@body:But these fans didn't come here tonight for nostalgia. I credit Laura Greenberg, the Phoenix magazine writer, for spotting the trend before anyone else.

"Don't you get it?" Greenberg said. "NBA basketball is going to be the rock n' roll of the Nineties."
She's right. There's a lot of noise, dancing girls, the Gorilla, television screens, light shows, the whole works. But during the warm-ups, all eyes were on Sir Charles Barkley, the Suns' new superstar. The crowd continued pouring into the big building. The lines for hot dogs and beer were long. So were the lines at the souvenir stands. For $15 you could buy a tee shirt that says you were at the first game in America West Arena.

But all was not bliss. Some season ticketholders had complaints. They were finding it difficult to adjust to this new arena.

"We have been season ticketholders from the start," said an attractive, well-dressed woman.

"I didn't even know there were three refs until the second season. But what is it with this place? "The seats are terrible. They're uncomfortable. They aren't pitched right. It's like Colangelo is trying to jam us in. The seats are also narrower than the old ones. So are the aisles. If someone has to go to the john, everyone in the aisle has to stand up. "And then, when you get to the bathroom, the stalls are so narrow. It's nice that they provide those seat covers for the toilet. But do you think women want to sit on the toilet and hear the voice of Al McCoy booming out all over the room? It's terribly disconcerting." Another woman season ticketholder had fond memories of the Coliseum. "I watched my youth come and go in that place," she said. "Hot pants, miniskirts, and now I'm just an old woman who dyes her hair."
Another season ticketholder complained about the sound system.
"It's so loud. I noticed everyone in the row in front of us stuffed cotton in their ears. Someone in our row didn't understand at first.

"Do you suppose those people all caught a virus and it will soon spread to this row?" she asked.

Women fans have made it their business to learn a lot about Barkley.
"Charles bought a house in Paradise Valley, off Tatum Road, for $539,000," one said. "I remember that area when the demonstration homes were first built. It was called 'The Street of Dreams' back then."
Charles reportedly makes more than $3 million per year. But his business agent persuaded him to buy what for him is an inexpensive house, so he won't be stuck with the property if things don't work out in Phoenix. @rule:

@body:With his shaved head, huge torso and incredibly thick thighs, Barkley would be hard to miss. Part of the wonder of Barkley is his mouth. What would it be like, I wondered, if he did not talk?

What was Charles like before he became Sir Charles? He crossed swords with Bobby Knight at Indiana University. He tried out for the United States Olympic Team the year Knight was the coach.

Knight saw Barkley as an undisciplined player who wouldn't take direction. Knight also wanted to create a place on the roster for one of his own players from Indiana. Charles was the last player cut.

Probably, he was not much different. It is said that Knight cut Barkley because Charles had the effrontery to ridicule the style of the shoes that Knight wore. They were the kind of shoes with the tiny holes on the top that all the FBI men wear for their undercover roles.

What's so special about Barkley?
Based on one game, it's difficult to put into words. But he is a real presence on the court. He is more like a rock star than a basketball player. He has great hands, excellent balance and an instinctive sense of where he is on the court at all times.

But in addition to that, he seems to have the ability to explode upward from the floor toward the basket. When he does, his strength and 260 or so pounds make him unstoppable.

Before the night was over, he scored 37 points and grabbed 21 rebounds. When you consider that he was going up on the boards against two Clippers who weighed 300 pounds each, those rebound figures are incredible.

There was one unforgettable sequence under the offensive basket. Charles tipped a rebound that missed. He got up to get the second rebound and missed. He got up to get the third rebound and missed. Then he got up to get the fourth rebound and tipped the ball perfectly to Dan Majerle, who promptly sank a jump shot.

Without Charles Barkley, the Suns would not have won the game. It's that simple.

But his presence has totally changed things. The chemistry that existed last year no longer exists.

Everyone's importance has been downgraded because of Barkley's arrival. In the meantime, a new ball club with a new chemistry must be created. This is a process that can't even begin until Kevin Johnson gets over his groin injury.

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