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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Annoyances at Mavericks' Games

NBA Basketball has changed since I was a kid, and I don't just mean the size of the players or the use of the three-point line. I'm referring to the game presentation, which has been a subject of some controversy among the owners recently. The NBA suggested not too long ago that game presentation might be better if it were "toned down" -- no blaring music while the ball is in play, no rim microphones, no crazy propmting of the crowd by musical cues or pumped-in fake crowd noise, etc. Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, tried it and says he got a lot of negative feedback. He says that the majority of fans want to be overstimulated and told when and how to cheer.

(His summary of it, along with his mockery of those who like toned down games, can be found here if you're interested.)

I think the NBA's mention of this whole issue has been a bad thing, because now Cuban seems to think the sky's the limit in terms of overstimulating fans and adding non-sports elements to the game experience. Last night my wife and I went to the Mavs game, and I noticed some new wrinkles, as well as the reemphasis of some old loud ones. It's like all bets are off now -- the Mavs are free to do whatever ideas they think of, because they've "proven" that people like loud blinking things with their basketball games.

Although I understand why Mark Cuban would want to make the game as pleasurable as possible for the majority of fans, I think there are some variables he's not considering in his mad rush to entertain us. Yes, the amped-up theatrics make it more exciting (and, admittedly, more fun -- it's fun to complain about all the stupid blinking crap), but there is a point where exciting becomes annoying. The Mavs reached that point last night, and that's a shame, because the basketball game itself was really entertaining. That game became just another part of the Mavs experience.

First of all, my biases: I actually like basketball, which differentiates me from the vast majority of Mavericks fans, or at least the ones that sit in that lower bowl. I also am a fan of "pure basketball," which means I like a lot of ball movement and fundamentals (along with dunks and athleticism -- not the WNBA-style "fundamentals") and hate Bruce Bowen and the oncourt wrestling matches that defined the 90's NBA. I also hate things that are lame, which comes into play a lot in this discussion, and may be the defining issue here.

The Main Reason Why Mr. Cuban Got So Much Negative Feedback Re: "Silent Nights" is this: Dallas fans don't cheer. They don't get into the game until the fourth quarter (except when the refs stink, like last night), and they don't make noise on their own. This is true of a lot of NBA cities, and there a many reasons for it: The good seats are purchased by rich people who don't care, show up late, and leave early (and the upper deck of the Mavs' arena is too far away from the court to be heard); many of the seatholders are transplanted from other areas of the country, and don't view the Mavs with the total devotion of (for example) your average Milwaukee Bucks fan; after years of noise meters, overyelling announcers, ear-splitting music, and the like, people now are used to being told when to cheer -- they don't even have to pay attention to the game if they don't want to.

This third reason is why Mr. Cuban got all that negative feedback -- he's conditioned the fans with all the loudness, and it's no wonder they were suffering withdrawal from it when he took it away. People don't like change, especially change that makes them realize that nobody in the lower bowl cares about the home team. In a way, "silent nights" are kinda depressing. It's as if Pandora's box has been opened, and we can never get the Mavs Dancers, Fat Maniaacs, Champ, rim microphones, floor shoe-squeak microphones, Mavs Man, giant inflatable Mavs Man, giant inflatable Champ, drum corps, Sprite Zone, Humble Billy Hays, t-shirt cannons, mini-blimps, Mystery Mavs, audio drops, related bits from popular movies, Dirk Nowitski pleadings to cheer, Jason Terry eating a Taco, playing horror music during the opposing team's posessions,Taco Bueno coupons, Eminence Front, Rock/Paper/Scissors competition, announcer guilting the crowd into cheering, Chris Arnold hocking merch on the sideline, Start Me Up, Welcome to the Jungle, horses galloping on the wraparound screen, kiss cam, notice people cheering/sleeping cam, and all the rest back inside.

Annoyance, of course, is a relative thing. People can get used to things, and what annoyed them last year could now make them feel right at home. However, I find it hard to believe that I'll ever get used to most of the stuff mentioned above, especially the highly excited announcer, who does everything but say "Let's get ready to rumblllllle!" coming out of time-outs.

The thing that really annoyed me last night is this little 3-D animated dude in a Mavs Jersey, who appears on the big screen in the center of the arena, and is presumably supposed to remind us of Little Penny. He is the Last Straw. Not only does he serve no purpose but to make children laugh, he's animated so poorly it looks like he's under some sort of heavy sedation. He appeared at the beginning of the game in a redundant and unnecessary ploy to get the cocaine- and boob-job-crowd* in the lower bowl excited. When you already have blaring music, flashing lights, and a hyperactive announcer, Last Straw just gets swallowed up by it all. Probably only CGI-loving kids and embittered people like me even noticed he was there. The Mavs don't need him, especially with Chris Arnold around. They're just throwing stuff up against the wall and seeing if it sticks -- I wonder how many "positive" e-mails he's getting about Last Straw, right now, and what kind of insane ritalin-addled people are drooling and clawing at their keyboard to send them.

My point: Just because people like something, that doesn't make it good. Take cocaine, for example. Please.**

I'm not going to convince Mr. Cuban to get rid of all the stuff that annoys me, because he's got his informal poll telling him that I'm the exception. So I'm just going to plead with him to only accept things that aren't lame. Last Straw is a lame attempt to copy Lil' Penny, and must be destroyed. However, to be fair, the galloping horses are not particularly lame (though they are fantastically unnecessary). The Mavs Dancers and Maniaacs are not lame, but Chris Arnold is, and how. Giant Inflatable Mavs Man isn't lame, but his man-sized counterpart is (plus, he creeps me the heck out). What the Mavs need more than anything is an Lameness Officer. He or she can be charged with making sure that everyone, even those who care about basketball, can share in the great experience of the Mavs game without wanting to rip their own ears off or eat their own arms.

*copyright Mike Rhyner, KTCK.
**Not an endorsement of any illegal substance. Don't do drugs.


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