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Monday, November 19, 2007

The Washington Wizards

My seven year-old and I attended the Washington Wizards game last Wednesday night at the Verizon Center, a very pleasant 10-minute walk from our hotel in downtown DC. Everyone who worked at the arena couldn't have been more helpful or nice (we bought tickets over the internet that afternoon), and my son was happy to let me purchase him a Gilbert Arenas t-shirt as a trip gift. The game proved to be fun, as Arenas showed why he'll command huge bucks on the free agent market next year. Caron Butler is hard to stop, Brandon Haywood works hard in the low blocks for the Wizards, and Darius Songalia is a terrific sixth man. In contrast, Jermaine O'Neal looked lost out there, Jamaal Tinsley disappeared, and Marquis Daniels was the best player on the floor for the Pacers. Center Jeff Foster can rebound but has little to show on offense, and Mike Dunleavy, Jr. looks overmatched. The Pacers rallied near the end, but the game really wasn't close.

The arena was about half-empty, and many of the fans in the good seats arrived in the second quarter. The Verizon Center is downtown and on DC's great Metro, so it's easy to get to, but the ticket prices are steep. There also seems to be too much glitz and too many sideshows, from the skimpily clad dancers to a spotlight on a huge leather couch behind one basket (I think it's the Bud Light Living Room) to DJ-like folks going up in the stands with all sorts of contests during play stoppages). All this stuff is gimmickry, belies a few fundamental problems that the NBA has.

First, there are too many teams. Of the ten starters on both teams, only about half really should be starters -- Arenas, Butler, Antawn Jamison, O'Neal, Tinsley. Too many teams, too much dilution in talent, and that yields a so-so product.

Second, way too many games. Too many games dilutes the importance of an individual game, which means it's hard to get too excited about this particular game in the fall.

Third, way too high ticket prices. You need to be rich to afford a season ticket for two good seats, as many go for over $100 per game. Do the math, and your realize that the potential to sell season tickets is limited, and perhaps very limited. The more something costs, the fewer buyers there are out there, and this is a luxury good. Take a lesson from the politicians -- it's better to play to an overcrowded venue, where you'll look like you're in demand, than in a half-empty one, where it looks like no one cares. Drop the number of teams and games and you'll improve quality to the point where you might even be able to keep ticket prices where they are. and more people will show up -- they will pay for quality, they always do.

Fourth, get rid of the gimmickry. It takes away dignity from a sport that used to have a ton of it. Bill Russell's Celtics, Magic's Lakers, Larry Bird's Celtics and Tim Duncan's Spurs didn't and don't, respectively, need all of this glitz. If the product is good enough, you don't need the distractions.

Basketball is a great game, and we saw some great basketball at times on Wednesday night. But it was lamentable seeing a half-empty building and the glitz that accompanies the game. Perhaps when the NBA focuses on its core -- which should be basketball and not entertainment -- is when it will make a true breakthrough.


Blogger O'Reilly said...

Get rid of the glitz? You ARE old school dude... but so am I.

The sound gets cranked up, the misic blares, the hot chicks dance in their hot pants, the mascot does flips, the camerman pump video of fans up on the jumbotron, people jump up and down waving for their 15 seconds of fame, yeah it's pretty disgusting and it detracts from Basketball.

Finally in Boston, we have a team that can play to win. It's been since the late 80's we had that last. I bring ear plugs that you can buy at CVS for $1.50

1:40 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks for the comment.

Good basketball doesn't need any sideshows, and Boston has good basketball. I don't like to use the term "if only", but imagine an NBA that had only 24 teams and played only 60-game seasons with only 8 teams making the playoffs and the playoff money meaning a lot more than it does today. Then you'd see some great basketball.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Joshua said...

I agree that you would see great basketball, but the cost would be prohibitive for the Average Joe. Consider the rising costs of football games, and the lower attendance and revenue numbers that followed.

All that being said, I would love to see a few less teams, and far less games.

9:00 AM  
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What do you think?

Go Washington Wizards


4:13 PM  

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