DALLAS – For all practical purposes, Jacob Van Heest has taken becoming a Dallas Mavericks season-ticket holder to new heights.
Extreme new heights.
Van Heest lives in Connecticut and is heading into his third season as the proud owner of a Mavs 10-game season-ticket package. That’s right: Van Heest drives from Connecticut to Philadelphia to board an airplane and take the three-hour flight to Dallas so he can attend a Mavs game at American Airlines Center.
“This will be my third season, and for the last two seasons I’ve been saying it’s very unusual, but I love it,” Van Heest said. “Honestly, I do it for myself.”
“A lot of times I’ll try and bring some friends with me, either my brother, my girlfriend or a friend. But if they can’t come, I just do it for me. It’s just fun, I love it, I enjoy it, the games are great, and it’s fun to be a Mavs fan in Dallas.”
The financial burden on Van Heest to take these unusual steps, he said, isn’t that bad. For starters, he’s a flight attendant for American Airlines, so he gets to fly for free.
Second, during his stay in Dallas, Van Heest doesn’t have to worry about a hotel bill – because he doesn’t stay in a hotel. Thus, his (low) overhead mainly consist of food, and the relatively cheap price to ride the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) system to and from DFW Airport.
“I’ll take the train from the airport to the arena, get to the arena around 5 (p.m.), and usually I’ll go to Dick’s Last Resort. . .and then I go to the game,” Van Heest said. “And after the game is done, depending on how long it takes, I’ll take the train directly after the game back to the airport and I’ll sleep on the floor at the airport and take the first flight out (back to Philadelphia).”
“There aren’t very many cities that it would work out as perfectly as it does – having a train go from the airport to the arena. That’s the only reason I can make it work, because I can’t afford to rent a car every time I come down here, and I can’t afford to get a hotel every time I come out. Having the DART do that is probably the only reason that I can do it.”
The Mavs, of course, are all giddy to have a fan as rabid as Van Heest. But considering the team’s policy on season-ticket holders who live outside the DFW area, Van Heest’s request to become a Mavs season-ticket holder was met with raised eyebrows.
“It was pretty unique on our end when I first met him, so I had to check out his story and make sure it was real,’’ said Kyle Gillespy, a Premium Sales Account Executive for the Mavs. “When Jacob was first joining us, we were in the process of removing a lot of the brokers – people who resell our tickets – and a lot of those people don’t live in the Dallas area. Some guys will buy tickets and they live in California or they live in New York or Florida, and they’ll just resell the tickets online.”
“We were in the process of kind of asking those people to step away, and we weren’t allowing anybody outside of the Dallas market to buy season tickets. And so because (Van Heest) was living in Connecticut, I had to actually go through and get special approval to show, ‘Hey, his story is legit, I know he lives in Connecticut, he’s not a broker, he’s actually a fan and he’s going to come to the games himself.’ It was pretty unique on our end just getting it approved so that he could get access to season tickets.”
Whitney Neil, the Director of Customer Service and Retention for the Mavs, additionally acknowledged that Van Heest’s request for season tickets is very uncommon, considering where he resides.
“I have never heard of anything like that before, and having met him he was so full of energy,” Neil said. “He just loves the Mavericks.”
“He epitomizes the amazing experience it can be to be a Mavs season-ticket holder and just the ultimate fan. We appreciate him and thank him for all of his support.”
Van Heest initially became a huge Mavs fan when they faced the Miami Heat in the 2006 NBA Finals. His fascination with the Mavs escalated when they met – and beat — the Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals.
”When the Heat and the Mavericks met again (in 2011) – the first year LeBron (James) was on the Miami team – Dirk (Nowitzki) just put on a show and I wanted to be like Dirk, and I wanted to be like a loyal player to the team,” Van Heest said. “He’s a 7-footer who can hit 3s.”
“Through Dirk, that’s kind of why I got some of the love for the team, and now I’m just a Mavericks fan all in all. So when NBA2K came around, I started playing the Mavericks with 2K.”
Van Heest’s passion for the Mavs is very evident back where he lives in Connecticut.
“I live in an apartment right now and one of my walls is dedicated to the Mavericks,” he said. “My girlfriend calls it my Mavs Wall.”
Because of his schedule, sometimes Van Heest doesn’t get to attend all the games in his 10-game season-ticket package. But whenever he is able to make the over 1,400-mile journey to Dallas, his girlfriend gives him her stamp of approval.
“I have a girlfriend who is a flight attendant and she supports my hobby,” the 25-year-old Van Heest said. “She loves the fact that I do it, she hates the fact that I sleep on the floor, so that’s probably going to have to change in time, but she loves the fact that I have a passion for something.”
The Mavs sure appreciate Van Heest’s passion for their organization. Particularly since he has no direct connection to anyone in Dallas.
“He literally is flying in for the Mavericks’ game and the Mavericks’ game only, and it is just absolutely amazing,” Neil said. “It’s the most amazing story of fan dedication – it’s the best.”
“We truly thank Jacob for his dedication and support. He just epitomizes what a true MFFL (Mavs Fan For Life) is, and he’s such an important part of our family and we just love him.”
When it comes to describing Van Heest, that love is certainly shared by Gillespy.
“He’s an adventurous guy and he’s kind of a laid-back pretty easy-going guy,” Gillespy said. “He just said, ‘Well yeah, I’m just a fan, I come to the games, what’s the big deal?’”
“I told him this is really unique and it’s a really cool story. He’s fun to have as a client and an easy-going guy, that’s for sure.”
Thus, when the Mavs did their due diligence and discovered Van Heest was not a broker, they were more than willing to sell him a season-ticket package.
“He’s got a pretty good setup being an employee of American Airlines, so it’s a little bit easier for him to manage than the average client,” Gillespy said. “If I found that there are some Mavs fans scattered throughout the US that had similar access like Jacob, it would definitely be worth it.”
“The uniqueness of the situation makes it tough to relate to other people or other situations, but I’ll talk to anybody. If they’re a Mavs fan and if they’re willing to get to Dallas for a game, we’ll have a conversation.”
While Van Heest has brought his brother or a friend to a game in Dallas, his girlfriend has also attended one game. However, he knows whenever she comes to another game, those “sleeping arrangements’’ will have to be amended.
“I just skip out the hotel part, and I just do it all at the airport,” Van Heest said. “I sleep on the floor at the airport and on the airplane the next morning, and shower when I get home.”
“The one time my girlfriend came with me she actually did sleep on the floor. And then she said, ‘That’s not going to happen again. If I come you’ve got to get me a hotel.’ I said, ‘Absolutely.’ ‘’
For now, Van Heest is working on one day being able to personally meet one of the Mavs players. He’s also working on increasing his season-ticket package to possibly include more games.
“I haven’t been lucky enough to shake any of the players’ hands and say thanks for giving me the love of basketball,” Van Heest said. “I don’t want to get my hopes up for something like (meeting the players) happening, because it’ll get me real excited, but I’ll still be at the games even if nothing comes of it.
“Also, financially the 10-game package is what I can afford right now, but my goal is once I start making more money is to get the 41-game (package). And I plan on keep on doing this as long as I can. It doesn’t matter who’s on the team, it doesn’t matter what the situation is. For me I love to go to the games, I have so much fun doing it, I love the organization, and (attending Mavs games in Dallas) is going to be my outlet. It’s kind of the thing I do when I want to go have fun.”