As I entered the Royal Palm 20 Theater, visions of Jack Nicholson sitting in his usual courtside seat for the Los Angeles Lakers games danced through my head.
Here I was a part of history so why not dream big. Hollywood starlets sitting on each side of me and Denzel Washington a few rows back; too bad he couldn’t get a front row seat like me.
For the first time, the NCAA college basketball championship game was being shown live in 3-D and Bradenton’s Royal Palm was the only theater in Florida participating in this ground breaking venture.
The only people who might not be big fans of 3-D basketball games are referees. Their mistakes are magnified and those guys in the stripes made plenty of them Monday night; just ask any Butler fan.
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I was part of an audience of about 50 to 75 people, many of whom seemed to possess a good set of vocal chords and a burning passion. As with the crowd in Indianapolis, the majority seemed to be rooting for Butler. But who doesn’t love the underdog. It’s un-American to think otherwise.
The pre-game ritual was a mental challenge; should I do calisthenics to be ready to dodge basketballs that figure to come my way or consume the food the theater provided to give us patrons sufficient nourishment.
The Duke Blue Devils mascot pointed his finger at us before the start of the game and you felt like you could reach out and grab it, yank him to the ground and leave his remains for the Butler Bulldogs.
At first we had to put our 3-D glasses on upside down to get the best view; but that was fixed; some of us jockeyed around from the back of the theater to the front trying to find the best vantage point.
I found myself somewhat closer to the front; I also found that this could be fun someday, though there are some kinks that need to be worked out. But Rome wasn’t built in a day.
When the players where at the free throw line, you felt as if you were right next to them and could reach out and give them the customary hand slap.
Some of the best camera shots where the ones that came from above the rim. When a player reached up to tap in a missed shot from that angle it seemed as if his hand was grazing yours.
There are things that need to be tweaked. The 3-D glasses made the screen appear darker than usual. When the screen went to the typical sideline view, it was harder to follow and the 3-D effect was minimal. Less of that angle would be better.
Some of the more intriguing views were from behind the crowd near the back of the basket, making you feel as if you could rub shoulders with everyone, including Peyton Manning.
Those shots of refs missing calls raised the blood pressure of every Butler fan. The big blown call came in the final seconds when Duke’s seven-foot center Brian Zoubek threw Matt Howard to the ground so forcibly it looked as if he should’ve been arrested for mugging, but no call.
Biggest disappointment: Would’ve liked to have seen that mid-court heave from Gordon Hayward that bounced off the rim at the buzzer from the over-head camera behind the basket. Now that would’ve been a sight to behold.
But it was fun and worth a second visit, particularly if those improvements are made.