Here's an open letter I'm sending to Virginia Tech Athletic Director Jim Weaver.
Dear Mr. Weaver,
I am a basketball fan and a Virginia Tech graduate. I have had season tickets to Hokie games for several years. I love the athleticism and intensity.
However, I plan to never buy another ticket. Here’s why.
Being from SWVA, I’m not much of a hockey fan. But in 2004, I was in Alberta, Canada, on a motorcycle tour. The home team Calgary Flames were playing game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals versus the Tampa Bay Lightning. If Calgary won, it was over. If Tampa Bay won, it would go to game seven back in Florida. Seemingly, everyone in the province was watching, either in person or on TV. The game was nearing the end and it was a one-point game. With three minutes left in the game – you won’t believe this – the game ended in three minutes. It was amazingly exciting.
The night before last, I watched Tech lose to UVA at Cassell Coliseum. It isn’t the loss that bothered me. Every game has one winner and one loser. The effort on both sides was tremendous and the play was intense.
The problem is that monied interests have overwhelmed the game and the flow of excitement is constantly interrupted.
First of all, the game started at 9:00 p.m. and lasted past 11:00 p.m., on a school night. This was clearly done because the television folks had another game to televise first.
Second, there are multiple “media” time-outs, giving the TV and radio networks a chance to sell Dodge Ram 4 X 4s and Budweiser to home audiences.
Third, there are way too many team time outs. As you know, in televised games each team gets one 60-second and four 30-second timeouts and in non-televised games each team gets four 75-second and two 30-second timeouts per game. What the heck do the coaches need to talk about? Towards the end of close games, coaches literally call every play. These are college student athletes. Shouldn’t they be taught to make decisions for themselves?
If this weren’t enough, whenever a player fouls out, his team gets another time out so the coaches can huddle together, scratch their heads, and make the apparently mind-wracking decision who to substitute.
It’s interminable! The last three minutes of close games take 20 minutes or longer.
While this is going on, we in the stands are treated to a constant barrage of flying female cheerleaders, mindless games (“Identify this face!” “Yes, it’s Mister Rogers!!!” “You win a T-shirt!!!!”), and blasting noise from the loudspeakers.
I pay $35 per ticket – almost a dollar per minute of play – to watch my team play basketball… and I’m treated as an afterthought!
I understand this is not about Tech or the Cassell specifically, but about how the tail (big money) wags the dog (college sports) to the detriment of the sport and the fans. (Although the reported attendance to the game was 9,656 in a building which seats 9,847, which is absurd. There were thousands of unoccupied seats including most of the row I sit in.) I would be very surprised if attendance nationally wasn’t dropping year-by-year.
It’s time for the game to dominate the spectacle and the fan to be treated with more respect. I won’t be back until this happens.
BS Mechanical Engineering, ‘76