Do you know what the capacity of the Sacramento Kings’ original venue dubbed Arco Arena was as well as its replacement?
And so did Chris on the Associated Press sports desk in New York City.
It was 10,333 for the original Arco and 17,317 for the premium Arco.
Those number are ingrained in the part of my brain that holds superfluous tidbits.
They were pounded into place for more than 220 times from 1985 to 1988.
The attendance stat was part of the routine of my “second job”.
I was the Associated Press stringer covering the Sacramento Kings at the same time I was working at The Press Tribune in Roseville.
As the de facto AP beat reporter for the Kings 5½ years from the start of their first season until I accepted a job at the Manteca Bulletin, I had to call in scores at the end of each quarter that included a final, write a 150-word first lead, send a 200-word add, dictate a short box then dictate a long box as well as file a 450-word overnight story.
This required tracking trends in the game, interviewing key players and coaches afterwards, and relying on play-by-play and game stats provided by the Kings media staff.
For the box scores I was able to bring along help that sat in the second row of the press area at halfcourt complete with a phone so they could dictate the short and then long versions directly to the AP desk in New York City.
As one of the two wire services with the other being United Press International, I sat courtside.
On my left were the beat reporters for the Sacramento Bee, Sacramento Union, and then the Kings bench with then trainer Bill Jones occupying the first seat and whoever was coaching the team that season.
To my right was the UPI reporter, Gary Gerould who did the radio play-by-by-play for KFBK radio, the faces of whatever TV station had the home game coverage contract for that year and the scorer and timer.
Like the other print media, I had a landline phone.
This was back when laptops were in their infancy. The cutting edge technology were Tandy 80 portable computers with a screen large enough to accommodate two lines of type. It was replaced by the Tandy 100 that had a flip screen like portables today.
Both required plugging directly into the jack slot on the phones or using acoustical cups. Given it was analog phone lines it was far from being 100 percent dependable.
At the same time the original Tandy 80 that did not have a flip up screen was built to survive a nuclear war given I’ve seen frustrated people literally kick them and the computers still worked afterwards. The Trash 80 moniker was well earned.
Keep in mind this was before the Internet exploded. Newspapers, radio and TV were dependent on the wire services for sports results and stuff for games they did not directly cover.
Also by the time the Kings finished playing it was almost 1 a.m. on the East Coast with a host of big city papers in a time squeeze to get as complete sports as they could in their final edition.
As for the attendance, three years into the Kings move to Sacramento when the joke was everyone in the NBA played until April to eliminate the Kings and then started all over again plenty of holes popped up in the crowd.
Yet the Kings continued to dutifully report full attendance. At the time that is the franchise achievement the Kings openly bragged about given there wasn’t much else.
And while Arco Arena I and Arco Arena II were both the smallest playing venues in the NBA, there was a belief that ownership was buying unsold tickets that meant they could report sellout crowds with a straight face.
This set up the first of two memorable exchanges with the AP sports desk.
The first was two months into the season in the second arena when the game was halted due to rain. The arena’s new roof was leaking onto the basketball court.
AP protocol required they be immediately contacted if there were conditions triggering a prolonged delay in a game. I called the sports desk. Chris answered. I filled him in.
Before hanging up he told me that there were at least 30 New York area newspapers as well as radio and TV stations that would be crawling down his neck waiting for game results as the Knicks were playing Sacramento. Due to that he wanted updates every 5 minutes.
At one point, Greg Lukenbill — one of the Kings’ owners — was leaning over a catwalk working with a maintenance worker to grab the NBA championship flag the franchise won when they were the Rochester Royals in a bid to capture the dripping water from a leak in the roof..
About a minute after I called the AP desk with that update, Chris called back.
He told me if Lukenbill fell he wanted the following lead: “Sacramento Kings owner Greg Lukenbill fell to his death — before a sold-out crowd of 17,317 at Arco Arena — as they were handed their 10th consecutive loss Tuesday night by the New York Knicks.
After 20 minutes the game resumed, Lukenbill returned to his suite and — yes — the Kings lost.
Topping that by far was when the excitable Jerry Reynolds was coaching the Kings.
He had walked down directly in from of where I was seated and started shouting and jumping up and down when suddenly he collapsed on the playing court.
Immediately I was on the phone to New York advising them of the situation.
A minute later Chris called back. He said the wire service had sent an alert to all of its members and he wanted to be updated as the situation evolved. He said it was big news.
The arena had gone quite. Players and other coaching staff lingered nearby as trainer Bill Jones and doctors kneeled over Reynolds.
I updated New York several times over the next 8 minutes.
Then Chris called me.
The phone rang literally 10 feet from where Reynolds was still prone on the court.
I picked it up.
Chris literally screamed, “Is he dead yet! Is he dead yet! I’ve got the g - - - d - - - Boston Globe, New York Post, and a dozen other papers screaming at me that they are holding editions going to press and demanding to know if Reynolds is dead!”
I can’t begin to describe the dirty looks thrown my way from at least 10 Kings players, an NBA official, and Jones who turned his head around where he was kneeling about five feet in front of me.
It turned out Reynolds — who was dieting — literally had passed out.
This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org