NBA Blues: Fans Come for the Game...But Cheer for the Specatcle

Drew BartonAnalyst IFebruary 22, 2008

On the floor are some of the best athletes in the world.

Men like Kevin Durant and Travis Outlaw have size, strength, speed and leaping ability that is almost unbelievable.

Brandon Roy has creativity seldom seen in Portland since the Clyde Drexler days.

The story is true throughout the NBA. Every night men with speed, agility, leaping ability, abnormal hand-eye coordination way above that of normal humans and competitive fires the likes of which few people possess, compete for millions of dollars, fame and adulation.

And the fans go crazy—just not for those athletes. No, the loudest roars are typically reserved for the antics that go on during time-outs, breaks after each quarter and at halftime.

It makes one question how much people actually care about the actual game.

On a night when Joel Przybilla and LaMarcus Aldridge each blocked multiple layup attempts, the loudest cheers were reserved for some random guy out of the audience making shots to earn car rentals. Not a new car...just a car RENTAL. 

He made a layup, free throw, three-point shot, and then a mid-court shot to earn a seven day rental. The excitement was palpable. Not for me, I was ready to fall asleep—but the crowd was really into it.

They also went nuts for, in no particular order, a guy making a free throw blind-folded, a brief appearance by Super Bowl hero Kevin Boss, Blaze the mascot dunking off a trampoline, and the sensual gyrations of the very fit, scantily-clad Blazer Dancers.

I happened to be sitting next to a guy who just moved to Portland from Minnesota and he was regularly commenting on the entertainment and how much he hated it. To a certain extent I agree with him. I do not get super excited about watching tricycle races between 20-somethings, watching some random stranger get blindfolded, spun in circles and guided to the appliance of their choice by crowd noise, watching a wheel spin to tell what kind of car someone will air-ball a half-court shot in an attempt to win said car, nor watching a blimp drop random prizes in the areas where the loudest fans allegedly sit. 

Nor do I feel the need to see the bizarre things they trot out game after game and call halftime entertainment.

Sure, it is nice to see some things once or twice. The lady who rides the unicycle and flips bowls on her head is mildly entertaining. She also makes you wonder how she discovered she had that skill. Has she tried it with running chainsaws?

But she is better than the two garishly painted guys flipping each other using their feet that we were "treated" to last night or the games between eight-year-old kids who can barely get the ball up to the rim, which typically end 2-0 or something, and so forth.

In fact, there are really only two parts of the extracurricular activities which really entertain.

The first and most obvious would be the girls. They used to call them cheerleaders. These days that polite fiction has been removed and they are called dancers by virtually every team.

For the typical heterosexual male the opportunity to not just observe, but to be asked to focus your attention on shapely, scantily clad attractive, young ladies moving sensuously is seldom a bad thing.

Society accepts as a good thing watching the dancers. So that is entertaining one would think.

The other thing would be the chalupa. Any night the Blazers score 100 points, we all get a coupon for a free chalupa at Taco Bell.

I think a chalupa typically runs something like a buck.

A seat for a Blazers game runs from $10 for the cheap seats on up to several thousands of dollars for courtside. You would think the seats were free the way people go nuts for those chalupas.

In fact, a typical game involving ties, lead changes, thunderous showtime dunks, spectacular blocks, and a Blazers victory typically sees the largest cheers for the chalupa basket (also true even if they are winning or losing by a significant long as they hit 100 the people go home happy),the prize-distributing blimp flights, the Blazers dancers, and the free t-shirts distributed at various points in the game.

This is a disturbing trend. I have nothing against extraneous entertainment. Sure, I wish it was something vaguely entertaining, but at least they are making an effort. But I also think the game should be the centerpiece.

It is sad to see the crowd on their feet and roaring during the timeouts and then when the game is in play it is quiet enough to hear the occasional leather-lung complaint at the referee from the far end of the building.

If the game is not all that entertaining then why are the people there in the first place?

Somehow, some way somebody needs to come up with a way to get the fans energized during the game itself so the sound volume escalates at the right time to pump up the home team and hopefully demoralize the opponent. Then the home court advantage will be something meaningful.

At least between now and then I can console myself with mini-skirted dancers...