Before I went to the season opener on Thursday I had no idea what to expect. I’d been following the press around the team pretty closely, but due to being busy (mostly with school) I hadn’t been able to get out to any of the pre-season exhibition games.
I had to wait for my buddy, Duncan, to show up with our tickets and we got to our seats just as the ref tossed the ball up for the tip off. I missed the anthems (and apparently some drumming) but I did get to watch the crowd coming into the building and about 70% of the crowd seemed to belong to one of two groups:
1) Families – there were a surprising number of families there, mostly with young children. This is definitely the demographic that the Rainmen want to court since they’re the ones who are going to buy multiple tickets, food from the concessions stands and maybe even some swag. I thought that the club did a great job courting these fans – all the stuff during time outs and between quarters involved kids and all the players stuck around for at least 45 minutes signing autographs and meeting with kids.
2) The Hip Hop Crowd – unlike the Mooseheads (who almost entirely rely on suburban white families and drunken college bros originally from rural Atlantic Canada to fill seats) the crowd was not all old folks in sweaters and dude-bros with popped collars. There were more than a few all-over print hoodies and at least one guy sitting court side in a baby-blue suit with matching fedora. It’s no secret that hip hop and basketball share a lot of fans, and this is a demographic who are looking for something to do downtown (real hip hop is basically ignored downtown and some bars have banned hip hop fashion). Having RS-Smooth spinning the between plays music will definitely help cater to this crowd, as will the high quality on court play. (I think they need to get some credit for picking RS Smooth as the DJ. The man is highly respected, has paid his dues and is just a high quality DJ. It would be easy to go with one of the city’s lamer DJs like “DJ No Love” or just throw a college kid and his IPOD over there, but that would be no fun for anyone).
The rest of the crowd was mostly a combination of clean cut college kids and the 50+ crowd. The crowd was loud during key points but remained deathly quiet when someone wasn’t hitting a jumper, dunking or blocking a shot. Fortunately the quiet meant that my heckling of the Blizzard was clearly audible on the court.
The Rain Girls were definitely not so impressive. They seemed kind of amateur. I am not such a big fan of scantly clad dancers at sporting events to begin with; I’d rather be entertained by the basketball. But they missed cues, only appeared occasionally and lacked energy. I assume it’ll get better, but I actually thought that they took away from the event in some ways. The mascot (what the hell is he, anyway?) was barely around and could have been more visible.
The modern RnB singer at half time was kind of bad. I would have liked to see Jordan Croucher, Shane C, Classified or another actually good performer at half-time. But there’s 17 more games at home, and I spent most of the half waiting in line for the washroom anyway. If Bill Kidney ever plays at halftime I will slit my wrists.
As mentioned above, RS Smooth DJed throughout the night and played lots of obvious crowd favourites. He was smart about knowing when to play music and when to let the crowd make noise. The most important thing a DJ needs to know at a sporting event is to know when to turn the music off.
Programs were cheap, Duncan said beer was cheap for a sporting event ($4.75), and the players and Coach Lewis all met with fans. While Andre Livingston and company are definately out to make a profit, the whole thing did not feel like a cash grab.
All in all it was a great package and as long as the basketball is good I could care less about the other stuff. That said, for a lot of people flashy extra entertainment are as important when it comes to buying tickets for a game, and those people definately got their money’s worth.
The Daily News, from whom I stole the picture in this post, talk a bit about the entertainment factor in this article.