FanPost

Fandom in Decline, Gimmicks on the Rise


When I arrived at the arena to watch the Suns take on the Clippers last night, the first game I’ve attended this season, I expected the experience to be stimulating to some degree.  I’m always psyched to go to a game (especially in the rare instance that I score lower-level seats), yet as soon as I stepped into the building, I felt a void of excitement I’ve never experienced when going to a game.  Perhaps it was due to jet lag, or my lingering hangover from Thanksgiving night, or the overdose of L-tryptophan and carbohydrates that was my pre-game meal, but I couldn’t summon the energy to be the obnoxious fan I aspire (usually successfully) to be.  Yes were playing the Clippers in an early season game, and yes I was with my little brother and thus not sippin’ so fast on my “yellin’ juice,”  but these circumstances cannot fully account for me leaving my chair less often than Earl Clark on a heroin fix during overtime.  The real downer for me last night was my realization that the culture at Suns games actually sucks more than I had previously thought, and for that we informed fans need to take responsibility.

I’ve always hated the gimmicky promotions during time-out breaks, the kiss cam, the Suns eyecandy cheerleaders dancers, and especially the swag giveaways (it is so disheartening when the loudest fan reaction comes in response to a bunch of fools chucking $2 XXL shirts sewn by some child in Macau, not the actual gameplay), but without an Achimedean point from which to assess the Suns culture, I regarded these annoyances as staples of the NBA experience.  That is until last year, when I saw the Suns play the Blazers in Portland.

Of course, there are gimmicks and giveaways in Portland as well, but they are not as frequent and do not distract from the game nearly as much as they do in Phoenix.  The Blazers organization shows their fans much more respect than we receive here, because, lets face it, those fans deserve respect.  Even before the starting lineups are announced, they create tremendous energy, and do so without prompts from the scoreboard or PA announcer.  They pay attention to the game; the whole arena knows when an opposing player has been in the lane for 2.8 seconds.  Their energy is consistent, not contingent on the moment-to-moment performance of the team such as it is on Planet Orange, and the fans carry that energy over quarter and time-out breaks.  In the fourth quarter, “let’s go Blazers!” chants drown out whatever stupid shit is playing on the Jumbotron.  And guess what, the team actually responds to the fans, and plays with more intensity.

I’m tired of being told that we are “the best fans in the NBA.”  It is a placating lie, and it is destructive to tell.  The NBA wants to sell the NBA experience, of which the players are only an ingredient.  Production and consumption are inextricably linked in the NBA; teams sell the energy of the building, which is often more a creation of the product’s consumer than its seller.  Moreover, energy feeds off of energy.  When we as fans don’t bring the excitement, then it must be created artificially.  The result: hype and promotion that is completely disassociated from the basketball being played (for instance, dancing dads, movie quizzes etc.)  I understand that it is a business, and corporate sponsors and promotions are necessary to its survival, but when these sideshows are what the team is selling, the quality of basketball becomes less important.  It’s not good for the game, or to the institution of fandom.  Perhaps if Cedric Ceballos and PA guy told us the truth, that we are “middling fans” and that we need to step it up to help the team, then the product -- the game experience-- would actually improve.

Throughout the Nash Era, going to Suns games has been my favorite thing to do when I’m in Phoenix, or anywhere for that matter.  However, I see the tackiness of US Airways center is getting worse (though, I was pleasantly surprised not to hear the Manchurian “everybody clap your hands” prompt) while ticket holders are numb to it.  Perhaps without Amar’e dunking on heads there is less to genuinely get excited about, and more need for trampoline dunks and ass shaking.  I don’t know.  But if we are going to make going to games worthwhile for the fan who doesn’t care about a piece of crap t-shirt in the middle of the fourth quarter, then those fans will have to demand it.  Until we step up and do that, I’m more likely to record the game on my slingbox, and watch it from home without being bombarded with advertisements.  Of course then I have to listen to Gary Bender and Scott Williams...


What do you all think, have the gimmicks gotten worse or is it just me?

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