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During the instances of watching the World Cup out at bars, it… - Im in ur noun, verbing ur related noun.
During the instances of watching the World Cup out at bars, it occurred to me once again that I might get really into English soccer if I gave myself the chance to do so. This has also occurred to me while watching that Sox-Yankees game a while back in what was obviously a soccer bar and also whenever I've had an Irish breakfast at the Phoenix Landing in Cambridge. The problems with this fancy are mostly logistic; I do not have cable or DirecTV so my only option for watching is going to soccer bars like those. Unfortunately, that's a lot of 10am drinking, even for me.

I know I'm not alone here and, like clockwork, Bill Simmons conducted a run-off of the Premiership teams to determine who will be his new rooting interest. Naturally, I loved it; I probably learned more about English soccer in 20 minutes than I would have been able to suss out on my own in days. I'm still a better paying job, TV and satellite service away from being able to follow the sport in any meaningful way but the Sports Guy did bring up a relevant comparison to American sports that I find lamentable.

The American stadium approach to fan participation is close to the point of no return. It isn't gone completely (in fact, it's one of the things I miss most about Fenway) but the majority of sports franchises try much too hard to rev up their crowds. So much so that it has had the exact reverse effect, which is disastrous. Simmons seems to concede this point; he states that he has no answer to it, which he doesn't have to since it's an article about English soccer anyway. But I'll take a crack at it. For simplicity's sake, I'm going to deal with Baseball. Football (which doesn't do half bad anyhow), basketball and hockey are on their own.

1. Turn off the PAs. This has to happen first before any progress is made. The booth guy/gal is there to read the names of the players as they enter the game. Anything else coming out of the speakers is aural assault. You'll never get a roomful of people to play Scrabble with the TV on and you can't get a stadium of people to spontaneously make noise when you're constantly telling them when you want them to. This goes for the Jumbotron or scoreboard too. Yeah, I've seen the clever animation that goes up there. It's very cute.

2. Enough with the between-inning "entertainment". Seriously, how long is that gap, 90 seconds? 2 minutes? There's no better buzzkill after a huge defensive play to end a threat or a three-run inning than watching kids (or adults) spin around a bat and try to cross a finish line. Or being displayed on the Jumbo guessing between three options for the benefit of some sponsor's "prize". All this does is distract from whatever crowd energy that was achieved by reminding everyone that they are in a safe, fun little place where the things they are witnessing bear no consequence or implication. If that were true, I don't know why they didn't just go to a movie, which is 60% cheaper and never changes, no matter how many times you see it.

3. Encourage cheerleaders or hire your own. Using the same scrutiny used in employing spirited tour guides, teams should have several of these people on staff at games to jazz up the crowd. I don't care how mesmerizing the "Make Some Noise" animation on the screen is, it is guaranteed to create exactly 10 seconds of noise or less. But charismatic (this is the operative qualification) people who bring their own style and enthusiasm to the park will rub off on people. Think the crazy drum beating guy for the Indians. Why did anyone show up for Indians games in the late 80's? I'm going to say it was him more than the team.

4. Gee, thanks for the Amtrak fanny pack. If the sole reason for having a promotion is to hand out ads for a company, maybe it shouldn't happen. But the Baseball season is long, why is one game any different from the next? I think the first game of any homestand after a road trip of more than 6 games should be a Homecoming game. Hold costume contests, cheering contests, creative sign-making contests. Have a student rate. Make up nicknames for opposing players. Getting people weaned off of the amplified direction won't happen overnight, but if you sprinkle these types of promotions into the season without the multimedia assault, people will figure out that these are the games to be at. When everyone's into the game, it doesn't matter that there are 81 of them - they'll all be fun, win or lose.

"Come see your first place (insert team here)!" only works when your team is in first place. That shouldn't be the biggest deciding factor for people in buying a ticket. As soon as it does, they stop coming when the team stops winning. Which is almost every team's problem eventually because there are 2,430 losses in the Majors every year, never any fewer than the number of wins. One of the reasons Simmons decided to get into English soccer is because the fans are always into it. It's hard for me to believe that every team's fans have a uniform expectation of winning any given game. Somehow, we have to lose this idea that the likelihood of seeing our team win should be exactly proportionate to our interest in giving them a chance.

Oh yeah, and they should lower ticket prices.

