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Bobbleheads, Bear, dancers and all that Jazz

Move over, Beanie Babies; the Utah Jazz are giving away a brand-new series of dolls these days — the first one being "Bobbin' Bryon."

OK, it's not going to replace "Flyin' Bryon," but it works for the doll.

They're called bobbleheads. (Sounds like a road-rage insult, doesn't it? Outamyway, you bobblehead!)

Made in China. Surprisingly heavy ceramic (I expected plastic). Seven inches tall. Courtesy of Qwest. Looks just like him.

Well, the overbite is a bit overpronounced, and Bryon Russell's actual head doesn't actually "bobble" (I don't think). And unlike the doll, B-Russ' head is not way too big for his body. (Unlike some other NBA players we could name.)

So let's just say it's as accurate a depiction as a good cartoonist's caricature — a bit exaggerated, slightly goofy, but not unrecognizable. And it's fun.

In fact, it's a nice, high-quality doll, though it doesn't have quite as much charm as the in-the-flesh B-Russ. This doll's cheery just-starting-to-smile look is all you get. More often than not, the real Russell seems to offer an ironic half-grin.

The Bryon Russell bobble baby, er . . . bobblehead . . . was the first of the series, and it was given out at Thursday night's Jazz game against the Charlotte Hornets to early arrivals at the Delta Center.

It was publicized that 5,000 would be handed out on a first-come, first-served basis. And since we had tickets to the game anyway, my wife and I decided to go early and check out the first bobblehead.

But I was warned by a co-worker — someone who goes to a lot more Jazz games than I do — that to get early-giveaway items, it's a good idea to arrive early. She said the doors open at 5:30 for a 7 p.m. game, and there's always a crowd of people looking for a new freebie.

Well, OK. We had planned to go at 6 — which is pretty darn early for us; 6:49 is more like our usual speed. But we pulled it together, got off work at 5 and walked over to the Delta Center from downtown, arriving about 5:15.

There were a few people at the front doors, maybe 30 or so. Still, on my friend's advice, we went to the back doors, across from the train depot. There were only about 10 people there.

A couple of mothers holding babies were let in right away; it was pretty cold outside. And the doors were opened to the rest of us by 5:20.

We got our B-Russ dolls and took a look at them right away. We were impressed.

Then we went in and spent nearly $20 for food that should have cost under $10.

At 6 p.m., I checked the doors: bobbleheads were still being given away. But the crowds at the doors were growing, and by 6:15 the dolls were all gone.

I'm not sure how much of an incentive this was for ticket sales Thursday. A few families with kids were there early to get them, but they were coming to the game anyway. Did anyone really buy tickets just to get this bauble . . . er . . . bobble? Probably not; at least not enough to make any real dent at the box office.

On the other hand, as word gets out about them, the bubblehead . . . er, bobblehead . . . collectors' items may mean more. After all — no offense to B-Russ — we have yet to see a John Stockton, Karl Malone or Bear bobblehead. People may be more anxious for those.

As for us, B-Russ is great.

My wife said his is the one she would have chosen, even if the others had been available and we'd been given a choice.

And I'm sure my basketball-crazy grandson who plays Junior Jazz and has players' posters on his bedroom walls, will love it.

As for the game Thursday, it's interesting to people-watch before things get going and notice how many celeb-watchers are happy to spot TV sports guys like Alema Harrington (dressed as if he stepped out of GQ) and Dave Fox (dressed as if he stepped out of the Sundance Film Festival) and Hot Rod Hundley and Ron Boone (dressed casually; no TV broadcast for this game).

Gee, he looks just like himself, someone said.

And the halftime show was on the cheap; a best-of series of clips with Bear doing shtick on the JumboTron. (Sometime they should hand out his videotapes at the door.)

I think my favorite moment came during a timeout, when it was announced that the Jazz Dancers would offer a special performance, and the music started, and the dancers never came out.

Oh, yeah. And there was a basketball game. You can probably read about that in the Sports section. (The Jazz won.)