IN 1995, I warned anyone who would listen that the soon-to-be-built MCI Center in Washington would forever change the way local fans related to professional basketball games. On my first visit there last month, I realize my prophecy is depressingly true.
Upon arriving at the center, my wife and I are unsure of what to expect, yet we hope for a positive experience. After all, we are seasoned sports fans; we've made the transition from Memorial Stadium to Camden Yards for Orioles games, and in doing so learned that tradition need not be sacrificed at the altar of entertainment. We paid $48 each for this visit to Abe Pollin's sports palace.
Once inside the MCI Center, we are struck immediately by what appears to be an overabundance of blue-blazered sentries: They're standing guard at suite doors, restaurants, under television monitors. All of them seem to eye us suspiciously, and one even insists on punching our tickets before he'll let us wander around inside the gloriously tacky Velocity Grill.