Most sports teams don’t get noticed by their city until half way through the season, and for many teams, that attention only comes if they’re winning. But here in Phoenix, the city knows that the excitement starts on Game 1 of an 82-game season.

I always get a sense of pride when I watch the Suns on TV and see our own US Airways Arena stacked to the rafters with fans.

When the Suns play on the road, I stare at my TV and feel bad for the other teams with acres of empty seats. I imagine how lonely it feels when the dribbling ball echoes through the empty canyon. I mean seriously, where are the fans in Miami? Didn’t you guys win the whole thing a couple years ago?

Empty arenas concern me, so I’ve put together a copyrighted solution: Celebrity Tip Off©. Yeah, I know this sounds absurd, but let’s think this through.

It works well for baseball. The opening pitch is always exciting because you get to see a famous non-athlete pretend to be an athlete. Fans have a bizarre sense anticipation as the Senate Majority Leader winds up, ready to chuck the ball to the nice man with the catcher’s mitt. You can’t decide if you want Mr. Reid to throw a legit strike, or if you want him to pitch the ball way left, knocking out the unsuspecting bat boy.

This bizarre anxiety only lasts about 5 seconds; the ordeal comes and goes quickly. Then the home team pitcher steps up to the mound and the world makes sense again. The fans cheer! You see where I’m going with this.

The people of Portland may or may not show up for tomorrow night’s game when the New Orleans Hornets come to town. After all, the Trailblazers’ #1 draft pick Greg Oden is out till next year, and they’ve lost all 3 games they’ve played this season.

With a Celebrity Tip Off©, Portland-born Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, could go toe-to-toe with New Orleans’s resident crooner Harry Connick Jr. I’d pay to see that. It’s a five-second live episode of Celebrity Fit Club. Obviously Matt will out jump Harry, and the proud Blazers will start the game with the ball. The crowd would go wild! Then everyone on the court could back to their day jobs: Travis Outlaw can block shots, Matt Groening can make cartoons, and Harry Connick can make music. The world makes sense again.

Now that I think about it, even teams with sell-out crowds can win big TV ratings with Celebrity Tip Off©. Let’s rethink the Suns’ first home game this season when the Lakers came to the valley. Everyone in our city was watching because of the intense Suns/Lakers drama that’s unfolded over the past few years (and because we knew we’d probably win.) But the people in LA missed this game because they were busy watching re-runs of The Hills on MTV or wondering why the Raiders broke up with them in ’94. They weren’t living in the present.

This could’ve easily been remedied with a Celebrity Tip Off© between our native leaders: Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona up against Governor Schwarzenegger of California. Granted, the Golden State has a clear advantage because they’re represented by the greatest body builder of the century, but rumor has it that Ms. Napolitano is working on her ups with Aaron Nelson, the Suns’ Athletic Director. (I just started that rumor.) Janet deserves a chance to show us what she’s got.

With a little research, I’ve found that every city has some famous non-athlete, a hometown hero that I believe is ready to jump. Imagine the tip-offs we could have this season:

  • Memphis Grizzlies: Miley Cyrus, Disney actress and pop singer Hannah Montana
  • Atlanta Hawks: Lil Jon, ATL’s King of Crunk
  • Washington Wizards: Stephen Colbert, Comedy Central pundit and 2008 presidential hopeful
  • Philadelphia 76ers: Will Smith, West Philadelphia born and raised…
  • New Jersey Nets: Ashely Tisdale, star of High School Musical I and II
  • Phoenix Suns: Sir. Charles Barkley, NBA Vet and TNT Analyst

Okay, the truth comes out: I just want to see Barkley play basketball again. We all do. That’s why we need Celebrity Tip Off©. David Stern, do you hear me?

Matt Smith
moved from New York City to Phoenix in 2001. He caught one Suns game on TV in
2004 and has been hooked ever since. Flip on MTV and you might spot Matt in some
re-runs of The Real World and
Road Rules Challenge. Check out
his website:

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