Chad Lucas responded to my last post on his blog with an interesting point. The very short version of his post is that Halifax university students don’t really go watch university basketball games. I don’t doubt him on this – I have never seen a CIS game outside of the national championships (which I went to almost every year with my dad) and I have gone to see only a handful of King’s Blue Devils games (they play in the college league).
Lucas points out that students at X, CBU and Acadia do go to games, in part because there isn’t much else to do in Wolfville, Sydney or Antigonish. But I think that there is a bigger reason why people at those three schools go out to games – there is actually a sense of community at those instituitions. Dalhousie has had notorious problems with community building, and both schools suffer even more by having more “day students” or “commuter students” who go to school for 4 hours a day and take a bus back to Dartmouth or Bedford. The large number of Alumni who do show up for games go out because they went to those schools at a time when they were smaller and there was more of a sense of community.
The other reason is that the CIS is seen as being way down on the totem pole of quality when it comes to basketball and entertainment. It’s just seen as small time – the Tigers play in the same gym where I go on Monday mornings to launch up airballs from 18 feet, and I sat at a desk on the foul line a month ago to write my American History exam. For people who come here from Toronto and have seen Raptors, Jays and Leafs games they equate Canadian university sports with watching a rec league team. There’s no big time feel to it, and it’s definately not a night out on the town.
So what does that mean for drawing students in to see the Rainmen? Well it means that Halifax has to keep pushing itself as “Halifax’s team” to draw in those Halifax students (like me) who become more militantly pro-Halifax by virtue of being surrounded by Ugg and sweat pant wearing Toronto students. It also means that they need to play up the entertainment package aspect of the Rainmen. They play in the Metrocentre and have dancers, a mascot, jumbotron, etc. It’s not the NBA, but when it comes to a “big time feel” the Rainmen are probably amongs the best of any minor league sports team in the country. I’ve dragged out friends who aren’t even basketball fans, and they enjoyed themselves because it was a night out, and there is enough action to keep the casual fan interested.
It’s definately an uphill battle, but Halifax’s student market is too big not to try hard to draw them in. The goal shouldn’t just be basketball fans, but sports fans, and people looking for something interesting and new to do. The problem right now is that students don’t even know the team exists so unlike university sports, they can’t even choose to be apathetic.
p.s. I will be missing Sunday’s game because I need to go to the airport to pick up Caitlin, my partner (and Duncan’s roommate). She’s been in Chile for the last month and as a result I am losing my mind. So I will create a blank entry before the game and people can update with thoughts in the comments section. I also expect people to ride Montreal since neither Duncan, nor I will be there.