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Saturday, February 02, 2008

NBA Stupidity, Part II

Read this article about attendance for the Philadelphia 76ers and draw your own conclusions.

Great, the dancing girls are just the thing to put people into the seats, that an all-you-can eat gluttony in certain sections, cigar bars, you name it, the 76ers will attempt to do so because instead of selling quality basketball in a league frequently bereft of it, they're selling a complete entertainment experience. Funny thing is, it's hard to attract a family given a) the price of the tickets, b) the quality of the product and c) the fact that the dancing girls are there in the first place. How does that aspect of the entertainment show respect for women and young girls? Also, in Philadelphia's case, they have a smart-ass public address announcer who doesn't respect the visiting team's players and really displays no talent or imagination, especially when compared to the all-time P.A. announcer the 76ers once had when basketball -- and not glitz -- was everything -- Dave Zinkoff.

Okay, so the quality of the P.A. announcer won't make or break a season. The marketing people are struggling mightily to put people in the seats, and they've been failing miserably. Canning G.M. Billy King was a good first step, as he was in the job way too long and the team showed little for all his efforts. But until the NBA realizes that the product is good basketball and not strip-club glitz and overpriced food, they'll continue to struggle when teams dip in the standings. Again, there are way too many teams and way too many games, and the league cannot deliver night-in, night-out, with a quality product. I happen to like the current team's coach and its grit, but half the guys on the team really don't belong in the league and wouldn't have been 30 years ago.

People hail Commissioner David Stern as the commissioner to end all commissioners, and while he's been good at marketing apparel and moving into China, he has damaged the long-term quality of the product by ignoring it. Bud Selig gets dinged frequently (and I've dinged him too), and perhaps it's because he presided while he had an ownership interest in a team or because he presided during the steroids era, but baseball seems to be in better shape (public scandals aside) than basketball, at least at the top level in the United States. To me, Stern has been in the job way too long and has focused on the packaging instead of the product, and the NBA owners would be well-suited to letting him retire graciously and gloriously at the end of his next contract and putting a commissioner in place who focuses much more on substance and much less on style.

I give the Philadelphia fans credit for not falling for the "creative" marketing. They're voting with their feet, and they're wise to do so.


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