Tens of thousands of Utah Jazz fans watched every nerve-wracking minute of Sunday's 90-86 loss to the Seattle Supersonics on television from the comfort of their own homes.
But for some fans, being at home just wasn't intense enough.More than 5,000 people packed the lower bowl of the Delta Center to watch the action on the JumboTron with like-minded NBA fanatics.
"I thought the Jazz would win," said Matt Keddington, "so I wanted to be here to celebrate with other Jazz fans."
The crowd cheered and booed as if the teams could hear them - even though the game was being played some 850 miles away in Seattle's Key Arena. Some had painted faces in Jazz colors. Others brought signs predicting Jazz success or poking fun at the Sonics. They were entertained during timeouts by the Bear, the Jazz Dancers and Frank Layden, former Jazz coach and now president of the Jazz.
"This was the place to be if you are a Jazz fan," explained Ron Toomey of Provo for the reason he and so many others traded their La-Z-Boys and remote controls to watch the game while sitting on hard, plastic green chairs in the Jazz arena.
"The picture on my TV at home is better (than the JumboTron), but it was a lot of fun being here," said Jess LeGrande. "I'd come here in a situation like this again."
Kerry and Elli Peterson and their two daughters drove from Idaho Falls just to watch the Western Conference finale with other Jazz boosters. "We wanted to feel the excitement," said Kerry Peterson.
Then there was a contingent who not only wanted to see the Jazz-Sonics game but also get a jump on the sale of tickets to the Jazz-Chicago Bulls series for the NBA championship.
They patiently waited outside the Delta Center while protecting their in-line positions while watching a TV set up near them.
Following the heart-breaking loss, many Jazz fans were quick to exit the building. Others sat in stunned silence thinking of what might have been.
What had once been a scene of raucus cheering was now one resembling a cemetary. Most fans quickly filed out but a few stayed behind to be interviewed by local TV sportscasters, who also commented on the contrast between the cheering and silence just moments apart in the home of the Jazz.
For many the thoughts were turned from the present to ones of wait until next year.
"I'm numb right now. I'm in a state of utter and complete disbelief," said Chris Pratte moments after the conclusion to the longest season in Jazz history. "I really thought the Jazz would win today. But, you know, it's a rough gig being a Jazz fan."
Despite the disappointment, Pratte and many other Jazz faithful are already looking forward to the 1996-97 campaign. "This loss did not put out the Jazz fire. They will be in the NBA Finals next year, no doubt about it."