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snowmans_chance From: snowmans_chance Date: July 20th, 2006 11:40 am (UTC) (Link)
once again, very well stated. i will give you my latest experience related directly to what you just said....

i was at the cleveland (i refuse to call them by their derogatory nickname)-twins game on saturday night. cc sabathia was pitching in the 8th and gave up a HR and a single on two straight pitches. the bullpen started to stir and cc, without an oscar-winning performance stared complaining that the mound was in dire need of attention by the grounds crew. the umpire motioned for the grounds crew to come all the way from the outfield fence. meanwhile, the bullpen is getting its much needed time to warm up. and what do they play on the PA but happy-go-lucky-we-are-from-the-midwest-and-we-wont-argue-against-anything-you-do music, and much to my chagrin they play an anti-smoking ad on the jumbotron.

i felt it was my obligation, (there was no choice involved, it was my obligation) as a fan sitting directly behind homeplate to stir up the crowd and let them know what was transpiring in front of them. i yelled my ass off at cc and the umpires. it was dirty play. dirty play that has happened so many times, but as you stated so well, people dont even know what the hell is going on in front of them because of the circus and flashy light show distracting them from the intensity that some of us have come to know and love.

in the end, some others followed my lead and began yelling, though im not sure they knew what they were yelling at except for the fact they drank too much overpriced beer. cc ended up finishing the inning(that bastard), getting a CG(that bastard) but the twins won(hes still a bastard).

this subject was a focus of a few verbal rants, but i hadnt touched on it here in lj land. so thank you for touching on it for me.

now i can go back to being distracted by shiny things and not thinking for myself.
snowmans_chance From: snowmans_chance Date: July 20th, 2006 11:51 am (UTC) (Link)
i forgot things:

1.crowd energy. you used that term and that sums up exactly what it is that PAs crush. there was a crowd energy (with the two successive hits and ccs bad acting) that was overshadowed by the music and jumbotron(and an anti-smoking ad, at that!). crowd energy! we need it to be more raw and less contrived.

2.there was another guy in cleveland (at least i dont think it was the drum guy, but then again, i cant imagine two people going to a cleveland game in the 80s) that would yell 'JUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU-LIOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO' every time franco would come to bat. it was quite amusing to hear in the background of the broadcast.

3.i dont know if its because im getting old, because i didnt have enough water or what, but my head has been nothing short of a migraine after going to twins games in the dome this year. the music is obnoxiously loud.

im done now. you hit a nerve. (and im glad you did)
groovebot From: groovebot Date: July 21st, 2006 02:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
thank Bill Simmons for hitting that nerve. I'm sure he'll talk about it again once he's seen a bunch of English soccer games and gets even more evidence that soccer fans really know what it's all about.

maybe this all is too idealistic, American sports watching might be so entrenched that it's going to be hard to dig ourselves out. it's possible that the pace of a soccer game makes it especially predisposed to the extended cheering that it gets. no time stoppage, fairly consistent speed of play, everyone knows about how long it will last...

that is a strange incident involving sabathia. i'm not sure if i've ever seen that game-delaying technique before.

and how'd you get seats right behind home-plate???
snowmans_chance From: snowmans_chance Date: July 21st, 2006 08:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
as a pitcher back in the day, i used to employ similar techniques when i needed to catch my breath or get a reliever warmed up.

my wonderful friend jen, or 89liars, gets tickets (from time to time) from the owner of the restaurant she works at in minneapolis. shes a doll and im lucky she asks me
groovebot From: groovebot Date: July 21st, 2006 08:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
wow, that's a sweet connection. keep up the good work!

by similar techniques, do you mean you would ask the umpire to come check out the condition of the mound (I'm assuming there wasn't a "grounds crew" in the games you pitched)? I've only seen the usual game-delay tactics: extra long mound conversations, lots of throws to first base (when applicable), asking for clean Baseballs, etc. when you drag the grounds crew into it, that seems to be stepping over the line. plus, the game's in a dome! how messed up could the mound get??
snowmans_chance From: snowmans_chance Date: July 21st, 2006 09:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
yes, we would have one of the dads of a player on the team go shovel dirt(!) off to the side of the field. there happened to be a wheelbarrow sitting next to the dirt, so he would then bring it to the mound. of course, that only worked when we were playing at home. i know, its a cheap tactic. a tactic that is acceptable in amateur league play. but the major leagues? i dont think so.

when i got to my parents house they were watching the game (mom tapes a lot of games) and it was just about to get to when cc started complaining. the announcers were sticking up for cc(!) by saying that juan rincon had come into the game and had dug a new planting foot hole aside from that which johan and cc had been using. they werent about to get roiled up over the stall either. i thought it was outrageous.

speaking of juan rincon...nice pick-up. but dont i recall someone asking 'juan rincon? who in the world would want juan rincon on their team?'
groovebot From: groovebot Date: July 21st, 2006 09:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
announcers would stick up for Castro, and not even the Baseball-playing one! the only things announcers will criticize are nebulous stuff like not "hustling" or "playing the right way". they just don't want to get chewed out after the game.

wasn't I talking about an MLB team that I rooted for, as opposed to my rinky-dink fantasy team, not wanting someone like Juan Rincon?
well, I do remember saying that and all I can say is, "It's hard out here for a guy with no Holds." I don't intend to keep him long unless he's awesome; he's sort of a test-balloon.
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