Issue 69: Singing Karaoke at a WNBA Game

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Typically, I like to share something going on in the world of professional or collegiate hoops. That something might actually be related to basketball, or it can be a lot more pop culture-y, but still.

Today, though, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to share a personal story.

This is the time I performed karaoke at a WNBA basketball game.

Let’s hop back to 2015. My friend, we’ll call her Laura, invited me to her sister’s birthday — we’ll call the sister Jacquie. She opted for a karaoke-fueled celebration at a local bar.

This bar had a “gong karaoke” night, where patrons could raise up a card from their table during any given performance.

If enough people raised up their cards—essentially non-verbal boos—the karaoke host would smash a gong and the song would end, with the performer walking offstage in the ultimate humiliation.

I only ever saw a bartender get gonged, and it was after other bartenders voted him off. I’m sure he was still devastated.

Anyway, this wasn’t a gong karaoke night, but I wanted to set the stage for what this type of place was like.

When I go out to karaoke, I tend to sign up multiple times. On a normal night, that means something like two or three songs, which is a wonderful balance. Sometimes, the bar is very slow, and I have people encouraging me to go up multiple times, on occasion singing songs I don’t even want to sing.

This night included a few unwanted numbers, but we’re going to pinpoint one particular song: Jason Derulo’s “Want to Want Me.”

You may remember this jam as being all over the place in 2015. It hits all the Derulo essentials: An incredibly catchy, simple chorus. A super-high falsetto part. Jason Derulo saying (or whispering) his own name. Somewhat overt sexual undertones.

I’m not sure how to say this without sounding conceited, but when I sang that song, the bar thundered with applause. In fact, Jacquie was so impressed, she pulled me aside later in the evening with an unusual request.

“This is an unusual request,” she started, “but I work for the San Antonio Silver Stars and we’re testing out a new thing next Friday. It’s a ‘karaoke night’ and since it’s new, we need people to volunteer to kick it off. Would you be interested?”

A trip to San Antonio, free tickets to a WNBA game, and a chance to croon in front of nearly 10,000 strangers? COUNT ME IN.

The Big Day (of Karaoke)

I talked a friend into coming down to the game with me, and thanks to the joys of Austin to San Antonio traffic, I didn’t arrive until about five minutes before I needed to take my position. I told my friend to find our seats and I’d find out where to sing.

I quickly connected with Jacquie and asked where I should go. She pointed me to the upper deck where a pair of employees were hanging out with a microphone. After spending a hot minute trying to find an escalator, I finally made it to the proper level.

The man with the microphone welcomed me and said I’d be the second singer. First up was the daughter of one of the team executives.

This girl could not have been much older than 13 or 14. I fully expected her to sing one of the hot pop songs of the summer of 2015, like “Bad Blood” or “Shut Up and Dance.”

Nope. This girl warmed up her pipes and then belted out a stirring rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” It’s a far more introspective choice than I would have made as a teenager.

At about five and a half minutes, it’s also a long song. And when you’re trying to keep an audience’s attention, that’s a tall order.

Still, the crowd was pleased enough, and that set the stage nicely for my song choice. Jacquie had wanted me to reprise my “Want to Want Me” performance, but the song was too new. The Silver Stars karaoke crew didn’t have it, so I went with an older classic: the fun 80s glam rock stylings of The Darkness and their smash hit, “I Believe In a Thing Called Love.”

This song has all the elements you need for an enjoyable karaoke performance. It’s got a fun verse and pre-chorus, rocking guitar riffs, and an instantly memorable chorus.

It’s pretty surreal to look up at the Jumbotron and see yourself on there. Particularly when you realize that you are the entertainment for everyone in the stands.

But any nerves I had dissipated when that first line started. One verse turned into a chorus, the second verse maneuvered into the second chorus, and everyone was feeling great. At least I was, I don’t have feeling mind-reading capabilities.

If you’re familiar with “I Believe In a Thing Called Love,” you may recall lead singer croons “guitar!” headed into the guitar solo after the second chorus.

I did that and then handed the mic to the host so I could run over to the closest section to high-five everyone sitting there. In our current times, that seems like a terrible idea, but in 2015, it was quite the crowd pleaser.

Unfortunately, my jaunt over to the stands caused the hosts to think I was done singing, so the DJ began to fade the music out. Just like that, my WNBA karaoke performance was over.

I thanked the two karaoke hosts (as any performer should do, regardless of the setting) and headed back to my seat.

A couple of other people offered a high-five or a fist bump as I walked back out of the section. I imagine it’s the same type of feeling a player gets after hitting a game-winning shot.

The final performer’s rendition of “What I Like About You” rang through the sound system while I made my way back to the seat. I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure he added “you put on an entertaining karaoke performance” as one of the traits he liked about me. I assume this song was directed at me and me alone, because I am very humble.

The Silver Stars wound up losing to the Minnesota Lynx 74-59. But even though the on-court performance fell short, the home fans got to see a winner during halftime that evening. And that’s a glorious feeling.

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That’s all ’til next time. Thanks for reading!


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