At the end of anything great there is a celebration that takes place. A great magic trick rouses great applause. Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum blowing up an alien mother ship to defeat evil extra-terrestrial invaders brings new meaning to Independence Day. For the Bulls and Coach Tom Thibodeau this celebration has become known as Scal-time.
On nights when the Bulls play their best basketball (with about a minute 30 left in regulation) number 24 pops up off the bench with so much energy you’d think it was a tied game. Makes his way over to the scorer’s table, rubs powder on his hands like he isn’t used to it (because he isn’t used to it), and with a slight hop, strolls onto the floor. The PA announcer says something that sounds like some sort of seafood pasta dish and the crowd roars. They aren’t cheering for Luol Deng who is coming off the floor after scoring a game high 22 points and 10 rebounds. They are cheering for a guy who averages 1 ppg and tries harder than any player I’ve ever seen when his team has a 25 point lead.
The one, the only Brian Scalabrine. The phenomenon I’ve just described has become known as Scal-time. Any Bulls fan will tell you it is their favorite time of the night. Scal-time means two things. First, it means the Bulls have just pulled ahead so far that they can bring in the replacements and cruise to victory. Second, it means after there is nothing left to play for the fans still have something to cheer for. It’s the game within the game. Will Scal score? When he touches the ball, the United Center rises in anticipation, fans yelling for Scal to put up a shot no matter where he is on the floor. When he passes it to a teammate the crowd settles back down in quiet disappointment.
There is no metaphor, no analogy comparable to Scal-time. It is an event that stands alone. Like the “Air Bud” movies we can’t understand why we love it, we just do. But as with all great things, Scal-time will soon be no more. It could be next season or 4 years from now but eventually Scalabrine and his frizzy, red hair will leave us—leave us to file out of the stadium as time winds down and our team clutches a 30 point blowout victory. Scal is truly a rare commodity in this world. A man who brings fans more joy in 18 short appearances each season than most people bring to others in a lifetime. First in our hearts, and first off the bench when the score gets out of hand—here’s to Brian Scalabrine, a cheerleader amongst men.