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Thursday, April 06, 2017

The Silliness of the Final Four Sites

Caverns.  Canyons.  Huge barns.  Aircraft hangars.  Monstrosities. 

Call them what you will, but the recent sites for the NCAA Final Four for men's basketball are ridiculous.  They are not designed for drama and they don't take any of basketball's history into account.  They are clearly set up to maximize the revenue that the NCAA can make.  Period. 

Why anyone would want to purchase a ticket to sit up in the nosebleed section and watch the game with opera glasses when she/he can watching on a nicely sized television in her/his home is beyond me?  You get a good view of the game along with your cable package; you get an expensive and bad seat to some cavernous arena in a town with zero history for good basketball (in this case, Phoenix).

I had a conversation with my son the other day about appropriate venues, and those in Los Angeles, Kentucky, Indiana, New York City and Philadelphia come to mind.  First and foremost is Penn's Palestra, an amazing venue with about 9,200 seats that, when filled, makes every game there an exciting one.  Sure, tickets on StubHub might go for $10,000 apiece and there might be little room to house fans after taking into account friends, family and school bands.  But imagine the drama and the excitement in hosting the tournament's semifinals and finals at a place that is rife with college basketball's history.  Failing that, travel east toward Broad Street and then south toward the Wells Fargo Center, just a few football fields south of where the Spectrum, host to the 1976 and 1981 Final Fours, used to reside.  Bobby Knight won two titles there, and the atmosphere was electric, especially because it was intimate.  You can make similar arguments for basketball-only arenas (or arenas that host basketball and ice hockey) too.

I know, I know, those in favor of the cavernous caves will argue that the best national final of all time took place in one of these supersized barns two years ago when Kris Jenkins and Villanova beat Carolina on a buzzer beater.  Those proponents would argue that it did not take a Palestra to create that match-up, that it would have happened anywhere and that the experience for all fans was awesome and that as for the fans sitting in the outer zip codes of that cavernous arena, well, natural selection and free will combine to say that if they wanted to pay the money, let them pay the money.  When you get deep, you see that they have a point (even if all the money goes to everyone other than the people who create the drama -- the college players, who, if they held any other job on campus -- such as a computer consultant for Microsoft while enrolled in school -- could earn money and keep it). 

But still. . . does everything have to be about maximizing the bucks, the merchandise, the number of fans at the live event, the number of fans available to see an antiquated and dilapidated Steven Tyler play at a public site in Phoenix or Glendale or wherever he played on the eve of the big game?  Can't we play a basketball game in a basketball arena? 

The NCAA is rife with its hypocrisies, as are its member schools. 

It's all about the bucks, and the game loses in the process. 

The bucks dictate so many commercial breaks that it's hard for the game to flow, and those breaks plus a team's timeouts dictate how coaches coach.  The product is not as watchable as it used to be.  And when you put that game in an arena on steroids, it makes the long-time fan wonder if everyone involved with NCAA basketball has lost his mind. 


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