ON TRYING TO BE A SPORT
When I was a youngster, an arena called the “Salt Palace” was the place to watch big name popular musicians perform—the kind of artists you can often see today in far more intimate settings. I saw dozens of great acts there, starting with Iron Butterfly when I was ten. By the early eighties, I'd lost all interest in stadium concerts, so it barely registered upon my consciousness when an improved stadium was erected about 15 years ago. Using Space-Age materials unavailable when the Salt Palace went up, the new structure, christened the “Delta Center,” represented a new high in cramped, uncomfortable seating. The old arena's acoustics were dreadful, and none of us imagined that a building could tear apart sounds and reconstruct them in a less recognizable form, but the Delta Center's engineers did a magnificent job of attaining that goal. I actually entered the new building but once: when a summer cloudburst moved a 1993 James Taylor concert indoors at the last minute. In keeping with the current rage for stadia to change corporate hands, the Delta Center was recently renamed to reflect a new patron, Energy Solutions, a research & development firm mainly known as the manager of a low-level nuclear waste dump in the desert to our west. The new name seems unpopular with the locals (as if Delta Airlines produced less pollution than Energy Solutions), who've come up with numerous clever nicknames for the arena such as “The Tox Box” and the “Radium Stadium.”
It's recently been brought to my attention that professional sports are played here in Salt Lake, quite often inside the very buildings I've rambled about here. I have nothing against spectator sports, as long as the spectator isn't me. The only reason these jumbled thoughts have come to surface is that I plan to enter Energy Solutions Arena this evening, for the first time in a decade and a half. My old pal John Flanders will play the Star-Spangled Banner on the saxophone tonight before a Utah Jazz game, and I'll be there to witness the whole thing—the first basketball game I will have ever watched without participating in it. I have never painted pro basketball either, and the closest thing I can find to illustrate this post with is this little South American poison frog, Dendrobates duellmani, perched upon a leaf that's roughly the color of a traditional basketball.
illustration: SPOT-BELLIED DART FROG (1997) acrylic 7" x 7"