Mark Cuban was talking to Wilbon and Kornheiser on Pardon the Interruption. The owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks is always good for a quote, a controversy, a puzzlement. Things were going along smoothly until he was asked about resting players instead of showcasing their talent.
He thought it was just fine. He thought that the end goal of every team was to earn a spot and then succeed in the playoffs. It's a long, brutal season which takes a toll on the human body.
Sure, said Wilbon, but what about the fans? Families gear up for their one shot at an NBA game and LeBron's on the bench? That's a pretty expensive disappointment.
Here's where Cuban lost me. It's about more than one player. It's about the experience of being next to your wife, your son, your friend, and being there. The drivel went on and on, while the split screen showed an obese man gyrating in a too-much-belly-exposing tee shirt, explosions, mascots... all on the basketball court.
When the Arizona/Utah game went to a time out/commercial break 4 seconds after play had resumed, TBG and I were puzzled. Was there a foul we hadn't noticed? Were the referees back looking at the replay monitor? Nope... there was a tv time out scheduled and let the flow of the game be damned.
Cuban's operating on that same model it seems. And that model is ultimately disrespectful to the fans.
We're giving them a total experience. The Chicago Bulls tried the same stunt 35 years ago when TBG and I had 3 rows up just beyond half court season tickets. Before they drafted Michael Jordan, the Bulls drew several thousand fans, at most. It was a big, cavernous, empty space, which was sometimes fuller than others because there was a rock concert immediately following the game.
We passed those people on our way out. They moved down to our seats and we drove home, smugly superior to those who were interested in the sounds, in the after party, in the experience.
We were interested in the game.
Now, the noise is incorporated into the experience. There are flying tee shirts and clowns and contests and there is the noise. Always the noise. There's no explaining why the coach was substituting or what the foul was; there's no real conversation at all. It's just too loud.
Don't get me wrong - I love my ears ringing for a day or so after a particularly stunning evening with Phil Lesh and Friends. Louder is better, even if it does embarrass my children to have me pull up to the after school pick up line with I am the captain of the Pinafore, and a right good captain, too! blaring from my windows. They cringed, but they smiled, too... and sang along as I turned it down to ask about their day.
But that's in the car, or at a concert, not a basketball game.
Perhaps I'm too old for public spectacles. Perhaps time has passed me by. Perhaps this generation of connected-at-all-times humans needs all their senses filled all the time. Perhaps the experience is what matters to today's families.
I know it's not what matters to me.