home.
That game was Sunday, May 12, 1974 at the Milwaukee Arena. It was Game 7, and the Boston Celtics were the opponent.
I was 17.
Two nights earlier, three fellow classmates and I sat in a friend's living room and watched Game 6. The Bucks trailed in the series 3-2 and had to win at the Boston Garden to force a Game 7 back in Milwaukee.
It was the same scenario that Phoenix faces tonight.
It was a great game that went into double overtime. I have long since forgotten details of the game, but according to notes, there were 11 lead changes in the second overtime alone. John Havlicek hit a baseline shot to give Boston a 101-100 lead with seven seconds left.
I do remember what happened next.
The Bucks were fumbling around, but did get the ball to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the high post. Abdul-Jabbar dribbled toward the baseline and put up a 17-foot sky hook.
It was a thing of beauty.
The ball swished through. A desperation Boston shot wasn't close.
Four Ripon High School juniors went nuts.
I can't remember who came up with the idea, but we decided to go to Game 7. We were young and a bit naive.
I volunteered to drive to get tickets, which were going on sale at the Milwaukee Arena the next morning.
My father agreed to let me drive our 1969 green Chrysler to Milwaukee. I believe tickets were going on sale at 9 a.m.
I remember pulling into a municipal parking lot a few blocks away from the arena about an hour before the tickets were to go on sale.
The front of the arena faces West Kilbourn Avenue. The line stretched from the front doors all the way around the side of the building and into the back of the arena.
I remember thinking we would never get tickets. But I trotted to the end of the line in back of building.
There was idle conversation and suddenly, at 9 a.m., the line started moving. I mean really moving.
We covered the distance around the corner, down the sidewalk and to the front of the building in about a minute. When I got the front, I could see why.
Instead of an orderly file when the doors were opened, there was a mad charge to get into the arena. Later I was told that the terrified arena workers slammed the doors within seconds of opening them.
West Kilbourne Street resembled the mass of people that gather now in the Deer District.
Now this was 1974. There was no way anyone could know what was going on. No team Twitter accounts or Facebook pages.
So we all just stood in front of the building and waited. And waited. And waited.
At some point, police cars pulled up. Through bullhorns, we were informed that we had to disperse or we would be tear-gassed.
That was the first time this 17-year-old kid from Ripon heard people back-talking to cops. They were being told where to put that tear gas.
Anyway, no one left.
There was no other way to get tickets. No Ticketmaster, no SeatGeek, no eBay.
It must have been around noon, when a door opened and a Bucks official came out with a bullhorn.
The announcement went something like this: "At 12:30 p.m., tickets for Sunday's game will go on sale at Milwaukee County Stadium..."
If anything else was said, I didn't hear it. Like everyone else, I was making a mad dash to my car.
It must have looked like the Running of the Bulls. I was 17 and although I was no where near a sprinter, I was young and in shape. As I was running, I became aware of an important fact.
I knew how to get from Ripon to the Milwaukee Arena. I knew how to get from Ripon to Milwaukee County Stadium.
I had absolutely no idea how to get from the Milwaukee Arena to Milwaukee County Stadium.
Once again, this was 1974. No Google Map. Gas stations were our Google Map. There was no time to stop and ask for directions.
But everyone else was going to Milwaukee County Stadium, right? I would just follow everyone else. I just prayed that I wasn't going to follow someone who worked downtown on Saturday mornings and was driving to their residence in Wauwatosa.
Cars were going over curbs. It looked like an episode of the "Dukes of Hazzard."
Just the type of thing a 17-year-old kid enjoys.
I followed a string of cars and we got on 94. To my great relief, I soon recognized the area of Milwaukee County Stadium.
The string of cars wheeled into the large stadium lot. I might have nicked a parked car's fender pulling into the adjacent space with my parents' big Chrysler. Those cars were tanks. No damage.
Anyway, I ran to the ticket windows. I got four tickets.
I can't remember how much they were, but they couldn't have been much. All four of us worked and made good money for high schoolers back then, but I couldn't have had that much cash on me.
I wish I had saved that ticket stub.
So on Sunday, May 12, 1974, four 17-year-olds piled into my friend's black Camaro and went to Game 7.
Our tickets were behind the basket, about 10 rows from the top of the arena. I loved that place. It held 11,000 max and was always loud.
As for the game, the Bucks were never really in it. The Boston defense surrounded Abdul-Jabbar, and no one else stepped up.
The Bucks lost 102-87.
I looked at ticket prices for tonight's game. The cheapest ticket on sale (through Ticketmaster) was $1,050. It is standing room with no guaranteed view of the court.
There won't be four 17-year-old fans sitting together in the stands at Fiserv Forum tonight.
And there won't be memories of driving to Milwaukee, running around the arena, being threatened with tear gas and then driving like a mad man to American Family Field to get tickets.
Having to refresh the Ticketmaster account on your phone doesn't quite compare.