MANCHESTER, Tennessee — I spent the first half furiously refreshing the score on ESPN.com on my phone. (I don't have the app because I'm only this fanatic about basketball, and I reserve my push notifications for every time Kanye West tweets.) We were all hanging out in Bonnaroo's artist hospitality compound, enjoying the open picnic tables and a game of corn hole, but with the Cavaliers up one game over the Warriors in the series and me gunning hard for GSW this NBA Finals, I needed to see this game.
The funny/awesome thing about Bonnaroo is that—unlike most other festivals—it acknowledges that you're interested in keeping tabs on things happening outside of their grounds. Bonnaroo's answer for people like me? An air-conditioned tent where they host viewings of the NBA Finals. And "Game of Thrones." And quote-along showings of cult classics. And a screening of "Birdman" with a live drum score. But back to the basketball.
8:25 p.m. CT — With the Warriors up 54-42 at halftime and my anxiety at a record high for the day, I ditch everyone I work with to go to the Finals tent. Believe it or not, at a music festival expecting over 80,000 attendees ready to see Kendrick Lamar, Florence + The Machine, Childish Gambino, Bleachers, and over a hundred other acts, the tent was packed and there was a long line of people at least 100 people-deep stretching from the door.
8:37 p.m. CT — For shows, you're usually able to skip lines by flashing your press pass. Unfortunately, I came up short in this case—the tent is more of a treat for hoops-loving festival goers than a Bonnaroo centerpiece. Thus, I had to get creative.
This far from the artist compound and around a bajillion people all trying to figure out the score, my phone data service was totally shot. There had to be another way into the tent.
8:39 p.m. CT — I saw what looked like an opening and could at least hear the game from there. I stood around, straining my ears to hear who was throwing up numbers on the board. Two other dudes joined me, and as sometimes happens when you get a group of desperate people together, we vowed to rush in if we all did it together. Unfortunately for us but fortunately for everyone else at Bonnaroo, festival security is really solid here, and we were quickly found out and turned away.
8:48 p.m. CT — Set back but not completely defeated, we tried a different approach: If we just wedged ourselves between the double curtain keeping all the air-conditioning in, we might be able to at least see the game, if even through the grain of the curtain. We were able to watch 2 or 3 game-minutes like this until security either heard us reacting to shots or spotted the light-up bracelets the dude next to me was wearing, and we were kicked out of the tent. Again.
8:54 p.m. CT — Half of the third quarter left to go, it was time to go about things in a way that wouldn't get me escorted out of Bonnaroo for the rest of the weekend. Walking toward the end of the line, I saw a dense pocket of humans and one flickering light hovering above them. One dude managed to stream the game on his phone and hoisted it above everyone around him in line so as many people as possible could see. I had to make friends with him.
9:07 p.m. CT — Meet Evan. He's from Cincinnati which doesn't have an NBA team, but he loves watching the Playoffs. He got in line at halftime, and after seeing his cell data was still working, he started streaming the game. (Side bar: He also showed me how to turn LTE off and force my phone to pick up 4G, so he's basically an earth angel.) A few of the people around him started watching over his shoulder and then a few more, so he started holding his phone over his head so more people could see. Another dude in line, Carey—who BTW was wearing a full body Spider-Man suit—offered up his selfie stick, and they quickly became the most popular guys waiting in line outside the tent.
I may have missed the boat on getting into the comfortable air-conditioned viewing, and I may have risked my ability to stay at the festival, but thanks to Evan and Carey (and Steph Curry—go Warriors!) this story has a happy ending. And come Game 5 on Sunday, I'll be heading to the tent much earlier.