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Friday, January 27, 2006

NBA Needs to Turn Down the Noise

I made it to a Sixers game this week and noticed a disturbing trend. No, it wasn’t the total lack of a team concept prevalent in the NBA. I noticed that years ago. Going to the game hilighted a much more bothersome tendency — the presumption that the public is stupid.

The Sixers play a movie clip of happy, jubilent people after every single basket by the home team. The not-so-subtle message seems to be that fans need visual cues to cheer. The fact that the team they’ve paid good money to watch has just scored is apparently no longer sufficient.

It’s bad enough you have to scream to have a conversation with the person sitting next to you. Leaving the game with your ears ringing because there’s not a moment of silence from the time you enter the arena til you leave is no longer the only insult the NBA inflicts on its patrons. Now they call you stupid about 50 times a game.

The argument, no doubt, is that this is what must be done to entertain the younger generation with an ever decreasing span of attention. Every timeout must be filled with an act of some kind. Sound effects are necessary throughout the game to indicate when to cheer, distract the opponent with boos, and, when that fails, to simply fill the silence and entertain. A mascot named after the hip-hop generation must run through the crowd and spray string on kids to make sure they enjoy the night.

This is what fans want, we’re told.

I noticed something else at the game, which by the way I enjoyed despite everything because I spent time with my brother and, in case you were there and missed it, the Sixers won the game. The other trend was that the Wachovia Center was only about half full, something that couldn’t be said just five years ago when the Sixers went to the NBA Finals.

It appears the younger generation has a new lesson for the NBA. Winning still counts — a lot. Like, dude, more than all the other stuff combined, they might say.

At 34, I’m not sure I qualify as being apart of the younger generation. In fact, I’m pretty sure I don’t. That’s meant as merely an observation, not a judgement. So, to paraphrase a member of an older, wiser generation in this attempt to offer the NBA some much needed advice: Just win, baby.

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