Our Little Secret

The ABAs and Anaheim Surf attempt to do what few OC teams can: Survive

With no true local TV station and a limited budget, the team doesn't see the value advertising on outlets that don't target Orange County. Likewise, local TV stations haven't exactly leapt on the Surf bandwagon. Oh, there was that period in the beginning when the team got some attention for hiring A.C. Green as a vice president of basketball operations. All the local stations turned out to interview Green, most famous for his spirited championship play with the Lakers as well as his claim that he's still a virgin, but there wasn't that much talk about the team. It kind of went, "So, why you doin' this? Uh, huh. Hey, how's that virgin thing working out for you?" And they were gone.

And the Surf needed all the boosting they could get, especially since the team's first day of operation fell on Sept. 10.

"The next day, everything stopped," Chase says.

The team kept their doors closed for a month. There was talk that the league would not play this year. As it turned out, two teams from the New York area decided not to. But the rest of the league went on. Still, having lost a month to promote, sell season tickets and arrange group sales proved significant.

"It affected everything," Chase says. "One, you had less time to take care of things. And two, people, whether they were corporate sponsors or fans, were nervous to spend money."

The season went on, and as it stands now, the Surf have the second-best record in the league and average close to 1,000 people per night. There's talk that the New York teams will join the league next season—a season preceded by months and months to promote and sell the team.

But none of that matters on this night. The Surf find themselves behind coming down the stretch, and George Jr. falls into silence. He still nods and shakes hands with the fans who ask for a moment because there's always time for the fans. In fact, the following week, Jeff Bird will be approached by an arena worker carrying four tickets for floor seats.

"These are for you," he'll say. "They're from George."

"Gotta take care of the fans," George Jr. says.

But he doesn't say much more right now. After staging a furious comeback, the Surf lose 112-110. The fans, who've gotten progressively louder as the game has progressed, don't seem too broken-up. The game was good—the winning bucket scored on a frantic length-of-the-court drive ending with a dunk—there was a bit of trash talk, tough play and halftime events like the little kids trying to make layups while swaddled inside oversized Surf uniforms. Good family entertainment.

Still, right now, George Jr. doesn't have anything to say about it. Deep in thought about the game (and perhaps the league? The county?), he stares out onto the floor. And, then, suddenly turning . . .

"'The Pain in Spain'?!" he says. "What is that?!"

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